How to Exfoliate Sensitive Skin

Exfoliating regularly is an important part of a good skin care regimen.  It removes the dead skin and debris that adheres to live skin, which can clog pores and inhibit product penetration.  Sensitive skin types often avoid exfoliation because it can lead to irritation.  When you learn how to exfoliate sensitive skin properly, you can incorporate this powerful technique into your routine.

Manual exfoliation is the most common form of exfoliating.  This involves using an abrasive material or object to remove dead skin cells.  People often use a facial or body scrub in the shower.  Another popular option is exfoliating with a loofah.  The friction associated with scrubbing can easily irritate very sensitive skin.  You can help your skin adjust to exfoliation with a few tricks.

Many people use too much pressure when exfoliating.  It is more effective to use mild pressure for a longer period of time, paying attention to each area in small circular motions instead of scrubbing large areas with long strokes.  Think, “polish” instead of “scrub”.  When you exfoliate sensitive skin, gradually increase the pressure and duration of your exfoliation treatment.  Start off using very light pressure and only polish a single area for 10 seconds or less.  Only exfoliate once a week or every other week.  Gradually use more pressure and more time and eventually move to exfoliating twice a week.  This will give your skin time to adjust to the process.  If you are exfoliating in the shower, wait until the end when your skin will slough off easily.  Don’t shave if you are going to exfoliate your legs.

Using natural exfoliators is a good idea for this skin type.  Try using a sugar scrub if want to exfoliate sensitive skin that is also dry.  The oil or cream base instantly moisturizes your skin, minimizing the chance of irritation.  If you are exfoliating your face, try using a product that contains natural ingredients, like cleansing grains.  This type of facial scrub is made up of clay with ground oatmeal or almonds.  It is often a dry powder, to which you add water and other botanical ingredients, like aloe juice, honey, or essential oils.

A less common form of exfoliation is called chemical exfoliation, which uses an acid to dissolve dead cells and debris, causing it to separate from live skin.  Although many people over look this option, this is a great way to exfoliate sensitive skin.  This type of exfoliation uses no friction, which is ideal if you are easily irritated by rough material or prone to broken capillaries.  Low levels of hydroxy acids are very unlikely to cause irritation, especially if they are in a moisturizer base, like a glycolic acid lotion.  You can also try using a facial cleanser that contains an alpha hydroxy acid, like a glycolic cleanser.  Higher concentrations of AHAs can have a peeling effect, so avoid products that contain more than 10%.

Moisturizing after you exfoliate sensitive skin can reduce irritation.  This skin type often dries out after a shower, so you should try to moisturize before you dry off.  Try applying natural body oil while skin is still wet.  The water droplets combine with the oil, letting the oil spread farther and better hydrate the skin with becoming greasy.  Using natural skin care products is ideal for sensitive skin. They contain botanical ingredients that soothe irritation and lack synthetic additives that can irritate sensitive skin.  Look for products that contain aloe, oatmeal, herbal hydrosols, lavender, chamomile, and comfrey.

It is a good idea to find out what is causing your sensitive skin.  Although some people’s skin is simply irritated more easily than others, this condition is usually aggravated by something.  Irritants in skin care products are common culprits.  There are many common ingredients used in skin care that can cause contact dermatitis, such as sulfates used in face and body wash.  Another common cause of sensitive skin is diet and nutrition.  You may not be getting the right amounts of vitamins and minerals, or may be consuming a food that you are allergic or sensitive to, such as eggs or whole grains.  Improving the condition of your skin from within is a good strategy.

One you learn how to exfoliate sensitive skin, you can reap the benefits of this powerful skin care technique.  Start out exfoliating very gently, and gradually work your way up in intensity, duration, and frequency.  Don’t be afraid of chemical exfoliation and moisturize often with natural products.  Be sure not to add too many new treatments to your routine at once; give your skin time to adjust.