Noticed how sometimes your face can feel dirty even after you’ve cleaned it with a really strong cleanser? Or how you can slather your face in moisturizer and moments later it’ll still feel bone-dry?
It’s not in your head. Both scenarios are the result of a natural process. Our bodies shed about a layer of skin a day. Trouble is, most of it sticks to our skin’s surface—and accumulates day after day, week after week. Before long, those dead skin cells begin to clog our pores, which, in turn, blocks our hair and natural oils from making their way to the surface.
The remedy: exfoliating. The tendency, however, among almost everyone who’s experienced any of the above is to do it with a strong hand, either by over-exfoliating or turning to harsh chemical peels that’ll ultimately put the body in a position where it will have a harder time creating new skin cells, leave you more vulnerable to sun damage, and, in extreme cases, cause wrinkles or scarring.
Gentle is better in this instance. All-natural exfoliators will get the job done without the harsh side effects. Here are a few that can be made from ingredients you probably already have on hand.
Oatmeal’s one of the gentlest all-natural exfoliators, which makes it a good place to start if you have sensitive skin. It also absorbs oil, so you’ll also be cleansing as you exfoliate*. Grind up some whole oats in a food processor, add water or another base, and apply it to your face with your fingertips.
(*Generally, cleansing does not exfoliate and exfoliating does not cleanse. To do both thoroughly, you should do them separately.)
Yogurt contains lactic acid, which makes it especially effective not just at removing dead skin cells but also at reducing breakouts and softening the skin. Spread a thin layer of it across your face and let it sit there for a few minutes before rinsing it off. This is popular amongst the range of all-natural exfoliators.
Apple cider vinegar
There appears to be no end to apple cider vinegar’s health benefits. As an exfoliator, it’s particularly good for treating acne because it contains lactic and malic acids. It also contains alpha hydroxy acids, which are believed to help dissolve excess fatty deposits on the skin’s surface.
Bonus: Caffeine’s known to decrease puffiness around the eyes. Add the grounds you’ve already brewed to a small amount of oil of your choice and then apply it as evenly as you can to your face. The grounds are inherently messy, so it’s going to take some practice—and probably a bit of cleanup afterward.
This is about the simplest (and least expensive) of the all-natural exfoliators. Just add water to some baking powder and mix it to the consistency of paste.
Whichever you choose—and there are lots of other recipes available elsewhere online—exfoliating a few times a week is one of the best ways to keep your skin feeling healthy and looking young. Just remember: Be gentle. Scrub too hard and your skin’s going to start to get irritated.