To keep your skin healthy, there are a few habits to take up that can help. Washing your face, cutting out smoking and tanning, eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and keeping your stress in check are just some healthy habits. Let's face it: You can try all the skincare products in the world, but if you're not taking care of your skin from the inside out as well, you're most likely doing it a disservice.
Exfoliation is key, too. "Our skin constantly renews itself every six weeks or so, and this process slows with age and harsh environments," explains Ife Rodney, MD, FAAD, of Eternal Dermatology and Aesthetics. "The result is often dull, dry, flaky skin, with an increased chance of acne. Exfoliating helps to scrub and buff away dead skin cells and dirt. The result is smoother, healthier skin; a reduced chance of acne; and more penetration for cleansers, moisturizers, and serums." When you exfoliate your skin, you're also encouraging skin turnover, deep-cleaning your pores, and evening your skin tone.
That all sounds good, right? But I wouldn't immediately reach for an exfoliant just yet. First, it helps to assess your skin type and see how often you actually need to exfoliate your skin. Some skin types require more than others.
"Sensitive skin typically can't handle as much exfoliation as other skin types," says Kathleen S. Viscusi, MD, FAAD, FACMS, co-founder and partner at Dermatology and Surgery Specialists of North Atlanta (DESSNA). "Exfoliation frequency genuinely depends on your specific skin—everyone's is different! As long as your skin can handle the exfoliation (isn't getting too irritated, etc.), I typically recommend exfoliating two to three times a week."
Just be careful with the over-exfoliation because it could cause bruising, flaking, and irritation. It helps to test out any products or methods first and slowly introduce them into your skincare routine so you can get used to them.
When it comes to exfoliation methods, you've got a lot of options. You can try skincare products like chemical exfoliants (products with acids) and mechanical exfoliants (scrubs). There are also in-office procedures you can get done at a dermatologist's office like microdermabrasion, or you can use some at-home tools that have a similar effect. And you can try some natural exfoliation techniques, which we're going to focus on today.
If you decide to go the natural route, you'll want to keep a few things in mind so you don't experience any irritation or damage to your skin. The experts shared some tips with us:
1. Do a patch test first: "People with sensitive skin should test the exfoliating product on a patch of skin first before moving to the entire face," Rodney says.
2. Avoid any allergens: If you know you're allergic to something, avoid adding it to a DIY scrub, Rodney says, because it will probably cause an allergic reaction.
3. Combine natural exfoliants with granules: "I typically recommend using natural exfoliants with any sort of granules (such as sugar) for the body," Viscusi suggests.
4. Add sugar: "I recommend sugar as a natural exfoliant more than salt, as sugar grains are less abrasive but still effective as a natural exfoliant," adds Viscusi.
5. Try this frequency: "About two to three times per week works for other skin types (combination, normal, oily) or for those with acne-prone skin," Rodney says. "If three times a week is causing a reaction, reduce the amounts as needed. With age, exfoliation helps with the dramatic slow down of cell turnover, so three times a week will work best here as well."
6. Balance products: "DIY/natural scrubs/exfoliants can be as effective as store-bought products as long as they are balanced correctly (i.e., adding natural moisturizers such as olive oil to your sugar scrubs etc., so they aren't so abrasive)," says Viscusi.
7. Consult a doctor: Do this before you DIY anything so you know which ingredients could be too harsh on your skin and which might be best for your particular skin needs.
And as for how to exfoliate your skin naturally, the experts shared some tips below.
1. Try a Sugar Scrub
For natural body exfoliation, Viscusi recommends mixing two parts sugar with one part olive oil to create a sugar scrub.
2. Dry Brush
"Another way to naturally exfoliate the body is by dry brushing skin," Viscusi says. "It's a great way to help dry, rough skin—it also is a gentler way to exfoliate as opposed to scrubbing skin in the shower, as hot water can inflame the skin and strip it of oils!"
3. Add These Ingredients to a Scrub
Rodney recommends using natural ingredients like coffee grounds, brown sugar, honey, and milk for a DIY at-home scrub. She also cautions that they may not work as well as a formulated peel or scrub.
4. Make a Lip Scrub
Chapped lips can benefit from a homemade product, too. Viscusi says one of her favorite ways to naturally exfoliate the lips is by mixing sugar and honey for an exfoliating and healing lip scrub.
5. Look for Plant-Based Enzymes
And if you're shopping for products, Viscusi recommends prioritizing ones with plant-based enzymes. Pineapple, papaya, and pomegranate have natural exfoliating properties.