What Is Gommage? We Explain The French Exfoliating Method
Let me share an all-too-familiar scenario that continues to happen to me time and time again. I land upon a new skin care trend that's taking over social media and the internet, do my research to make sure it's not insane or dangerous, and then I try it. Well, just when I become slightly obsessed with the said trend, it's already come and gone and there's a new one popping up on the horizon. And let's not talk about how my previously two-step skin care routine has tripled or, um, quadrupled, thanks to international beauty trends like K-beauty's glass skin or double-cleansing. Yeah, internet pressure is a real thing.
The latest trend that the internet has peer-pressured me to dive into is gommage. Of course, it sounds alluring, just like any French word would. But apparently, it's a kind-of-new skin care trend that people can't stop talking about. Because, after all, if the French are obsessed, we should be too. So, I decided to tap two skin care experts to get the scoop on gommage and whether it's actually worth the hype. Keep reading to find out exactly what gommage is, who benefits most from it, and how to try the technique at home.
What is gommage?
Gommage isn't exactly a new invention, although it's new to me. It's essentially the French's beloved way to exfoliate. "Gommage is a French technique of gentle exfoliation," says Edyta Jarosz, a licensed esthetician at Shafer Clinic. "It uses a combination of ingredients that exfoliate your skin chemically through the combination of enzymes and scrubbing to slough away dead skin and other debris from the surface of the skin." Jarosz says this method dates all the way back to the 1700s when Marie Antoinette created her very own mask made of eggs, cognac, powdered milk, and lemon juice.
Board-certified dermatologist Tiffany Libby, M.D., says gommage actually translated to "erasing" or "exfoliation" and has become the French go-to thanks to its gentleness on the skin. No aggressive acids are needed here. The magic is all in the enzymes that both chemically and physically exfoliate the skin.
Who is gommage suited for?
Even though all of us need to do some sort of exfoliation to keep our skin fresh, dewy, and healthy, those of us with sensitive skin tend to shy away from exfoliating to avoid irritation. But the good news is the gommage technique gives us all the benefits of traditional exfoliation—unclogged pores, removal of dead skin cells, improved circulation, increased cell turnover, and even acne prevention—without causing redness or inflammation. That's why this beloved spa technique has won over so many hearts. "It's the essential type of exfoliation for anyone who struggles with sensitivity," Jarosz says. Including those with sensitive, dry, or acne-prone skin.
"Because gommage exfoliants don't penetrate deeper into the skin like traditional AHAs and BHAs do, they are more tolerable," Libby says. But she does warn that it won't give you the longer and more dramatic results that the acids can achieve like improving hyperpigmentation and stimulating collagen production. But the point is, if you're looking for a gentler alternative to exfoliation, choosing gommage is much wiser than avoiding the process altogether.
What do I look for in a gommage exfoliator?
Instead of using physical granules like a manual exfoliator or an acid like a chemical one, gommage products use, "enzyme-rich formulations derived mostly from plant and fruit sources that are proteolytic, meaning they break down dead skin cells so they can easily be washed away," Libby says. She continues that some commonly used enzymes to look for are papain, bromelain, trypsin, and pancreatin.
As far as fruit enzymes, Jarosz says to look for common plants used like pineapples, papayas, and pumpkins. But do note that if you have an allergy to any fruits or plants, you may want to check the ingredient list before applying it to your skin.
Libby also notes that most gommage products contain acrylate polymers. These polymers like cellulose or carbomer are what create the signature flakes that show up when the product has dried and been massaged away. These products usually come with a gel- or paste-like consistency and can be easily applied to the skin.
How to apply a gommage exfoliator.
And just in case you're not familiar with the gommage process, here's a step-by-step guide to how it actually works:
- First, you apply the gel or paste to the entire face, just like you would a traditional face mask.
- Next, the product should be left to sit on the skin to dry. "During this time, the enzymes are chemically exfoliating your skin," Libby says.
- Once the product has fully dried, you'll begin to massage the product into the skin, which is the physical exfoliation that creates the flakes.
- And the final step is rinsing away the product with water and, of course, follow up with your go-to moisturizer.
The bottom line.
If you're looking for a gentler technique that will still give you fresh, supple, and glowing complexion sans the redness, gommage is totally worth the try. As always, it's best to apply any new products to a small test area of skin before applying them all over your face. And if you have any questions, don't hesitate to discuss the process with your dermatologist.
Andrea Jordan is a beauty and lifestyle freelance writer covering topics from hair and skincare to family and home. She received her bachelor's in Magazine Journalism from Temple University and you can find her work at top publications like InStyle, PopSugar, StyleCaster, Business Insider, PureWow and OprahMag. When she's not writing, you can find Andrea tackling new recipes in the kitchen or babysitting one of her many nieces and nephews. She currently resides in New Jersey with her husband and cat, Silas.