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Exfoliation at Home

By Denise Elliot

Exfoliation is removal of top skin cells that have finished their working life and need to go. It will depend on your type of skin and the method chosen as to how often exfoliation should ideally take place.

As we age skin cells renew much more slowly, so exfoliation becomes more important so new cells can freshen your complexion.

Skin cells are constantly moving up and through each layer of our skin - renew, renew, renew. To gently enhance this process is a simple way of keeping a youthful brightness to your skin. There are a huge number of products on the market, but sadly a lot of these have some nasty ingredients and preservatives (e.g. parabens). Like packaged food, shelf life is important, so you often see more than one paraben in commercial products. Parabens have been identified in human breast tumours.

There are many ingredients in your pantry that can easily make up a beautiful exfoliant.

It is best to start gently, especially with facial skin. Never scrub your face and be aware of your age and the state of your skin as you do not want to aggravate or irritate it. Body exfoliation will enhance your skin health as well as facial exfoliation.

Sugar can be a good base for an exfoliant, however it can be too harsh for some sensitive skins as anything excessively grainy will scratch. Salt can also be used, however be aware that if you have any cuts or scratches on your body you will know about it, because the salt will sting.

Include oat bran or whole oats in your regime if your skin is itchy. Oat bran is not as messy as whole oats. Oats can soothe and soften irritated skin, use them in a bath or as a compress. Mix equal amounts together with a cold pressed vegetable oil such as olive or almond oil for your body, or use finer oils such as jojoba or walnut for your face.

If you need an invigorating lift, mix together a few drops of rosemary and bergamot essential oils and rub all over your body in the shower. If life is busy and you feel you have no time for moisturising after, be generous with the amount of oil and your skin will feel amazing afterwards. If you are too heavy handed with the oil be aware you can ruin clothes, so find the correct amount for you.

Any of your favourite essential oils can be used but take care and adopt drop dosing (start with a few drops only and mix with a carrier oil), as the essential oils are the most potent part of the plant.

Lavender is calming and soothing on nerves and skin.

Bergamot is also calming and an excellent choice for anxiety, but not if going in the sun as it can cause photo-sensitivity.

Patchouli is wonderful for mature skin.

Rose oil is the most expensive essential oil because so many petals are needed for just one drop, however it is the ultimate oil for ageing skin. With the cost involved with rose oil it is probably not going to be included in your exfoliation blend, it is best to use it afterwards to reap the ongoing benefits.

Tea tree/Manuka is a great option if acne is of concern. Do not use any harsh exfoliation (oats may be the best option) and while tea tree is not the most pleasant fragrance, it has superb anti-bacterial activity.

Papaya is a fruit that has a high enzymatic action that can help with exfoliation. When it is in season find a relaxing time, mash up some ripe papaya with honey, apply to a cleansed face and relax for 15-30 minutes. The enzyme ‘papain’ provides a gentle exfoliation and is complimented with the moisturising anti-bacterial action of the honey. If it drips onto your lips as you are relaxing, you can just lick it and enjoy. Avoid the eye area.

A face cloth can also be considered an exfoliation if not used too harshly. Any scrubbing of course will be irritating. Fine lines, wrinkles and broken capillaries can be aggravated more than soothed if not treated with kindness.

While exfoliation has a place in our wellness regime, use with care and develop a routine that suits your type of skin.