Once or twice a week, after you’ve diligently gone through the deep cleansing steps, you need to make your skin a small yet big gift: help it to get rid of dead skin cells…and let it glow!
Exfoliation is the key to a bright complexion: the reason being that, by removing dead skin and other debris, we unleash that natural glow that sometimes is kept well hidden under layers of time, pollution and bad habits.
Koreans have been loving scrubbing and exfoliating since, like, forever. There are a lot of saunas around (called 찜질방 jjimjilbang in korean language) and locals love to go there to hang out with friends while relaxing in hot water and hot rooms. In every jjimjilbang you’ll find ajummas (middle-aged women) that will give a vigorous scrub to your entire body -it might be a little painful at the beginning, but the feeling of a newborn baby skin is totally worth it ; )
A well exfoliated skin, eventually free of all barriers (remember that we already went through 2 earlier steps to deep cleanse it using oil-based cleansers first and water-based cleansers after), is the perfect starting point for the first treatments in your skin care routine.
It’s like having to farm a piece of land that has been neglected for years: you will first need to get rid of weed that has been growing here and there, then you’ll need to plow the soil and fertilize it, before you can actually start to plant seeds (and eventually see them grow and harvest the fruits of your hard work). I’m not a farmer so maybe my metaphor is missing a few steps here and there, but I hope I made my point.
To help you achieve this perfectly “farmed” soil –ehm, I mean skin –there are 2 different families of exfoliators that can be used: manual or chemical.
As their name suggests, manual (or “physical“) exfoliators are sort of the more “natural alternative” to get rid of dead skin and obtain a polished face: anything with little bits in it to physically scrub your skin clear of debris can be listed in this group. Usually, the aspect of such exfoliators is creamy and granular, due to sugar grains or any other type of water-soluble beads contained in it (among other ingredients that serve to the purpose).
The idea is that, while rubbing your face while using a little pressure, the grains contained in the mixture will make some friction with the skin, thus removing the dead cells that obstruct the outer layer. At the same time, the scrub itself turns into a massage that naturally stimulate circulation, so you will notice your complexion becoming healthier and rosy right after the treatment. The effects of these exfoliators can be seen straight away: there’s no need to wait days or weeks of continued use in order to see the results (even if it’s true that the more you exfoliate, the more your skin will benefit from it).
Don’t even think about scrubbing too hard, because this would only cause irritation -and you don’t want to irritate your precious skin, do you? -or, even worse, it could cause some micro-abrasions that could expose your skin to bacteria and infections. I’m not really trying to scare you here, but “natural” doesn’t mean you don’t need to do things right ; )
Of course, there are dozens, hundreds of great manual exfoliators our there in the marvelous world of k-beauty, but, if you ask me, Black Sugar Perfect Essential Scrub 2X by all time favorite brand Skinfood keeps a special place in my heart.
There are many reasons behind it, the first of them being that this product actually works. It’s part of the same Black Sugar line of the Cleansing Oil reviewed in my first post on oil-based cleansers, so it has the same great properties and ingredients. And then, I just love the idea of black sugar scrubbed on my face – I have have such a sweet tooth! The product smells at the same time sugary and fruity, so it’s just irresistible.
The adjective “chemical” doesn’t really sound good, does it? It recalls images of redness, irritation, ampoules and strong acidic mixtures created in labs by crazy scientists (okay, maybe I’m getting a little carried away here). It’s funny to say, but these exfoliators are actually a great choice for sensitive skins…And yes, they definitely contain acids, but not the kind you need to stay away from.
But let’s get out thoughts straight first.
We were talking about acids: the ones you’ll find in chemical exfoliators are 1) in low percentages and 2) are very gentle -so gentle, in fact, that sensitive skin would actually benefit from them rather than from manual exfoliators, since the risk of over-scrubbing (and thus of irritation) it’s equal to zero.
This doesn’t mean that everyone can use chemical exfoliators. AHAs and BHAs (we’ll talk about them in a minute) don’t actually match well with topical treatments like retinols/retinoids, so you’d better watch out for possible bad interactions with other chemicals in your skincare routine.
What are Aha and Bha?
The most commonly used chemical substances in exfoliants are either from AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) or BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acids) families, both of organic origin.
AHAs are also known as “fruit acids“, as they are found in citrus fruits, apples and grapes. They are water-soluble and usually indicated for dry, sensitive skins, with issues typically being sun damage, uneven texture and pigmentation. Examples of AHAs include malic acid (derived from apples), lactic acid (from milk), citric acid (from citrus fruits) and glycolic acid (from sugar cane).
BHAs are oil-soluble acids, so their ability to penetrate through pore-clogging materials make them the perfect choice for oily and acne-prone skins or anyone fighting daily with blackheads and enlarged pores. In skin care, salicylic acid is the main beta hydroxy acid, but also look on the label for beta hydroxybutyric acid, tropic acid, trethocanic acid or betaine salicylate.
As one can easily understand, manual exfoliators only remove what’s on the surface of the skin, while chemical exfoliants, because of their texture and active ingredients, can go beneath the surface of the skin to help shed more dead skin cells and even promote cell regeneration.
Just keep in mind a very important fact: AHAs and BHAs have the side effect to make your skin sensitive to UV, so make sure you always put sunscreen on before heading out (sunscreen is, in general, a step that should never be skipped -but we’ll talk about this in a later blog post).
If you don’t want to start with a too much “chemical” approach, I’d suggest to use this Banana Peeling Cream from the Magic Food line created by brand TONYMOLY.
I did my homework: according to scientific studies, it has been detected a high presence of malic, citric, oxalic and tartaric acids in the banana fruit, with malic acid being the principal one. As we saw before, these acids are from the AHA family, so with a pretty good exfoliant action…but let’s be honest! The fact that it comes from bananas (and it definetely smells like so) makes everything a little less scarier, don’t you think so? : )
Time to see them in action!
These guys are ready to show their powers in full bloom -and my skin was really happy to be their test field!
Check the video out right here below:
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