As you get older, your skin doesn’t shed dead cells as easily (a natural aging process that can be exacerbated by dehydration and exposure to the elements). And, your skin is an organ, growing new life from the bottom to the top; shedding dead skin cells from the surface is part of that growth (think cutting the grass). What’s more, men’s skin is typically thicker than women’s skin, and it has more dense collagen and thicker oils. Because of this, cells build up faster. To help the body along in cleaning its largest organ, proper exfoliating is recommended for skin health.
Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells and, as a byproduct, it stimulates healthy skin growth. It keeps pores clean and it allows for other skin-care products to work more efficiently. “More is not always better with exfoliation,” says Jeni Sykes, the head of skincare at Heyday, and she points out, “Exfoliating does not mean deep cleansing.” If you’re drawn to that “deep clean” feeling when washing your face, you may be over-doing it — especially when daily cleansing. Exfoliating products should gently wipe the slate clean, and should be used one to three times per week.
There’s a variety of good exfoliators, so it’s wise to have a working knowledge before selecting one for your use. Manual exfoliators come in the form of a scrub or polish, and literally knock dead skin cells off the surface of the skin; think of it like light sandpaper. The best manual exfoliators have perfectly spherical grains (as to not tear the skin), or come in the form of a powder that the user mixes with water (forming a small grit that feels frothy). Manual exfoliators should be used after a cleanser. Users should lightly scrub, for about one minute, in a circular, upward motion (gently, as if you were touching a balloon and didn’t want it to pop), and then rinse.
The other type of exfoliators rely on chemical reactions. Enzyme-based exfoliators act like Pac-Men, staying on the surface of the skin, essentially eating the dead skin cells away, smoothing the texture of the skin in the process. Acid-based exfoliators actually penetrate the skin and can help break bonds so that the skin can shed dead cells more efficiently (and in the process they disinfect and stimulate anti-aging processes). Chemical exfoliators are applied like a mask, are worn for around 10 minutes, and then washed off. New exfoliating products combine manual and chemical exfoliators to make a multitasking product, and dual-action face exfoliants are some of the most helpful products (you get the best of both worlds).