How to Exfoliate Your Body

We often think of exfoliation as being just for the face, but the rest of your body can benefit from a good exfoliation too. The question is what to use: an exfoliating body scrub? A loofah? A body brush? We go over the do’s and don’ts of body exfoliation, and explain why the best body exfoliant is one you leave on your skin.

Benefits of Body Exfoliation

You might be wondering why we should exfoliate and why full body exfoliation is beneficial. With age and accumulated sun damage the skin’s natural ability to shed dead surface cells slows down—sometimes stopping altogether. The result is a build up of dry, ashy-looking skin that can make your arms, elbows, legs—pretty much everywhere—look dull, uneven, and older than they really are.

Should You Use a Body Scrub?

The cosmetics industry traditionally offers one type of product as a solution for full body exfoliation: body scrubs. You’ll find scrubs that contain different types of exfoliating ingredients, from polyethylene (also known as plastic microbeads, which are being phased out due to environmental concerns) to walnut shells, pumice, volcanic ash, sugar, and sea salt.

Why it's best to avoid most body scrubs
With very few exceptions, almost all body scrubs are too abrasive. They exfoliate, but at the expense of causing tiny micro-tears in skin. This gradually erodes your skin’s protective barrier, leading to dryness, sensitivity, and other problems.

Body scrubs are often heavily fragranced and contain essential oils, and these cause further issues that can trigger irritation (although they do smell good, which does make them tempting).

Loofahs and dry body brushes are no better; in fact, their rough, firm textures and mode of use can make them even worse than scrubs for full body exfoliation, leaving skin redder and rougher than it was before.

The Best Body Exfoliation Products

What should you use to exfoliate your body? Research has made it clear: The best body exfoliant comes in the form of a leave-on AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) or BHA (beta hydroxy acid) exfoliant. When well formulated, these exfoliants gently dissolve the bonds holding dead skin to the surface, revealing the fresh, healthy-looking, bump-free skin beneath.

Use an AHA body exfoliant that contains glycolic or lactic acid to improve the look of dry, crepey, sun-damaged skin. AHAs also help enhance skin’s ability to hold on to vital hydration and promote visibly firmer skin, like no body scrub ever could.

If your skin from the neck down is prone to clogged pores, blemishes, and redness, or is rough and bumpy, look no further than a BHA body exfoliant that contains 2% salicylic acid. Once or twice daily application will make a world of difference we suspect you’ll find impressive.

You can consider gentle, fragrance-free body scrubs as a way to deliver extra cleansing to skin, but not as a solution for the many body-care concerns that leave-on AHA or BHA exfoliants so beautifully address.

How to exfoliate legs

Regularly using a leave-on AHA or BHA body exfoliant is a great way to exfoliate legs, a process that will make hair removal in this area much easier, with fewer ingrown hairs.

How to exfoliate legs before shaving is as simple as applying a thin layer of an AHA or BHA lotion the night before. The next morning, wash the area when showering – you can use a washcloth if you prefer – and shave as usual. After towelling off, apply a light layer of smoothing body cream to prevent moisture loss and reinforce the soft, even texture the leave-on exfoliant provides.

Tip: Do not apply an AHA body lotion to freshly shaved skin. Your skin is more easily irritated just after hair removal, and an AHA exfoliant may cause a stinging sensation.  

If you experience ingrown hairs on legs, choose a BHA exfoliant instead of an AHA, since BHA is better at loosening the clogs that help create ingrown hairs. 

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