How to Exfoliate Your Face Without Damaging Your Skin (Plus the Best Product)

How to Exfoliate the Right Way (and the Best Product to Use)
iStock/Ridofranz

Cleopatra, ruler of ancient Egypt, was known for her legendary milk-and-honey baths. It’s amazing to think all those years ago (without the Internet or Organic Authority), Cleo was totally right: Milk is extremely, incredibly, and inarguably fantastic for skin. But what many don’t realize is just exactly why that is: Milk (full-fat cow’s milk, not the nutty varieties) is ideal for exfoliation, a ritual you need to adopt if you’re serious about achieving queenly skin.

Why should you exfoliate?

Exfoliation is the process of sloughing off old and dead skin cells to reveal the fresh, healthy skin cells underneath. Our skin naturally turns overs (which means the new cells “push” the dead cells out of the way), but this process slows down considerably as we age. When you’re a teenager, your cells naturally renew every 30 to 40 days, but by the time you’re past 50, it can take up to three months for cells to renew. With an accumulation of dead skin cells, skin visibly appears dull, uneven, and dry — and can even start breaking out.

The great news is new skin cells are formed in the epidermis, the uppermost layer of skin — which means they’re accessible. This means, with the right beauty tools, you can manually speed up this cell turnover process by exfoliating. By doing so, you can always have “new” cells on the surface to help you maintain a natural glow.

So far, so good.

But what is the best way to exfoliate?

Generally speaking, there are two ways to exfoliate: physically and chemically. Physical exfoliation is exactly what it sounds like — you use brushes, cloths, beads, powders, plant particles, or other tangible agents that scrub skin. Chemical exfoliation means you use an ingredient, usually a natural fruit acid or extract, that dissolves dead skin cells.

The best way to exfoliate? That is a combination of both. That way, you don’t “miss” any dead skin cells, reaching the ones in deeper layers, and dissolve and sweep them all away for a bright, fresh, and clear complexion.

You now know you should both physically and chemically exfoliate your skin, but there’s still a jungle out there to navigate. Fortunately, we did the homework for you.

Exfoliators have caused a litany of problems over the years.

Let’s start with the biggest offender: plastic microbeads, which are so terrible for our environment they are now banned from skincare products.

Then, there are popular scrubbing agents, such as crushed walnut shells, that do more harm than good. Since they have jagged edges, they create micro-tears in your skin, which allow bacteria, dirt, and other teeny particles to get in that may trigger breakouts and wrinkles. On top of that, using harsh exfoliators not only slough off dead skin cells, but also the fresh cells underneath. This causes direct damage to your healthy layers, which is why people end up with redness, irritation, and total imbalance.

Like physical scrubs, many chemical exfoliators also damage healthy skin. Although many people, experts included, assure you that a burning sensation is normal, many times chemical peels cause skin to flare up or react badly, especially when it’s exposed to sun after treatment.

I don’t believe in using acids such as alpha hydroxy acids, fruit acids, or glycolic acids on skin,” says Évolué Skincare founder Jean Seo. “Since the pH of these acids are different, it can burn your skin after it breaks down your dead skin. I don’t like using beads or seeds either since it can be too soft or too harsh on the skin.”

(Fun fact: Jean is now a coveted soul in the City of Angels for her transformative elixirs and her ability to resurrect sensitive and over-processed skin damaged from years of sunbathing, harsh peels, and laser treatments… into skin that appears youthful, alive, and pretty much Photoshopped.)

Enter Évolué Skincare Resurfacing Grains.

The Resurfacing Grains are made with three ingredients: oat flour that’s milled to perfect size for exfoliation; milk powder made with the creme-de-la-creme, dried without heat to keep all it’s nutrients and enzymes to nourish the skin; and magnesium carbonate (just a fancy way of saying chalk to keep from clumping),” explains Seo.

The minimalist ingredient list makes the Resurfacing Grains a godsend for sensitive skin and for anyone who wants to rest assure there are no hidden chemicals lurking around.

Seo, as with all her other covetable products, made sure her exfoliator was a formula of great intentional purpose (sounds so Zen, doesn’t it?). In other words, each of these ingredients were chosen to serve a distinct skin-saving role.

Organic milk powder, which is simply milk without the water, is key for perfect exfoliation thanks to its rich content of fat and lactic acid. Fat infuses suppleness, hydration, and a softening effect to skin, while lactic acid is a chemical exfoliator that gently dissolves dead skin cells. Seo gets organic milk powder all the way from New Zealand. Seo is beyond committed to getting the best of the best, and the hormone-free milk powder she gets is the only one she found that can perform and deliver results. (Talk about obsessed.)

She then included the mineral salt magnesium carbonate for its alkaline properties to neutralize the acidity of the milk.

Organic oat flour (also known as avena sativa) not only helps with the physical exfoliation process, but it’s also extraordinary for sensitive skin thanks to its anti-inflammatory powers. In fact, many believe ancient cultures used oats to help relieve skin itching and insect bites. Oat flour not only soothes and calms skin, but it also helps moisturize and soften the appearance of fine lines.

Together, these ingredients make up the modern, advanced version of an age-old French recipe responsible for French women’s famously perfect skin. “It’s an old formula I found in my research, and I made it better by making the product with the best ingredients around the world that was not available to source hundreds of years ago,” says Seo.

The Visible Results

Don’t be turned off by gentle — it only means you can benefit even if your skin is ultra-sensitive, red, and constantly reacting to new products. Focus on the effectiveness:  Resurfacing Grains will target only the dead skin cells you want to get rid of (and take the dark spots and dullness with it) while bathing your healthy cells with hydration and nourishment. The outcome? Smooth, velvety-soft, clear, and bright skin that radiates like never before.

Even if you keep everything else the same, adding in — can we get dramatic here? — the world’s best exfoliator will uplevel your skin, whether you’re experiencing active issues or are already pretty satisfied with it. After all, when it comes to skin, there’s no such thing as “too good.”

Organic Authority has exclusively partnered with Évolué Skincare to offer you actress Emma Watson’s three favorite products, including the Resurfacing Grains! Aptly named Belle’s Kit, this collection is only available for a limited time — and there are only 300 of them!

This is only time you’ll be able to try The Belles’ Kit for 10% off plus free shipping, it’s not available at this price anywhere except Organic Authority! Don’t miss out on boasting the freshest, healthiest, glowiest skin of your life and get yourself a kit today.

 

Sarah Ban
Sarah Ban

Sarah Ban is a beauty, health and wellness journalist, editor and copywriter who works with the world's best indie brands and publications. Her work has been published in SELF, NYLON, The Kitchn and Living Healthy and she has worked with some extraordinary brands such as Odacité Skincare, CO Bigelow Apothecaries, Kopari Beauty and Seaweed Bath Co. When she's not writing or reading, you can find Sarah eating brunch alfresco in her green and gorgeous hometown of LA.