Ever opened up a magazine and flipped through the pages to find an article that promised to give the reader "five secrets for achieving perfect, glowing skin" or "the lowdown on what's best for your skin type" only to discover that there is supposedly a whole slew of steps to perform in order to maintain perfect skin, and a seemingly endless list of products to buy that facilitate those steps? It's easy to get overloaded with information.
I work at Sephora, and customers regularly ask about the skincare regimen that would work best for their respective skin types. Amidst the cleansers, toners, serums, masks, spot treatments, sunscreens and moisturizers, questions regarding exfoliators do arise. How many times a week should one exfoliate? Should a natural brand be given preferential treatment over other brands that incorporate synthetic ingredients? Should exfoliation be done once a week, twice a week, daily or biweekly? Exfoliators should be incorporated into all skincare regimens, but the frequency with which one uses such a scrub and the type of scrub itself will depend on a person's skin type.
The main purpose of exfoliation is to rid the skin of dead cells so that pores don't become clogged, which can aid excess oiliness, acne, blackheads and other sorts of icky stuff. Another aim of exfoliators is to assist in the turnover of new cells so that dead skin is removed and the face becomes vibrant again . Though many exfoliation products claim to be gentle enough to use every day, it seems to be general consensus that exfoliating once or twice per week will suffice, else skin will be needlessly scrubbed when new cell turnover or de-clogging isn't needed. And all exfoliation should be followed by a moisturizer so that the skin is properly hydrated, as the scrub tends to have a drying effect on the skin.
For those with sensitive skin, exfoliation products must not be used excessively or else flare-ups, redness, hives, microtears and other issues may show up on the skin's surface. Products that contain synthetically formed exfoliating beads or that are naturally-rounded are a good option, as there won't be any uneven edges to potentially damage sensitive skin. Products that contain fewer exfoliating pieces in them in general will lend a gentler buff to the skin, as well. Natural products, such as fruits and plants make for great gentle scrubs, such as the addition of papaya, cucumber or oats. Two good products are Kate Somerville's ExfoliKate Gentle Exfoliating Treatment which incorporates fruit pieces and rounded beads and the natural product, Origins Modern Friction. I have Modern Friction on my bathroom shelf, and I love the smooth feel of the rice pieces mixed in with the rich, cucumber-almond-scented cream. Since exfoliation can tend to dry out the skin, it may be best not to use the product more than once a week.
Those with combination (in the T-zone) and oily skin tend to have larger pores, which means that those pores are more susceptible to gunk (blackheads, whiteheads) getting caught inside of them. Though people can't permanently change their pore sizes, they can make pores less visible by unclogging them, which is where exfoliation is key. Once- or twice-weekly exfoliation should work to help dislodge debris from pores, and moisturizer should always be a follow-up step, because even oily skin needs hydration. If there isn't any hydration, then the skin will produce even more oils to make up for that which has just been scrubbed away. Fresh Soy Face Exfoliant with its inclusion of Jojoba and cucumber make it a gentle exfoliator with a fresh (no pun intended) scent. I have the Fresh Soy Face Clenaser, and my skin feels soft and calm after I use it. Bliss Pore Perfecting Facial Polish is another recommended product, as round grain granules help to lift dead skin without unnecessary roughness.
Though with dry skin should exfoliate to remove the scaly patches of skin that predominate for this skin type, and exfoliation should be followed immediately by moisturizer (preferably thick and creamy) to pump moisture back into the skin. Boscia Smoothing Facial Polish is a product that doesn't contain any harsh chemicals or sulfates, but is chock-full of natural goodies such as Jojoba, Willowherb and Marshmallow (but please don't eat it...) as well as First Aid Beauty's Facial Radiance Pads, which contain chemical exfoliators so that manual scrubbing isn't necessary.
My two go-to products are Origins Modern Friction and Beyond Belief's ABH Pore Refining Scrub. Modern Fiction is gentle and creamy with just a few exfoliating beads, whereas the ABH Pore Refining Scrub is more liquid than anything, smells of licorice and has tons of tiny sugary granules. I switch off and on between the two products depending on how my skincare regimen has been for the past week.
And if you're not keen on spending money for an exfoliator, simply make your own at home using sugar and honey.