You hear about it on commercials. You see your wife do it at night. Drugstore shelf after shelf is lined with products singing its virtues. So you, “Mr. Perplexed Male,” might be asking: What the hell is exfoliation?
Why men should exfoliate?
Exfoliation is the process of scrubbing off dead skin cells to reveal and expose “younger,” fresher skin. The shedding process unclogs pores, keeps skin clean and helps reduce acne breakouts. It is usually the first step in cleaning your face, to be followed by washing your face with soap (preferably one with hypoallergenic properties) and finally, moisturising.
Unfortunately, many men wash exclusively with plain old, hotel-grade soap. It is certainly enough to keep you clean, but it is not the best bet to keep your skin healthy. Indeed, bar soap dries out your skin, its ingredients sometimes clogging pores and leading to rougher skin in the long run. Exfoliation also specifically helps men in a huge way: It exposes the face’s hair follicles, allowing for a better shave. And we all know that a smoother shave is practically the holy grail of a man’s morning routine.
Exfoliate part by part
Men have hair all over, and hair traps oil, dirt and grime. For men, there are three major areas in need of regular exfoliation: face, back and chest (exfoliating your feet and hands is great, but not essential).
The skin on your face is quite different from that of a woman’s. It contains larger pores, whiskers, more collagen and elastin (fibrous proteins that help hold everything together), a denser supply of blood vessels, and it produces more sweat. Put all these factors together and a guy’s face can attract a fair amount of dirt.
So, the most important component of any good facial exfoliation routine is the cleanser/foamer. Most of these products contain some combination of granulated pumice, sea salts, fruit seeds, salicylic acid, alpha-hydroxy acid, and beta hydroxy acid, all of which serve to loosen and slough off dead skin cells. Some even aid in the formation of collagen.
To get the most out of your exfoliating cleanser and to help work it into a good lather you should use one of the following methods of application.
Exfoliating gloves: Okay, these reusable nylon gloves are more suitable for women, but they work. Just put them on and gently rub the cleanser around your face. The gloves’ massaging motion will also improve circulation and open pores. Just keep in mind the fact that you use them on the down low.
Sponge: An abrasive sponge, or loofa (a sponge made from the dried fibrous part of the loofa plant), works the same way as gloves, but it has the advantage of whipping the exfoliating cleanser into a richer lather that gets deeper into the pores and the skin’s upper layers.
More ways to get rid of dead skin and grime other.
Exfoliating mask: This is a plaster-like concoction that goes on your face as a liquid goop, hardens, and then peels off to remove dead skin cells, dirt, whiteheads, etc. It can be pricey (not to mention girlie), but its thoroughness more than makes up for it.
Pumice soap: This is an inexpensive exfoliation classic it is a bar soap that includes granulated volcanic ash that really scrubs hard. The only disadvantage is that pumice soaps require a fair amount of scrubbing to get a good lather going.
Note: However you choose to exfoliate, do not forget to moisturise. Exfoliating can dry out already dry skin, but a moisturiser will help stabilize your skin and “feed” the new, young skin you have exposed.
Exfoliating your back or chest is not nearly as complicated as your face, but it does require you to be in the shower. The first step is to shampoo your hair and flush out all dirt and grime. Next, grab a loofa sponge (one with a wooden handle), apply some of your exfoliating cleanser/foam on the loofa, and gently scrub all over your back in circular motions. There are slight differences between body and facial exfoliating cleansers, so be sure to use one that is made for the body (they are more abrasive).
Do not be afraid to really scrub hard on the back. Consider your hard scrubbing payback for all the zits your back produced over the years!Next, exfoliate your trunk (chest, shoulders, stomach) the same way you would your back, but scrub more gently; the skin on your stomach can be thinner and more sensitive. For your legs, turn to exfoliating gloves. They are less abrasive, and they can get in and around tough areas (like around your groin) with greater ease than a loofa on a stick.
When all else fails, a good back “facial” never hurts. At spas like the private Men’s Grooming Salon in Sydney, you can get your back waxed, exfoliated and treated for in-grown hairs and acne, in about an hour. These sessions use high-powered cleansers and expert hands definitely beat a lonely loofa in your shower.
You know your body best, so only you can decide whether to exfoliate daily, every other day (three times per week is a good routine), or maybe just give yourself a nice scrubbing once a week. Exfoliating too often can damage the skin; exfoliating too little may let your skin’s oils run wild. Whichever schedule you settle on, recognize that while exfoliating takes some extra effort, by doing it, you will ultimately have to worry less about wrinkles, flaky skin and acne. And that is a trade-off every man should take.