Today’s topic is exfoliation.

Nothing beats having a silky smooth face. I am right there with you. Emerging from this winter’s harshness, I found myself scrubbing at my face with a newfound zeal. To my surprise, it only made things worse.

With the cold weather and a bad skin care regime, it felt like my skin was speckled with sand. To make things worse, I was trying to scrape away the debris only to find dry skin underneath. As a mom of two kids under four, I’m lucky to get a shower every few days.

Enough was enough. It was time to visit an esthetician. I needed help. During my facial and acupuncture service, my esthetician and I had a nice little chat about exfoliation. It turns out, exfoliation isn’t something you do in place of a skin care regimen. Frankly, that is exactly what I was doing. Every few days I would scrub my face in the shower then coat it with moisturizer.

My reasoning? I hate washing my skin with soap. Even the gentlest of face wash leaves my skin feeling as tight as a drum. I wanted clean, soft and zit free, but without soap. I’ve even gone as far as avoiding makeup altogether because I dislike washing my face.

I told my esthetician as much, I expected to hear the lecture, you know, the one you hear at the dentist’s office or hair salon. The one where you are told that you need to use this product, don’t do that, and no matter what you do…you’re not brushing enough.

To my surprise, my esthetician agreed with me. “Cleansers are too harsh for most skin types. I prefer my clients use oil and water to cleanse their skin.” Well, okay then. So, I started using oil to wash my face. She recommended oils in dark bottles. Even Olive Oil can do the trick. I had heard of using oil to wash skin, but I had reservations because my skin was already oily.

Turns out, when skin is oily…it needs more moisture. As a cosmetologist, I knew this to be true for hair. When your hair feels greasy, it’s because it lacks moisture. So nix the clarifying shampoo and use a moisturizing shampoo. Seeing how the scalp is also skin, I felt stupid not realizing it sooner.

After my facial, my skin did feel much better. My esthetician recommended a  microdermabrasion because my skin was still scratchy. I must say, that was a religious experience. I’ve seen products and tools to do at home microdermabrasion, and I really would not recommend the at-home kits. My main reason is that you don’t need to do it all the time. Your skin does not need constant exfoliation.

Yes, that microdermabrasion kit looks handy, but when you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll mistake any skin issue as a reason to use it. Much like my solution of rubbing my face raw, I was ignoring the problem. That, and the obvious, you’re not a professional. You don’t know what you’re doing.  So, if you’re going to exfoliate, here is the when, and how.

All the time is not a good time:

You do not need to exfoliate on a regular basis. In fact, you may be one of the lucky ones who simply slough all your dead skin. Over exfoliation will only remove the protective dermal layer on your skin. Doing this will make your skin drier. You do not need to exfoliate on a regular basis. In fact, you may be one of the lucky ones who simply slough all your dead skin. Over exfoliation will only remove the protective dermal layer on your skin. Doing this will make your skin more vulnerable and prone to damage. Not to mention it will just make your skin freak out trying to heal itself. Got a piece of scotch tape? Loosely lay that across your forehead and pull it off. If you see lots of white flaky skin on that tape, bust out the exfoliants.

For people who use the Clarisonic brushes or other similar items, do not try to brush your face the way you brush your teeth. Follow the directions carefully and ease into using these tools. Starting with once or twice a week, they are cleansing tools, not exfoliation tools. While attachments can be bought to scrub the body, do not use these tools to scrub your face. Also, if using exfoliating products, be cautious while using the brushes. Your skin may react badly to the combo.

How to Exfoliate:

Well, that depends on your skin type.

You should never feel burning. Your skin should never be red. If it feels tight and dry after exfoliating, your doing to too much. If it feels greasy it’s too much for your skin. Oh, boy, that’s a lot of don’t. So what should you do?

See an esthetician. Seriously. Not the lady in the mall, not Sephora, and not Walgreens. While your esthetician may recommend you to a grocery store like mine did, they are professionals who can better identify your needs as an individual. It’s worth the investment to get a facial and ask some questions.

For instance, my skin sheds like it’s snowing. Not only do I have to use cleansing lotion or oil, I use enzyme-based toner and moisturizer. Enzymes are great for accelerating skin turnover (exfoliation). Your skin may not work the same way. So before scrub at your face, buy even more products, or listen to that lady at Macy’s, consider the Esthetician first.

Shayna Grissom