Part 2: Smoothing & Softening
Soft as a . . .
You know the saying “soft as a baby’s bottom.” Well, that’s what we’re striving for. And if you want it you’ve got to do some work to get there.
How to get the skin on your body as soft as a baby’s bottom: Step 1
In yesterday’s post on Hydration we talked about the importance of keeping the skin hydrated. Hydration is Step 1 in creating softness. Without adequate hydration your skin will never be soft.
Retexturize the skin by exfoliating
Step 2 is to retexturize the skin. I’m talking about gently scrubbing off dead, rough skin – not sand-blasting. There are few methods by which you can accomplish this without harming the skin. Harm comes to the skin by scrubbing too harshly or vigorously with a product or a skin brush or loofah. You can damage the skin by causing micro-tears which can let pathogens into your body creating infection, or by inflaming the skin and possibly causing dermatitis. To avert these skin disasters, always use scrubbers (such as brushes and sponges) that are very soft and products with granules that have smooth edges or that dissolve easily. Most important of all, never overscrub! Another method of exfoliation is to dissolve or burn off the top layers of the skin with acids or enzymes. My rule of thumb here is this: if it hurts, don’t put your skin through it. Just as with hydration, consistency is the answer, not force. You don’t want to remove the top layers of skin all at once and then wait until month to do it again, just like you don’t want to drink all your water for the day first thing in the morning and then not drink for the rest of the day. Just a little bit of exfoliation every week, or even every day, with a gentle product or scrubby is your best bet for longterm results and the health of your skin. And we’re in this for the long haul.
Caution: If you have a skin condition such as eczema, psoriasis, or dermatitis please consult your healthcare practitioner before exfoliating affected skin.
Salt and Sugar scrubs
Salt and sugar scrubs are the most common products used for exfoliating the body. The great thing about these is that you don’t need to apply them with anything. Just using your hands will do fine. This also gives your hands a nice exfoliation! In fact, using a scrubber with these products will most likely overscrub your skin. A good rule of thumb to apply in choosing your salt or sugar scrub is this: the smaller and smoother the granule the better. You want the granules smaller so that they will dissolve more quickly and smoother so that they have less of a tendency to tear your skin. I like sugar better for this because the granules are smaller and smoother than salts. Many salt scrubs tend to be quite chunky. Remember, you don’t want a marathon session with your scrub. Just a few minutes to scrub your whole body will do. I really like the Lilikoi Lemongrass Body Polish by Malie Organics. Not only doess it employ organic sugar as the scrub, but the base is made from luscious organic oils that will soothe and smooth your skin long after you’re out of the bath or shower. And the lemongrass scent is so refreshing and yummy you’ll want to eat it, but don’t.
Application: Grab a handful of scrub in each hand and gently and lovingly massage into the skin in a circular motion over all parts of your body, excluding the face. These products are notmeant for use on the face; they are much too harsh for faces.
I like to use this in the bath (well, you have to stand up in the bathtub while you scrub) and then luxuriate in the water while the oils sink into my skin. Make sure to drink a glass of water while in the tub or immediately afterward, and try to make sure the water’s not too hot . . .
Another excellent method of exfoliating the skin of the body, but much less common in the West, is dry brushing. This ancient bathing technique is used as much for skin health as it is for the pleasing silky texture it creates. Dry brushing the skin rejuvenates, invigorates and supports the skin’s functions, such as ridding itself of toxins. Brushing the skin helps to unclog pores, increases its ability to absorb nutrients and has the aesthetic effect of polishing and smoothing. This technique can even improve the appearance of cellulite, improve muscle tone, and stimulate the nervous system. No kidding. There is a right way to do this though, so follow the directions and use a brush that is a) meant for dry brushing the skin and b) feels softer than you think will do the job. Once you start brushing your naked skin, those soft bristles you felt on your hand will suddenly feel quite rough! I really like the Earth Therapeutics Skin Brushes. They come in a variety of hardness and are very reasonably priced. My favorite is the long-handled Tampico Vegetable Fiber Skin Brush that enables you to reach your own back.
The method: Always use gentle pressure while brushing. This means never scrub your skin hard. Always brush in a circular motion. Always work toward the heart. Start with your right foot, working from the outside in and up to the top of the leg. Repeat on the left side. Next is the stomach. It is important to work in a clockwise motion in this area from the navel outwards. Follow up with the right buttocks then the left. Then brush your right hand outside to in and up the arm. Repeat on the left. Brush the breasts in a figure eight motion, avoiding the nipples. Work the torso from the waist to the heart. The back, well just get it however you can! This whole ritual only takes about 5 minutes.
Now that you are brushed I suggest that you oil up before stepping into a warm, not hot shower. Remember, hot water dehydrates. The warm water will open up your pores so that the oil can sink into your skin. Only soap up the dirty bits. You know which ones I’m talking about. The rest of you has no need for soap because it is already clean from the brushing. If you can stand it, alternate the water temperature between warm and cold to boost your circulation. Drink a glass of water. Pat your skin dry – you don’t want to rub off those yummy oils. You are now awake and ready to start the day! This may take some getting used to, but trust me, it’s the best method of bathing to keep your skin ultra-smooth. Even doing this once a week will improve your skin’s texture, softness and health.
Exfoliating the skin of your face
The skin on your face deserves extra care (and it’s own product) because it is much more delicate and has a different pH than the rest of your skin. Here is where the love really comes in. Many forms of love need to be expressed in ways that are gentle but firm. Loving the skin of your face is no exception. In fact it’s the rule; treat it gently because it is so delicate, and firmly because it needs consistency. Consistency is especially important if you are trying to improve the texture of your skin. Without resorting to invasive methods, this is a gradual process. My hands-down-favorite product for this is Pangea Organics’ Egyptian Geranium with Adzuki Bean and Cranberry Facial Scrub. It is the most gentle facial scrub I’ve ever used that works, and the scent is absolutely divine. The actual scrubby-bits are powdered adzuki bean and cranberry seed. Adzuki bean is an ingredient that’s been used in skincare by the Japanese for centuries. It has a gentle enzymatic action that helps to dissolve dead skin ever so slightly to loosen it from the healthy skin. Joshua Onysko, the founder of Pangea Organics, says that using this product feels like scrubbing his face with fluffy little pillows. I agree with him. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that it’s not working. Used daily and left on for approximately 2 minutes (the time it takes to brush your teeth) this gentle scrub will change the way your face feels and looks inside a week. Bonus: the geranium oil helps to dissolve blackheads.
Application: Squeeze a dime-sized amount into the palm of your hand and squish your palms together to distribute evenly. Gently massage face/neck/decollete with your palms and fingertips in an upward circular motion. Leave on for two minutes. Rinse. Repeat daily for best results. (I use it twice a day sometimes!)