If you haven’t been using an exfoliating body wash, it’s time to start reaping the benefits of what one of these twofer cleansers can offer. Not only will an exfoliating body wash refresh and clean your skin, but depending on the formula you choose, one can also help you manage any number of skin conditions, from body acne to eczema or even keratosis pilaris. Exfoliating body washes also help to prime and prep your skin, whether you’re just looking for better absorption of your favorite moisturizer or you want an even, head-to-toe spray tan glow. Whatever your reason for trying one of these hard-working washes out, you’ll want to make sure you know a bit about how they work first so you can find your best product match.
Meet Our Experts: Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Entière Dermatology, Chrissy Dress, aesthetician and founder of CURE de Repos
According to Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Entière Dermatology, exfoliating body washes can fall under two categories depending on their ingredients and how they exfoliate: mechanical and chemical. “Mechanical exfoliation can include microfiber cloths, scrubs, crystals, sugar, pumice, and tools such as sponges, loofahs, and brushes,” says Levin. “Chemical exfoliants include alpha-, beta-, and poly-hydroxy acids, and enzymes. While acids and enzymes loosen and dissolve the connections that hold skin cells together, mechanical exfoliants physically remove dead skin cells.”
To pick the perfect formula for you, consider your skin type—sensitive, normal, dry, oily, or combination skin—and your personal preferences. According to Chrissy Dress, an aesthetician and founder of CURE de Repos, “grittier” washes featuring ingredients like oats, walnut shells, or salts are super effective for the body, but you might opt for a gentler physical exfoliant with sugar or jojoba beads if you have sensitive skin. Something enzyme-based might be your best choice for delicate skin in the bikini area or underarm region, says Dr. Levin, especially if you are dealing with razor bumps or ingrown hairs, since that kind of formula doesn’t use mechanical exfoliating agents at all.
As far as working an exfoliating body wash into your routine, Dr. Levin suggests using it two to three times a week for starters, but some might find weekly use to be more than enough. Whatever your regimen, the application and removal method is the same. “Apply the exfoliating body wash using light and small motions for no longer than 30 seconds and rinse off with lukewarm water,” Dr. Levin says. Dress likes to go upwards against the hair growth on the legs in particular. “This will lift follicles and assist in banishing ingrown hairs,” she says. Regardless of your exact technique, there’s no need to rub or scrub aggressively. “Once the skin is pinky, that is alerting you that you did a good job and created microcirculation as well as body exfoliation in that area, so you can move on to the next body part,” says Dress.
Post-shower, it’s important to follow up with your favorite body cream or lotion. “Applying a moisturizer immediately after exfoliation is key in order to keep the skin barrier intact and hydrated,” says Dr. Levin. And though it probably goes without saying, never exfoliate over open skin or skin that’s sunburnt or has a rash.
Ready to give an exfoliating body wash a try? These ten formulas address a number of skin concerns and have different textures and hero ingredients, so you can mix and match depending on the week or what your skin needs at any given time.