I think there are a few common categories of perspectives when it comes to body exfoliation. There’s the “body-scrub-for-Christmas”, where body scrubs are novelties that sit still and look pretty. Or the “body-exfoliation-for-spa-day”, where scrub downs are luxurious treats — but getting descaled like a fish at a Korean bathhouse counts too — either way, an exclusive experience. And of course the “what-do-you-mean-??” group, where body exfoliation is unchartered territory. To think about it, I haven’t heard many swear by the necessity of body exfoliation. But if the skin is our largest organ, why don’t we exfoliate our bodies with the same fervour as our faces?
How much am I really missing out on if I don’t have a body exfoliating regime (yet)?
Well… Quite a lot!
We *finally* get into the nitty gritties of body exfoliation in an exclusive chat with Dr. Dennis Gross (whom you might know from the cult-favourite, best-selling Alpha Beta Daily Peel). For expert advice on how to do it right, common misconceptions about body exfoliation, and what will really revolutionise your exfoliating regime. Big clue: it might not be that body scrub.
Doc Talk: Dr. Dennis Gross On Body Exfoliation & Why You Should Try A Chemical Body Exfoliator
1. We know a lot about exfoliating our faces, but body exfoliating might feel like a spa day novelty to many. Why should we exfoliate the body?
More and more, people are starting to equate skin health with overall health and they are starting to look beyond just their faces/necks. They want a head to toe glow. The body skin and face skin are more similar than you’d think. So in the same way that chemical exfoliation addresses uneven texture, clogged pore and dullness on your face, it also has the same benefits for your body.
2. When we think about body exfoliation, we tend to think about the traditional scrubs (with ingredients like pumice, microbeads, walnut shells etc.). But what REALLY offers the best kind of exfoliation?
As I mentioned above, chemical exfoliation is the gold standard for both face and body! Look for body treatments that include a combination of Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids with enzymes like Bromelain. This will give you an even deeper exfoliation that is able to penetrate the thicker body skin.
3. Can we chemically exfoliate the face and body the same way?
Well the biggest difference is that the skin on your body is 2-3 times thicker than the face. So this means that your chemical body exfoliator should have higher concentrations of ingredients than you would use on your face! The Alpha Beta Exfoliating Body Treatment firms and hydrates crepey skin, diminishes ingrown hairs and Keratosis Pilaris (KP), clears body blemishes and evens out patchy skin tone. The most important thing for exfoliating your face or body is to always keep the skin in balance!
4. What are some misconceptions about body exfoliation?
One of the most common misconceptions is that you need a scrub to get the best exfoliation. This is simply not true. You will always get a better, more even exfoliation using a chemical exfoliant. Physical exfoliators can be harsh and cause micro-tears in skin. Think of it like sandpaper on wood, it doesn’t give you an even exfoliation. Chemical exfoliation leaves you with a smooth, even surface. Chemical exfoliation ingredients also have the potential to deliver additional benefits beyond just exfoliation. For example, Glycolic Acid is a chemical exfoliator, however it also stimulates your skin’s production of collagen and helps to clear pores.
5. How do we exfoliate the body right! What are some things to keep in mind?
For the Alpha Beta Exfoliating Body Treatment, I recommend using it 2-3 times per week on clean, dry skin. Do not use the towel on broken skin or immediately after using a self-tanner. You likely won’t need to use a moisturiser after application. However, you can skip a moisturiser at first and give it a bit of time to see if you need one (you can always introduce a moisturiser if you do).
6. Why are AHAs & BHAs total game changers for body exfoliation?
AHAs and BHAs are Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids. They work to dissolve the glue that holds the dead skin cells to the skin’s surface. This exfoliates the dead, dull skin to reveal fresh, radiant skin cells underneath — AHAs and BHAs also have anti-aging benefits! For example, Lactic Acid also doubles as a humectant by stimulating ceramides and GAG synthesis (geek out on that here). Additionally, Glycolic Acid also stimulates your skin’s production of collagen, the key to healthy, younger looking skin.
7. How do at-home clinical grade exfoliating body treatments (like the Alpha Beta® Exfoliating Body Treatment Peel) compare to body lasers?
Currently, there aren’t too many professional treatment options within dermatologist offices for body lasers. But with the increasing consumer demand for solutions to body skin concerns, I predict we will see a flurry of new technology developed. In the meantime however, topical treatments like the Alpha Beta Exfoliating Body Treatment are the best option to firm body skin and tackle other issues such as KP, body acne and loss of skin elasticity!
Body Exfoliation Is Surprisingly Essential
It turns out that buffing dead skin cells from your body isn’t just reserved for special occasions or “high-maintenance beauty routines”. In fact, body exfoliation could be the metamorphosis you’ve been waiting for (but missing out on).
Simply put, the benefits of exfoliating the skin on your body are pretty much the same as the wonders of exfoliating your face. Exfoliating removes dead surface skin cells — which you might recognise as the dry, dull and ashen-looking skin on your elbows, knees etc… Yup. The result? Smoother, brighter, more even skin and improved blood circulation. A full body exfoliation routine also becomes more important with age, as the skin’s natural ability to shed its own dead surface cells gradually diminishes. Never too late to start!
But It’s Not Just About Body Scrubs.
When we talk about body exfoliation, the beauty industry tends to serve up physical exfoliation options. Most commonly, the classic body scrub. Other familiar tools of choice include exfoliating brushes, loofahs, gloves and even exfoliating body bars with suspended walnut shells/sea salt/sugar/ash etc.
Physical exfoliators certainly have their use in (literally) sloughing away dead skin; specific skin types such as oily/thicker skin can also benefit from rougher manual exfoliation. That said, they may not always be the best choice. Body scrubs and physical exfoliating tools can be too abrasive — especially for delicate skin — and may erode your skin’s protective barrier. Minus more points if your body scrub is highly fragranced, which can be a big trigger for skin irritation.
Enter: Chemical Exfoliators!
They may be lesser known and much less hyped, but it is an expert consensus that well-formulated chemical exfoliants make the best body exfoliators. Just like chemical exfoliators for the face, chemical body exfoliants use powerhouses AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) and BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids) to gently resurface skin. Where AHAs (e.g. Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid) alleviate dry, sun-damaged and crepe-like skin, BHAs can significantly improve bumpy skin, clogged pores and body acne.
If you’re dreaming of the most transformative results from your body exfoliating routine, look no further.
Best Buff Ever: Our Body Exfoliator Picks
As with everything skincare, there isn’t one way to go about exfoliating. Ultimately, your choice of exfoliant boils down to your unique skin type, skin needs, exfoliating goals, personal routine etc. Physical exfoliants are not inherently bad or irrelevant; neither must you always stick with just one mode of polishing. So all things considered, here are our top body exfoliator picks for gleaming skin.
As a fan of the iconic Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Exfoliating Facial Treatment, I always try to stretch their use by exfoliating my neck/décolletage/arms. If you’ve also been daydreaming about a head-to-toe polish with the cult-favourite exfoliating treatment… The wait is over! Like the original Alpha Beta Exfoliating Facial Treatment, Dr. Dennis Gross’s new all-over body towel is a perfect balance of Alpha Beta acids, enzymes and Bakuchiol for maximum efficacy. It exfoliates, alleviates ingrown hairs and Keratosis Pilaris (KP), brightens, and supports skin proteins for younger, healthier looking skin. A dose of antioxidant-rich Squalene and soothing Aloe also help to enhance the skin’s moisture barrier.
Who else has been waiting on Glow Recipe’s big break into body care since *forever*? And no better way to debut than with an extension of its OG cult-favourite Watermelon Glow collection! The Pink Dream Body Cream is a delicious smoothing-moisturising hybrid, whipped with naturally smoothing hibiscus AHA, vitamin-rich watermelon seed butter, soothing watermelon extract and hyaluronic acid. Think smooth, glowy and velvety soft skin! Major brownie points because this creamy, yet lightweight lotion-cream is also non-greasy and 100% pajama/bedsheet-proof (no more marinating overnight in an oily body lotion). If you prefer a milder body exfoliation routine with a big moisture boost, this will be right on your street!
PSA: This will be a keeper if you want a head-to-toe exfoliation routine with just one product! The Scrubbs Konjac Jelly Scrub is an ultra plushy and gentle superfood gel exfoliator with biodegradable Konjac Jelly Beads (far more environmentally friendly), extra fine Non-GMO Olive Stone Powder and intensely moisturising Saccharide Isomerate. Suitable for use from your face to down under, Scrubbs will gently buff away dead skin without stripping your skin of its natural oils. The Prebiotic-rich formula also strengthens the skin’s natural barrier and restores the microbiome for smooth, healthy and renewed skin!
A gentle but effective body scrub, with a smoother granita texture and gel-like consistency for a comparatively softer exfoliation. This one isn’t as sandy and harsh as some mechanical scrubs can be, and comes delicately fragranced for extra indulgence. “Monoi” features sweet, midsummer notes of Tahitian Gardenia Blooms -- particularly apt for the current heat! The price is also one to beat and I can imagine this being a great spa day treat. Psst: The entire Sephora Collection is now CLEAN, which is always a plus!
I used to have a nagging problem with chest blemishes (not chest-ne per se, but in the form of bumps) from sweating it out in a high cut bra top. This was probably four years back, when I didn’t know much about chemical body exfoliants yet, but was very passionate about chemical face exfoliants. So one day, I decided to try my AHA/BHA toner on my chest too and boom! Mind blown. I’m personally a huge chemical exfoliant convert, but would still save an indulgent physical scrub for special occasions. The more important takeaway is — if you haven’t tried out a body exfoliation regime, you’re seriously missing out. So go forth and polish!