Exfoliation – the process of using a gentle abrasive agent on the skin – is the simplest way to a cleaner, softer, smoother body. It is also the perfect way to prepare your body for most other spa treatments and relaxation therapies.
Exfoliation works by removing the dead cells on the surface of the skin. This unblocks the pores, which are then able to absorb creams and oils much more efficiently. Exfoliation is particularly good for cellulite, by boosting the circulation, and for removing the hard skin that builds up on the feet, knees, and elbows.
There is a vast array of equipment for scrubbing, rubbing, and exfoliating various parts of the body. Don’t be overwhelmed by the selection; it is simply that certain tools are better on particular parts of the body. When deciding what to buy, look first at those made from natural fibers, which tend to be gentler on the skin than artificial materials. It is important to keep exfoliating equipment clean and dry when not in use, because bacteria can grow among the damp fibers. Nylon scrubs have the advantage of being machine-washable.
PURE BRISTLE BRUSH
This is an essential item for the home spa. Used on dry skin every day, a pure bristle brush helps to detoxify the skin and combat cellulite. You can use it with a mild soap to exfoliate the skin – additional abrasive scrubs and creams are unnecessary. Long-handled brushes are useful for hard-to-reach areas, such as the back, while smaller body brushes are ‘ best for legs and arms. When choosing a brush, rub the palm of your hand against the bristles to check that they are not too stiff and scratchy.
This natural exfoliant is made from dried dishcloth gourd (Luffa), a soft, fibrous plant. Long loofahs, which are perfect for reaching your back, are made from whole plants, but you can also buy loofahs cut into sections for use on smaller areas of the body, such as the upper arms, shoulders, and chest. When dry, loofahs are hard and scratchy, but once you wet them, they become quite soft. Use them with a glycerin body soap or shower gel to slough away dead skin on a weekly basis.
There are many different types of sponge available, both synthetic and natural. They are particularly useful for sensitive skin or for more delicate areas of the body. Natural sea sponges are quite hard when dry, but soft and gentle when wet.
SISAL AND NYLON SCRUBS
Sisal is another fibrous plant that can be used for exfoliation. Woven to form a mitt or brush, sisal is a handy way to keep the skin smooth. Sisal scrubs can be used dry for maximum exfoliation or wet for a more gentle effect. Scrubs and mitts made from man-made materials are also available.
Pumice stones are small pieces of volcanic rock that are porous and quite rough to the touch. Different sizes and shapes of pumice are available and they are generally used on the soles of the feet for abrading areas of hard skin. Soak your feet in warm water for about 15 minutes to soften the hardened skin before rubbing them with a pumice stone. Use smooth, continuous strokes.
GRAINY GELS AND CREAMS
Most beauty companies now offer ready-made exfoliating gels and creams. These are usually cleansers containing tiny natural grains or man-made spheres, so that they wash and exfoliate the skin at the same time. They are formulated for different skin types, so make sure that you buy the one appropriate for you. Gels and creams for problem or oily skins are usually oil-free; those for dry or mature skins have a rich, creamy formula. Some of the products contain ground up apricot kernels, which can be very effective, but only use them on rough skin areas, never on the face. If you have sensitive skin, look for products containing man-made spheres that have no sharp edges, or better still, make your own recipe.
Homemade Deep-cleansing Scrub
This scrub is perfect for a weekly deep-cleansing session. The oatmeal helps to break down impurities in the skin, while the sea salt gently lifts them from the skin’s surface. Sea salt also contains important trace minerals, including calcium, iron, and zinc, which are absorbed into the skin and nourish it. This scrub must be made fresh each time you exfoliate.
- 8tbsp (120ml) oatmeal
- 8tbsp (120ml) bran
- 2tsp (10ml) sea salt
- 2tsp (10ml) milk
Mix the oatmeal, bran, and sea salt together, then add the milk a little at a time until you have a paste that is moist to handle but not too sticky.
Rub the mixture into the skin by hand or with a body brush. Concentrate on problem areas, such as the thighs and buttocks. Shower off.
(Remember to brush in the direction of the heart when you exfoliate, and dampen the bristles of the brush if it is too stiff.)
Homemade Wake-up Body Rub
This body rub is wonderful as an early morning wake-up therapy. The ground rice combined with the yogurt make a gentle exfoliating scrub, while the peppermint is stimulating and refreshing. The rub must be made fresh each time you exfoliate.
- 1 small container plain yogurt
- 3 sprigs fresh peppermint
- 2 sprigs fresh spearmint
- 1 cup (240ml) ground rice
- 1 drop peppermint essential oil
Mix the yogurt and mint together in a blender for three seconds, then refrigerate for 24 hours so that the yogurt becomes infused with the scent of the mint. Stir the ground rice into the cooled mixture and add the peppermint essential oil.
Rub the mixture all over your body by hand or with a loofah, concentrating on rough skin areas. Shower off.
Homemade Toning Salt Rub
Sea salt contains about 97 percent sodium chloride, plus important trace elements, such as calcium, zinc, iron, and magnesium that can be absorbed through the skin. The minerals act as catalysts for many vital biochemical reactions, including nerve transmission, digestion, and proper hormone function, and they work to maintain correct water balance in the body and stabilize levels of acidity and alkalinity. Sea salt’s coarse texture also makes it ideal for exfoliation and for stimulating the circulation.
- 3tbsp (45ml) fine sea salt
- 1tbsp (15ml) cider vinegar
- 8fl oi (250ml) olive oil
- 2tbsp (30ml) lemon juice
Moisten the sea salt with the cider vinegar and lemon juice.
Take a hot shower and leave your skin moist. Stand in the bath and rub your body with the olive oil. Gently massage in the moistened salt, until you feel your skin start to glow. Once you have applied all the salt, use a sisal mitt to continue gently rubbing in the salt. To finish, run a warm bath and gently massage the oil and salt off your skin.
(The toning salt rub will boost circulation and tone the skin, but take care that you do not apply salt to areas of broken skin.)
Homemade Rough Skin Scrub
Some parts of the body need special treatment to remove the build up of dry, rough skin. This scrub uses apricot kernels, which are far too aggressive for use on the face, but are excellent for exfoliating tough, neglected areas, such as the elbows, knees, and heels of the feet.
- 3tbsp (45ml) apricot kernels
- 2tbsp (30ml) rice bran
- 2tsp (10ml) olive oil
Grind the apricot kernels in a coffee grinder or blender, or with a pestle and mortar, until fine, then mix in the rice bran. Combine the mixture with enough olive oil to form a thick paste that is not too runny.
Take a little of the paste in the palm of your hand and rub it into the skin using gentle, circular movements. Use a pumice stone at first, then a pure bristle brush.
Homemade Chamomile and Calendula Rub
This exfoliating rub is especially suitable for the legs, as it will reduce swelling and discomfort at the end of a long day.
- 3tbsp (45ml) dried chamomile leaves
- 3tbsp (45ml) dried calendula flowers
Place the herbal mixture in the center of a square of muslin, cheesecloth, or thin cotton and tie it to form a sachet.
Put the pouch under the faucet so that your bath water becomes infused with the herbal mixture. While bathing in the infused water, rub the dampened sachet over your legs and buttocks.
(Infuse your bath water by placing a herbal sachet under the faucet, or rub the sachet over your body for both exfoliation and moisturizing purposes.)