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Questions and Answers about Exfoliation

It’s an integral part of any skincare routine, and yet most men have no idea what exfoliation is and what it can do for them. Read on to find answers to some of the most common questions regarding this skincare practice, and learn how exfoliation can dramatically improve your skin’s appearance.

Q: First off, what exactly is exfoliation?

A: Exfoliation is the accelerated shedding of the upper, dead layers of the skin. Don’t worry, we’re not talking about a face melting straight out of a horror movie; we’re talking about using ingredients and physical particles to gently buff away old skin cells and deep clean pores. By removing this accumulation of debris and dead cells, a healthier layer of skin is revealed.

Regular exfoliation is one of the easiest and fastest ways to improve skin’s smoothness and tone and reduce the appearance of fine lines. It is also effective in the management of acne and ingrown hairs, or any other problems that arise from an excess of dead cells. By gently scrubbing away the top layer of dead skin cells, facial hairs are forced more upright and skin is better prepped for a closer, smoother shave without the risk of ingrown hairs.

Q: What should I look for in an exfoliating product?

A: One of the most effective exfoliating ingredients is glycolic acid (also known as AHA, Alpha Hydroxy Acid). Used in combination with salicylic acid (another powerful exfoliating ingredient), it works by dissolving bonds between cells for easier and more effective cleansing. Once these bonds are loosened, dirt and dead cells can be more easily cleared away. Glycolic acid also encourages the production of new cells for a healthy appearance and skin tone.

A few advanced products take it a step further by combining a physical agent along with these biological exfoliators. These particles provide an additional level of cleansing by physically buffing away dirt on your skin’s surface. Look for products that contain particles that are small or in bead-form, so they won’t dig into your pores and cause redness, swelling and irritation. The ideal result is to gently remove skin’s impurities, not roughly sand them away.

In addition to these types of products, there’s also a variety of exfoliating tools you can use to smooth rough areas of the face and body. It could be something as simple as a loofah, or something that provides a little more kick like our micromesh Body Buff Gloves and Face Buff Brush. The important thing is to use these tools with a gentle cleanser to slough off dull buildup, smooth rough areas and leave skin feeling revitalized.

Q: How do I exfoliate my face?

A: Wet your face with lukewarm water and rub a small amount of exfoliating product into your skin. A nickel-sized portion should do it, but use as much or as little as you see fit. Gently massage the scrub into your skin for 1-2 minutes with your fingers to work the exfoliating particles into pores. If possible, allow the scrub to sit on your face for a minute or two more—this will allow the glycolic acid or other exfoliating ingredients to work better. After a few minutes, wash the scrub away with lukewarm water and pat face dry.

Q: How often should I exfoliate?

A: Regular exfoliation is essential for a smooth, healthy-looking complexion. While many scrubs (like our Microfine Face Scrub) are gentle enough to be used once a day every other day, many men find that exfoliating about 3 times a week is satisfactory. This varies depending on what type of skin you have, with more problematic or oily skin calling for more frequent exfoliation, and vice versa for more sensitive skin. Take a week to try out what exfoliating schedule works best for you.

Q: What are AHA and BHA?

A: AHA stands for Alpha Hydroxy Acids and BHA stands for Beta Hydroxy Acids. These acid groups include highly-effective, exfoliating ingredients like glycolic, lactic and salicylic acids. They have been used by dermatologists for years to stimulate and accelerate cell growth, help smooth roughness and wrinkles, and prevent acne and ingrown hairs.

Q: Does using products with AHA/BHA cause your skin to burn more easily?

A: Although AHA is great at exfoliating the top layer of dead skin cells for a smoother, fresher appearance, these dead cells also act as a protective cover to healthy, sensitive cells underneath. While these ingredients do not directly cause you to get a sunburn, the new cells they reveal are more susceptible to sunburns so it’s important to wear a sunscreen of SPF 30 to provide your skin with adequate protection. Exfoliating your skin actually promotes a more even tan later on, but try not to exfoliate a day or two before you head out into the sun to avoid the risk of burning.