Exfoliators have become a skincare routines staple, and rightly so. However, brand have leapt on this opportunity, leading to an almost overwhelming variety of exfoliators on the market, and it can be hard to find which product is right for you. Besides products especially designed for dry, oily or sensitive skin, there are also scrubs with different types of exfoliants available. But what do these different types of exfoliant do, and which is best for your skin?
The problem with microbeads
In recognition of their harmful environmental impacts, the UK government banned microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics and cleaning products in England in 2018. Microbeads are manufactured solid plastic particles often made of polyethylene and previously could also be found in toothpaste. Studies have linked microbeads to plastic particle water pollution because they are able to pass through sewage treatment plants are enter rivers and oceans, with large quantities being detected in the Great Lakes, particular Lake Erie. These particles can then be consumed by fish, and sometimes bring pollutants with them.
As well as being available from supermarkets and Grainger Market for an incredibly low cost so that you can make your own bargain exfoliator at home by just blending them with water, brands such as St. Ives have produced oat-based exfoliators. Oats are particularly suitable for those with sensitive skins because they are one of the most gentle natural exfoliants, and they also can help those with an oily complexion by soaking up excess oil. Their anti-inflammatory properties furthermore can soothe irritated skin.
Known for its more abrasive structure, salt crystals can be damaging when used on areas of sensitive skin such as the face, but are perfect for parts of the body with rougher skin such as legs and feet. According to Elle, sea salt is also a natural purifier which can remove pore-blocking toxins, improve circulation and tighten the skin. SiO Beauty argues that it can furthermore rejuvenate tired skin, promote moisture retention, and stimulate cell growth. Sea salt is available very cheaply so these exfoliators are easy to make at home, but adding essential oils and olive oil can help ensure that it doesn’t break the skin.
If you would rather you can go sweet instead by using sugar. Granulated sugar is finer than sea salt, and thus more gentle. The glycolic acid in sugar can break down dead skin cells and unclog pores. However, like salt, this is not advised for acne-prone skin
Sharing a similar appearance to microbeads, jojoba beads come from the jojoba shrub and are biodegradable. Because the beads are so soft, they are incredibly gentle on the skin, while also being anti-bacterial and antioxidant.
Ground nuts and seeds
Flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, poppy seeds and walnut or apricot shells can be used as exfoliants, but it is essential to ensure that these are ground as finely as possible – not only does breaking your skin by using abrasive exfoliators hurt, but it also leaves your skin vulnerable to bacteria and infections. However, these products are less likely to be readily available in your kitchen, meaning that purchasing these might be more of a time and financial investment.
What should you use as the base?
All the above can be used as exfoliants, but to make a scrub you will need to mix your granules with a liquid base. There is a plethora of options here which vary depending on personal preference and what you have at home. Dairy products such as yoghurt, sour cream and milk contain glycol, lactic and malic acid that remove dead skin cells, and they draw out oils while cooling and soothing your skin. Both coconut and olive oil cleanse your skin and is rich in vitamins A, D, E, and K, and can soothe skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, while honey’s microbial properties can be used to fight skin infections and aid wound healing alongside having anti-inflammatory properties.
Last modified: 25th June 2020