Your skin is a remarkably dynamic piece of natural engineering. It’s in a constant state of transformation, shedding nearly a million cells each day and generating fresh ones to take their place. I love exfoliation precisely because it mimics and enhances this natural desquamation process; it takes something good and innate about our skin and cranks up the volume to produce even greater results. As much as I’ve discussed facial exfoliation in this blog, those facial cells make up only a small fraction of your skin’s total surface. Body exfoliation uses an even bigger canvas and can achieve even more impressive results.
Body vs. Facial Exfoliation: How They Differ
Because we wear clothes on our bodies and not on our faces, bodily skin is generally better protected from the elements than facial skin. As a result, bodily skin can accumulate a thicker layer of dead keratinocytes on the surface—this makes for skin that’s more receptive to exfoliation and may reveal more dramatic results. This lack of exposure to the elements also means that skin on our bodies tends to be a bit heartier and less sensitive.
As much as I believe that less is more for the face, more can be more when it comes to body care. You can experiment much more broadly with products like scrubs and chemical exfoliants on your body without risking potential sensitization. If you’ve got your facial routine on a good track but are really itching to indulge in some new fun products, your body care routine can provide that outlet.
Body & Facial Exfoliation: How They Are Similar
Structurally, your facial skin and body skin (with the exception of the palms of your hands and soles of your feet) are no different. The same general guidelines apply: gradual and consistent changes tend to yield the best results. Check in with your bodily skin just as you would with facial skin to tune to its changing needs, and consider how other parts of your body care routine (such as your soap or cleanser, your washcloth, your moisturizer or body oil, etc.) can affect the results of your exfoliation routine. Sensitization is less likely on the body, but not impossible! You could still overdo it by using a harsh soap, a scrub, and a buffing mitt in the shower, then topping it all off with a chemical exfoliant lotion.
My Favorite Body Exfoliants
1. Sugar Scrubs
There’s something so satisfying about the grittiness of a sugar scrub—you can feel it working. I wouldn’t recommend such a coarse physical exfoliant for the face, but sugar scrubs are ideal for body exfoliation. I particularly love the Herbivore Botanicals Coco Rose Body Polish; its coconut oil base leaves skin feeling smooth and protected.
2. Dry Brushing
In addition to manual exfoliation, dry brushing also stimulates circulation and can help with lymphatic drainage. Start at your extremities and work upward or inward in smooth strokes toward the center of your chest to encourage blood flow and movement of lymphatic fluid.
3. Chemical Exfoliants
I love body cream with a good exfoliating acid. Enduringly popular in facial products, acids can also provide the same glow-inducing, skin-smoothing benefits on your body. Alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic and lactic work wonders on dry, flaky skin and impart some humectant moisture. Be warned, though—they may sting when applied to freshly shaved skin. Alternately, beta hydroxy acids like salicylic are better suited to tackle rough, bumpy texture such as keratosis pilaris. I choose the Paula’s Choice Resist Weightless Body Treatment 2% BHA for smooth, bump-free skin.
Indulge your body in a little extra self care this winter!