How To Exfoliate Your Body: Tips: DIY Scrubs, At-Home Tools & More
Smooth, supple, bright skin all over is the goal, isn’t it? To get there dermatologists will tell us that a balance of two things is key: exfoliation and hydration. As far as the latter goes, there are plenty of natural moisturizers or clean body lotions to claim as your own. But exfoliation? Well, that’s where things get interesting, because there are simply so many ways to exfoliate your body, from self-concocted scrubs and masks to tools like dry brushing.
What's the best one for you? Well that's entirely up to your needs and comfort level. But read on for some inspo (you may already be doing a few!).
1. DIY scrub
Getting smooth, soft skin may be as simple as concocting something in your kitchen! Every body scrub has two simple components: a physical exfoliant and an emollient. As long as you have those two, you can create a body scrub out of virtually anything (well, almost) and mix-and-match along the way.
Popular ingredients for scrubs include: brown sugar, white sugar, coffee grounds, and salt (either coarse, medium, fine, or a mix). As for your hydrators, you can use any of the popular beauty oils out there—those like olive oil, jojoba oil, almond oil, or grapeseed oil tend to be the most popular. From there you can toss in extras like enveloping essential oils, soothing botanical waters, and other natural hydrators like honey.
Check out our full step-by-step guide to scrubs (with recipes!) for more info.
2. Dry brushing
Dry brushing is a beloved Ayurvedic tradition said to encourage circulation, help lymph drainage, boost energy, and so on. While some claims are easier to back with scientific consensus (there seems to be good evidence it helps circulation, but there's been less research done on energy, for example).
But one thing all skin care experts agree on: Dry brushing is an excellent exfoliator. Dry brushes come in many shapes, sizes, and materials. Common bristle materials are either synthetic nylon or natural boar bristle; you may find some with copper strands, but those are for expert-level dry brushes only as they are the stiffest variety. From there, you can find options with long, medium, curved, or no handle. This is purely a personal preference, there’s no size or shape that’s more “effective” than the rest; just find one that suits you. (Need help finding yours? check out a few of our favorites, here.)
It’s important to be gentle, especially for beginners as they acclimate themselves to the technique. Pressing too hard, or doing it too frequently, may cause irritation or dryness as you may be scraping off too much skin.
3. Store-bought scrubs
Let’s say you’re not a DIYer (a lot of us aren't!). Well, there are plenty of natural and deeply sensorial body scrubs that are the perfect blend of hydrating and granular. (Our favorites, here.) Just be mindful to find a scrub that is formulated for the body (don’t try and take your face one into the shower with you to do double-duty). as the skin here tends to be much thicker and therefore needs a more intense and thorough cleansing.
"Body exfoliators shouldn't be used on the face. They are often thicker in consistency and contain higher concentrations of acids and could be too irritating for delicate facial skin," board-certified dermatologist Raechele Cochran Gathers, M.D. reminds us about exfoliating. "Likewise, using a facial exfoliation on your body may not be strong enough to give you the results you're looking for."
4. Chemical exfoliators
So when talking about your facial skin, two types of chemical exfoliators come up: Chemical and physical. The same isn’t really true for the rest of your body, however—often when we talk about exfoliating your body our minds go straight to body scrubs (a.k.a. The physical stuff). But there are actually plenty of good body chemical exfoliators as well.
As a recap of chemical exfoliators: They usually fall into two major categories, alpha and beta hydroxy acids. AHAs (think: lactic and glycolic) are known to be more hydrating: "They can be simultaneously exfoliating and hydrating, making them very beneficial to many skin types," says board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, M.D. BHA (salicylic acid) is stronger and better targets oil, making it ideal if you have any sort of body acne.
Typically you’ll find these in washes and rinses, but they can also be formulated into body lotions, which are typically your most gentle option as it hydrates skin while sloughing off dead skin cells.
Yes, towels can exfoliate your skin too—especially if you use plenty of physical pressure or use coarser fabrics. And there are plenty of ways to use towels to your advantage. First up, bring a muslin cloth into the shower and use it to apply a gentle body cleanser. Muslin cloths are made of 100% cotton fabric. They're multilayered and finely woven, making them extremely soft on the skin (fit for even baby skin!). However, due to the woven texture of the cloth, they also gently exfoliate. Or post shower, as you are drying the skin, buff away skin cells by drying in small circular motions around your body.
However, if exfoliation is not the goal with your towel dry (and you just want to soak up water off your body), always be mindful to use a clean towel made with a gentle, soft fabric, and dab your skin dry.
6. Loofas or sponges
These are popular for a few reasons: First they help body cleansers lather, which is great for those of us who skin sulfates and usually need a bit of help building that foam. Then, the material actually can act as a gentle exfoliator, as it can slough off excess skin cells, dirt, and oil.
7. Body mask
Body masks have become quite the trend in the beauty industry of late: You can find masks and peels for head-to-toe including your neck, chest, butt, thighs, and feet. Typically these are made with clays or charcoals, which act as somewhat of a hybrid of physical and chemical exfoliation. See, clays and charcoals are extremely porous and absorbent, so they suck up oil, dirt, dead skin cells, and other debris. While every product will come with its own set of instructions, you likely will need to apply pre-shower, wait for a few minutes, and then you can rinse it off as usual.
8. In-salon body treatments
If all else fails? Spas are your friends. Opt for a full-body massage that comes with a scrub or peel—these will typically be of the stronger variety and likely cost more. Consider these as a monthly treat or as a special occasion before a big event. Your skin (and mood!) will thank you.