To paraphrase the Daleks, there is one beauty action more important than any other, this month. ‘Exfoliate, Exfoliate!!!’
Because by now, the central heating’s been on for months. And did you know that your clothes have actually been acting as a wick these past few months, extracting moisture from your body? The problem with dry skin is that it starts to look flat and sometimes flaky. Dry skin doesn’t refract light in the way healthy, dewy, plumped-up skin does. (Which is why our skin rarely looks better than on holiday.) Simply piling on moisturiser, though, doesn’t cut it. Dusty, dry surface cells just don’t soak up nourishment and moisture (never mind all those pricey anti-ageing ingredients you’ve sprung for) the way that new cells do.
We have a positive arsenal of scrubs and exfoliators in our bathrooms. They’re among our favourite products because over the years, we’ve figured out that they really are the fast-track to better-looking skin. So this month, we thought we’d point you in the direction of some of the best face and body scrubs.
Let’s start with the aptly-named Neom Organics Real Luxury Body Scrub, a sugar-grained confection which is infused with the most blissful blend of jasmine, Brazilian rosewood and lavender, working to transform tired, dull-looking skin with its natural blend of jojoba and sunflower oils. Another longstanding favourite buffer is Aromatherapy Associates Polishing Natural Exfoliating Scrub; the exfoliating ingredients here are salt – and, more unusually, coffee grains, which are terrific for scruffing skin without scratching. It also has the most sublime frankincense and grapefruit scent. (And it’s a fact that when we love a product’s smell and texture, we’re more likely to use it diligently and often.) We also definitely need to give a shout-out to the product which so impressed our testers for the Beauty Bible Awards 2019: Temple Spa Sugar Buff, infused with uplifting oils of lavender, eucalyptus, patchouli, clove, rosemary and grapefruit, suspended in a skin-nourishing base of olive oil, grapeseed oil, fig and pomegranate extracts.
Its unisex scent means Sugar Buff is a good one for the kitchen sink, where anyone in the household might like to scrub up after grubby tasks. On which note, we also rate Margaret Dabbs Exfoliating Hand Scrub, a brilliant prelude to a lavish slather of hand cream, when hands need some serious, transformative TLC. And with the day soon to dawn when we’re going to stash away our opaques for a few months, we’d point you in the direction of This Works Perfect Legs 100% Natural Scrub, which is great for making legs – literally – bare-able, with a single treatment. After the Himalayan salt’s done its stuff, it leaves even the most lacklustre legs looking gleamingly healthy, thanks to the base blend of sweet almond, crambe and blackcurrant oils.
The past couple of years have seen eco-developments on the scrub front, meanwhile. Happily, plastic ‘microbeads’ have now been outlawed– for ecological reasons; they were building up in the marine environment. There was really no need for them, to deliver perfectly good results, and our oceans will be the cleaner for it. But you might notice that none of our own ‘hot tip’ scrubs contain hard, crushed particles like pumice or nut shells. There are two reasons for this: a) these can scratch skin, if used over-zealously, and b) we personally find nothing alluring about having a gritty bottom from sitting on a layer of particles that don’t dissolve in water.
Salt and sugar scrubs do dissolve. The reason we sometimes choose sugar over salt is simply that we’re gardeners, and salty scrubs sting wounds acquired when (for instance) pruning roses or blitzing brambles. (As long as we haven’t been in the wars with secateurs in hand, though, salt’s fine.) Personally, we also like it when our scrubs come in an oil base, which not only makes for easy application – small, gentle circles should be fine, NB – but also leaves skin nourished with a veil of oil. We can then smooth on body butter afterwards, for a skin-quenching double-whammy.
If scrubs aren’t your thing, you can buff skin with a loofah or a mitt – but the ultimate skin-blitzer is the now-legendary Dermasuri Deep Exfoliating Mitt, which you use damp, on the body. As beauty experiences go, it’s extraordinary – and ‘ewwwww’-inducing, in a sort of irresistible way: you literally watch balls of grey skin build up as you slough, ready to be sluiced away in the shower or bath. (You might have a little temporary pinkness afterwards, but the brightness of the newly-revealed skin is extraordinary.)
Faces, meanwhile, need exfoliation just as badly as what’s below the vest-line. Again, we have a wide range of weapons at our disposal. (Jo’s bathroom shelf generally resembles one of those arcade games – to be found at the end of her street in Hastings – where pennies are meant to cascade off the front as you roll yours down the slot.) The watchword here, though, should always be: ‘gently’. If you’re over-zealous, skin can suffer – so we always abide by a tip given to us years ago that facial exfoliants should always be massaged in with the ring finger, as it’s harder to apply over-zealous pressure.
In terms of facial exfoliators, we’d recommend, however, that even scrubs recommended for daily usage are actually used two or three times a week. (Nobody needs more exfoliation than that.) Still, gentle enough for our liking is Green People Age Defy+ Soft Buff Skin Exfoliator, which features bamboo stem and bentonite clay particles, to help clear clogged pores. It’s formulated with enzyme exfoliants, too, which are optimal for faces because they deliver radiance via an enzymatic action which dissolves the dead cells rather than physically scrubs them away. We also love the skin-brightening effect that LIXIRSKIN Soft Clay Rubber has; this dual-action ‘no-bits exfoliant’ and mask features keratolytic enzymes to break down the dead cells, which are drawn to the white clay in the formula. Remove immediately with warm water (like a normal facial scrub), or leave on for five minutes as a skin-refining mask. And let’s give a shout-out to iS Clinical Tri-Active Exfoliant, which offers the triple-whammy of botanical enzymes, salicylic acid and eco-friendly microbeads – it ticks the box of being kind to skin, but is impressively powerful.
So don’t leave it till the bikini season’s looming (aaaaaargh!) to get in the habit of blitzing your skin. Face or body, regularly removing those cells – and the watchword, always, is ‘gently’ – is one of the best favours you can do to your skin. We promise you’ll almost hear your ‘new skin’ slurping up whatever you choose to smooth into it, afterwards…