This is different for everyone, but it’s likely no where near as often as you think!
When it comes to exfoliating, it is essential to adopt a gentle approach. No harsh scrubbing! A general guideline is to exfoliate once to twice a week, adjusting the frequency according to your skin’s needs. For the majority, ONCE per week is enough. Especially if you have sensitive skin, it’s best to consult a skincare therapist before starting any exfoliation routine. Strengthening the skin barrier should be the priority before attempting any form of exfoliation. And we are definitely not exfoliating daily, regardless of what the packaging says.
What to use?
Janesce Gentle Enzyme Peel or Janesce Gentle Clearing Wash are our top two picks. When used correctly, the Gentle Enzyme Peel especially can be a game changer for skin.
Gentle Clearing Wash
The Gentle Clearing Wash will require a stronger skin with no sensitivity, so I would start with the Gentle Enzyme Peel first (below). Press a small amount of Gentle Clearing Wash into damp skin. Leave for 2-3 minutes and remove with warm water and a cloth. That’s it!
Gentle Enzyme Peel
Our favourite! It contains enzymes (surprise) from pineapple and papaya that will do the ‘exfoliating’ for you.
With wet hands and a small amount of Gentle Enzyme Peel - massage it into your also damp skin over face and neck. Either continuing massaging or leave for 5 minutes before rinsing completely with warm water and a cloth. Light, slow circular motions are best as they are more gentle. Follow with a face mask, or your usual moisturising routine.
Daily exfoliating is too much for our skin. Exfoliating and scrubbing our skin cells before they are ready (or “mature” as we call them in the industry) is asking for trouble! It means we are exposing the skin cells that are too young to cope with what the “mature” skin cells are doing.
Just as over-cleansing can cause harm, over-exfoliating can also disrupt the delicate balance of our skin and our skin’s acid mantle. The urge to scrub away dead skin cells may be tempting, but it can lead to dehydration and compromise the skin barrier. When the skin is constantly stripped of its natural oils, it becomes vulnerable to irritations and inflammation.
Our skin possesses a remarkable ability to renew itself through a process called desquamation or natural exfoliation. The skin’s enzymes work diligently to shed dead skin cells, allowing fresher skin to emerge. By maintaining a healthy and hydrated skin barrier, we can promote this natural process and reduce the need for aggressive exfoliation.
What should you avoid when it comes to exfoliating?
Many people are still choosing a really harsh scrub thinking it is doing a better job. Please don’t! It will scratch the surface of your skin, strip it of it’s natural oils - and if you’re doing it so often, it will never have a change to repair itself or strengthen. Yes, I’m looking at you apricot scrub! But I’m also looking at plastic beads, salt, sugar, coffee grounds and crushed shells. Ouch! Stick with an enzyme based exfoliant or jojoba wax beads - they’re smooth and round and will help exfoliate away only the skin cells that are past their best.
Just like over cleansing, avoid exfoliating too much and too often (this goes for all over your body). Over doing it can strip your skin of it’s natural oils and cause even more problems - mainly dehydration. Avoid ‘Daily’ scrubs regardless of how gentle they say they are.
Despite their marketing, these should not be used daily. This is still a form of exfoliation, no matter how gentle you or your cleanser is. If you MUST use it, go gently and no more than once per week.
What about your muslin soaking cloths? If you’re skin soaking (which you should be!), don’t use the cloth as an exfoliation. As gentle as they are, it still counts if you’re scrubbing and rubbing your skin. When skin soaking, you are pressing the water and ‘soaking’ your skin. No rubbing required!
Invasive Treatments & Products
Any skin care with glycolic, salicylic, and many Vitamin A products need to be used with extreme caution. Especially where these ingredients are across multiple products in your regime. They are all doing a form of exfoliating, and if you’re using them every day - that’s a no go from me!
I’m also side-eyeing invasive beauty treatments such as microdermabrasion and most chemical peels (to name a few). Know these are a form of exfoliation. Anything marketed towards you as “remove/scrape away to reveal fresh, smooth, young skin” - you can turn your back! As holistic therapists, we are wary of (and frankly a little sad) at the number and frequency of these treatments being offered, often to unsuitable clients. These are damaging to the skin barrier, thus creating a world of problems for the client - often where you need even more treatments to counteract the negative effects.
Protecting your skin barrier
Imagine your skin as a house. Think of the top layer of your skin as the roof of your house. You wouldn’t remove half the roof tiles and expect to still be able to protect all your furniture and important things within, would you? So don’t do the same with your top skin cells.
You wouldn’t invest and go to all the effort of redecorating and renovating the inside of your house (i.e. all your skin nutrition goals) when at the same time you’re peeling your roof back to expose all of it to the elements and who knows what else. Surely this would lead to internal and structural damage?
Protect your skin barrier. We believe that your skin care products should feed, nourish and support your skin. It is vital that we understand and work with the skin rather than against it.
What happens if I don’t exfoliate correctly?
Too much and you’ll strip your skin, causing the beginning of the vicious cycle of dehydrated skin.
Not enough and it can become dull, preventing your skin from being as healthy as it could be.
Without a healthy acid mantle, the skin is stripped and exposed to the environment. It can become sensitive. Water is lost and the skin dehydrates rapidly. As the skin dehydrates, the surface of your skin becomes tighter as the skin cells dry and ‘curl up’. It can make your pores look larger. Sebum (oil) can become trapped under the skin, your products can’t absorb as well into the skin, your skin’s oil glands can over produce to try to compensate for the lack of water giving you an ‘oily skin’.
Aside from taking it easy on the exfoliants, the other part to your solution here is to hydrate your skin is so your skin cells are plump, full of water and lie flat (and flush together) protecting the skin from irritants and further water loss. Dry ‘curled’ skin cells will curl upwards, causing further dehydration with irritants being able to enter the skin and water being able to escape!
What is the acid mantle?
The acid mantle is the skin’s natural protective film. It is made up of our skin’s perspiration (sweat) and fatty acids (sebum or oil). As the name suggests, it is more acidic than alkaline. A pH of 4.5 - 5.5 to be more specific. Our acid mantle protects the skin from the environment and prevents irritants from coming into contact with the skin. Bacteria thrive in an alkaline environment – so you can see why our skin is designed to be naturally acidic to counteract this and prevent infections and other problems.
The acid mantle is our protective coat. It keeps OUT bacteria, and keeps IN water. The acid mantle is vital for preventing water loss and maintaining hydration. Cleansing your skin will disrupt this layer, meaning your skin needs to rebuild the acid mantle again. This is why it is imperative to use an appropriate (and gentle) cleanser and/or exfoliant, to prevent disturbing the acid mantle where possible. Yes, we still need to cleanse and exfoliate our skins – but gently! The acid mantle is vital in maintaining skin health.
If it’s not exfoliation, what IS the most important thing for skin?
The most important thing for skin is hydration!
In our pursuit of beautiful skin, hydration should be at the forefront of our routine! A well-hydrated skin won’t cry out for frequent exfoliation. Instead, it will maintain its balance, reducing the need for aggressive measures or invasive treatments. Prioritize moisturizers and hydrating products to support your skin’s natural defenses.