Why do you need a facial exfoliator?
It’s really easy to think of yourself as a single living organism. You are that, make no mistake. But, you’re made up of all sorts of tissues and organs - and even though it may have been awhile since you studied biology, we’re certain you can name a lot of them: liver, heart, lungs, and one of the largest, skin
Not only is your skin an organ, it’s one that everyone sees. So, you shouldn’t be ashamed that you want to care for it. And, whether you’ve consciously used an exfoliator in the past or not, these products definitely play a role.
Your skin is continually rejuvenating itself. The top layer dies off and flakes away (rather than shedding like a snake) as new skin grows underneath. New skin feels soft and looks young and radiant, while dead or dying skin appears just as dry as it feels. Exfoliation scrubs off the old skin, to make room for the new skin. In addition to this glow, it also reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It can also help to even out dark spots and skin tone.
And, don’t worry, unless you’re using chemical peels, you’re not going to exfoliate your skin faster than your body can produce it. Indeed, because men’s skin is thicker and has more collagen than women’s skin, you’re going to reap more benefits from the process than your girlfriend will.
What are the benefits of scrubbing your face?
Not sold on the generalities of exfoliation? How about some specifics? You can also expect:
- Deep pore cleansing - Whether you like it or not, your pores are going to fill with dead skin cells unless you do something about it. There are also oils and dirt that you need to clear out so you can expose the healthy skin growing underneath the top layer.
- Acne reduction - Those nasty little white heads on your face are what appear when your pores are clogged with sebum oil which is produced at the base of hair follicles. You may not even see the fine hairs all over your face but, feel free to get a magnifying mirror to check them out. When you experience these pimples, regular exfoliation can help reduce outbreak frequency and strength. Facial exfoliators can get into your pores to break down the oil and just generally keep them from filling up. If you have terrible acne, look for a scrub with salicylic acid which will help to clear the problem.
- Pore reduction - Your pores may appear larger than they are; if they look a little like blackheads, then you know what we’re talking about. Your pores aren’t actually that huge, they just look that way. Exfoliating will get into those spots, cleansing where normal face soaps can’t reach - and your pores will look smaller. Please note, however, we are saying “appear” and “look” because you can’t actually reduce the size of your pores, all you can do is reduce their appearance.
- Anti-aging - Men have more collagen in their skin than women do - and that’s a real benefit when it comes to appearing youthful. But, your skin will eventually begin to show the signs of aging, including dark patches, uneven skin tones, and a loss of elasticity. Depending on the exfoliator that you use, you can expect a reduction of red, irritated patches as you remove those dead skin cells. And, by scrubbing your face, you will simultaneously increase circulation which will even out any other blotches and splotches.
And that’s on top of removing those dead skin cells and making your face appear more vibrant and healthy.
What’s the difference between a face wash and a face scrub?
Face wash is there to cleanse; that’s its job. It removes the impurities from your skin. An exfoliating scrub also cleanses, but it works to remove dead skin cells at the same time.
In case you’re wondering, there is a difference between a scrub and scrubbing your face with cleanser and a washcloth. A washcloth can only go so deep whereas a scrub can get into your pores and cleanse extra deep. Nice, right?
Why should I choose a facial exfoliator for men?
Don’t feel bad about borrowing your girlfriend’s exfoliator for the first time or two that you use one. But, eventually, you’ll want to get one of your own. There are a couple reasons for that.
The first reason has to do with the composition of your skin. Because it’s thicker and has more collagen than women’s skin, you want a product designed for men so that it’s actually effective when you use it. Scrubs designed for women won’t be as effective as those created for you.
And, there’s another benefit you don’t want to miss. Men’s exfoliators will help to prepare your skin for shaving. Good, right? You may find that razor burn and ingrown hairs are a thing of the past.
How often do you need to exfoliate?
You’re probably sold on the benefits of facial exfoliators already - and maybe even took a moment to order one of our top faves, but you need to hold your horses before you begin with your new scrubbing routine. It’s not something you want to do twice a day; not even once a day. If you exfoliate too often, it’s very likely that you’ll mess with your skin’s natural balance. You don’t want to muck with the oils that should be in your skin or you may find yourself with a case of acne. At the very least, you’ll experience some dryness and irritation.
When you begin using an exfoliator, you should use it once a week. It’s enough to get your face used to increased cell turnover rates. After awhile (at least a couple of weeks), you can work your way up to three times a week, but dermatologists recommend that you don’t exceed that frequency. And, don’t forget to cleanse your face twice a day, every day - whether it’s a scrubbing moment or not.
When should you exfoliate your face?
There’s no hard and fast rule for which days of the week or what time of the day you should exfoliate your skin. But, you should keep in mind that scrubs are, obviously, more abrasive than cleansers and you may want to do it with your nightly wash, rather than your morning wash.
That said, if your facial scrub specifies that you should use it in the evening rather than in the morning, pay attention to those directions. Your exfoliator may contain retinol or another ingredient that makes you more susceptible to sunlight.
How do you use a facial exfoliator?
It’s not exactly rocket science, but you should pay attention to what you’re doing when you first begin using a facial exfoliator. It’s not really that you can do it wrong, only that you want to do it right so you can reap the benefits of the product and the process.
Begin by washing your face with a mild cleanser, and rinse as you normally would. Squeeze a small dollop of exfoliator onto your fingertips (about the size of a dime - maybe even less to start) and massage this slowly onto your face. Work from your chin upwards and outwards along the jaw to your forehead. Use circular motions and don’t press too hard - especially in sensitive areas or across acne spots.
When you’ve worked in the product, rinse with warm water first - remember that you’ve just gotten into your pores and you don’t want to shock your skin with a blast of cold water. But, you do want to do a final rinse with cold water before applying a quality moisturizer.
What should you look for in a good facial exfoliator?
Apart from the exfoliating agent - which shouldn’t be microbeads (see below), you’re looking for pretty much the same things as you would in a regular facial wash. (You can find a complete list of amazing ingredients in the tips section of our Best Face Wash Cleansers for Men list.)
As for the exfoliation ingredients you do want, consider the best natural options including:
- Walnut shell powder
- Baking soda
And, you want to consider your skin type when choosing the best exfoliator for your face as well.
How should you choose a good facial exfoliator for your skin type?
You should already have a vague idea about your skin type and whether it is oily or dry, a combination or somewhere in the middle.
- Dry skin - If your skin is rough, flaky, or tight feeling, you definitely have dry skin. The good news is that you’re going to truly benefit from a facial exfoliator. But, you don’t want to overdo it as you can exacerbate the problem. And, you definitely want a product that’s filled with jojoba or essential oils to replenish the moisture lost. Often, these products are on the creamier side.
- Oily skin - If your face is shiny and feels a little greasy all the time, you have oily skin. The big tip off is pore size - if you can easily see them and tend to have breakouts, you want to ensure you choose a product with salicylic acid which will break down the oil and dry out some of the acne. Look for larger grain exfoliation ingredients; the word “clarifying” is a clue that you have the right product.
- Sensitive skin - Do experience lots of red patches on your skin and some bumps or irritations when using skin care products? Then you probably battle skin sensitivities. You can still use facial exfoliators, but you want to make considered decisions. Look for products labeled "allergy tested" or "hypoallergenic." And, you probably want to stick to finer grain scrubs and allow your skin plenty of time to adapt to your new care regime.
- Normal or combination skin - If you’ve got normal skin that’s not too dry, not too oily, and isn’t terribly sensitive, you can pretty much choose any facial exfoliator that floats your boat. However, if you have combination skin, you will either want to choose a mild product and realize that it won’t work as effectively across your entire face - or, you should consider purchasing multiple products and using them in the different areas. Just don’t mix them up.
How large should the scrubbing beads be?
You’ll find there is a range of scrubs ranging from super fine to super coarse and everything in between.
If you take a razor to your face every day or every other day, you want to stay away from coarse grains as they will be too abrasive for your face. The same goes for those that want to use their exfoliator a couple times a week; the larger the grain, the more likely it is to irritate your skin.
Fine grains are great for more frequent use and for men that don’t shave regularly (those that trim only or keep a full beard).
Should I be concerned about those scrubbing beads?
You may have heard that scrubbing beads are bad news when it comes to the environment. And, you should be concerned about microbeads, but that doesn’t mean you should steer clear of all exfoliators. The situation has changed rapidly over the past few years, and the products available now shouldn’t pose any problem.
Microbeads made of polyethylene plastic were widely introduced in the 1980s and soon found themselves in many of our cosmetic products. The trouble with these plastic bits is that they don’t decompose. And, to make matters worse, water sanitation plants weren’t designed or equipped to filter microbeads. In some cases, they became part of the sludge left behind at these plants - which is used to water and fertilize crops. But, more often than not, microbeads just find their way into lakes, streams, oceans, and our water systems in general.
Besides the fact that they don’t decompose and, therefore, pollute our environment, microbeads look and feel a lot like fish eggs. Marine life has been consuming these microbeads for decades. Indeed, at least one study shows that one-quarter of fish for sale at California fish markets consumed these microbeads - which means you may have consumed them. Yuck.
The situation was so serious that President Obama signed a law banning these plastic microbeads in 2015. Most major companies complied quickly and changed their formulations and over the years, you can bet they will be safer. Still, if you’re very concerned (or travel overseas often), you may want to check out the lists of clean (and not so clean) products at BeattheMicrobead.org.
In the best products, you’ll find natural, biodegradable scrubbing alternatives. So, you shouldn’t need to worry, but you do need to be aware.
Is there anything else I should know about facial exfoliation?
While exfoliation should be a part of your skin care routine, it shouldn’t cause you any grief. If you experience any negative reaction to a product, you should discontinue use immediately. And, if problems continue, then you must consult a GP or a dermatologist.
Additionally, although far less scary, is the necessity of moisturizer. You should be using an amazing facial moisturizer every day, but you definitely need one after exfoliating. You don’t want to damage the new skin you’ve revealed. So, if you don’t have one, make sure you pick up a moisturizer along with one of our fave facial exfoliators.