Ah, exfoliation. We all do it – at least most of us do – it’s pretty instinctual at this point of time. But do you ever stop to think why exactly we exfoliate?
Giving your skin a little push to get rid of dead skin cells comes with a heap of benefits.
Exfoliating can help you clear up spots, blemishes and acne, and turn back the clock (at least in regards to the signs of aging- no time-travelling exfoliators yet, I’m afraid). That’s ’cause simply sloughing off dead, dull skin cells reveals the healthy, younger skin beneath, helping you put your best skin forward.
Extra perks? Exfoliation improves skin tone, brightens your complexion and allows better product penetration.
The thing about exfoliation, though, is that it’s really an experience that depends on what you use – obviously, organic, all-natural exfoliators are the best but not all natural exfoliants are made equal.
Even stuff you pick up from the ground can be dangerous, ineffective, or just not right for your skin type. Case in point – natural exfoliants, like sea salt, ‘though great for tough areas on your body like the elbows and knees, are much too big to use on your delicate face. Yet another example – baking soda, which is often hailed as a great natural exfoliator leaves my skin looking shriveled and feeling very dry and sad.
We would feel pretty guilty if that happened to you, so to put the ball in your court, here’s a full analysis of 11 different natural exfoliators that are effective yet gentle enough for your face.
Alright, let’s get to sizing up what’s best for you, depending on your skin type and what you’re looking for!
11 Effective Natural Exfoliants Gentle Enough for Your Face
Apple Cider Vinegar
Whilst rubbing vinegar on your face might seem a little dodgy at first glance, the process which converts apple sugar into vinegar actually gives rise to a bunch of different health benefits – for your whole body.
In particular, an alpha hydroxyl acid named malic acid is born, which is not only a strong anti-fungal agent but also has anti-viral and anti-bacterial qualities as well. As such, it’s perfect for treating acne.
Apple cider vinegar is also perfect for dry skin due to its abundance of AHAs which are great at simultaneously exfoliating and moisturizing.
Take extra caution using ACV around sensitive areas like your eyes; it’s still vinegar.
Rice bran powder contains a whopping 100 anti-oxidants – it’s really no wonder that it’s so often championed as an anti-aging product. It also contains a super-special strain of vitamin E that we’re only just discovering now, which is said to be up to 4000% as effective as your bog-standard vitamin E. Vitamin E itself plays a vital role in skin care and has a list of benefits so long it might take up this entire page – so for sake of brevity, we’re just going to say it’s anti-inflammatory and great to use in moisturizers.
Rice bran powder also boasts about containing pretty much all the amino acids we need, particularly fiber. It’s in question whether rice bran’s ability to suck up dirt and oil comes from the cleansing power of vitamin E or from fiber, which is specifically known to drag dirt from the pores, but we do know that it’s great at it.
All of this semi-fancy lingo essentially just means that rice bran powder is an excellent cleanser and ideal for those who are acne-prone, or otherwise prone to flare-ups. People with sensitive skin can also let out a sigh of relief here, since rice bran powder is so gentle that there’s a higher chance of me spontaneously combusting than there is of you breaking out because of it. (Fun fact: that’s a 0% chance. Water-based life forms rule.)
Coffee is particularly effective in eye creams, since they restrict the flow of blood to reduce swelling and puffiness – perfect news for those of us who tend to be puffier in the morning. Plus, caffeine contains a good number of anti-oxidants, packing some real free radical fighting power. Free radicals are malicious little buggers that float around our bodies, messing stuff up. They’ve been linked to a higher risk of cancer, and are considered a catalyst for the aging process.
Aside from that, coffee grounds also make a great natural exfoliant that’s fantastic at scrubbing off dead skin and making way for the younger cells to flourish. Being very, very fine-powdered with no sharp edges, coffee grounds are a natural skin exfoliator that’s safe to use on your face and powerful enough to use as a body exfoliator.
Just like mama used to make it. Other than being a ridiculously beneficial breakfast treat, oatmeal also offers benefits when applied topically, to your face – or wherever you want it, really. They’ve been used in medicinal cures for things like insect bites and poison ivy rashes, thanks to its absorbent prowess.
Oatmeal also makes for a perfect natural face exfoliator since it contains saponins, which are widely used in shampoos and even some cleaning products because of their excellent cleansing abilities. It’ll both clean and exfoliate your face – and do it gently.
Oh, last note – this is the perfect natural exfoliator for both dry and oily skin. Oatmeal moisturizes and soothes, which is wonderful for dry, peeling, rash-y skin but it’s also got great absorption powers so if you’re skin is oozing oil, go ahead and leave your oatmeal exfoliation paste on for a few minutes and get the oil-busting benefits of an impromptu oatmeal mask before you scrub it off!
Which oatmeal is best? Go for colloidal oatmeal – it’s silky, creamy and the best for your skin!
Like you’d expect from milk, kefir is loaded with lactic acid- one of those AHAs that everyone is always going on about. And who can blame them? AHAs are lovely news for your face – they do a number of things; one of which is improving circulation to increase blood flow to your skin.
The color in our cheeks actually comes from the blood in the veins behind it, which is why when our blood gets pumping- like when we’re angry, or better yet, excited- our faces go completely red. AHAs won’t quite do that, but they’ll give you a nice, rosy hue. And of course, that’s not all – the increased blood flow to your skin helps stimulate collagen and minimize fine lines and wrinkles.
Extra perks? AHAs exfoliate but they also come with the added benefit of improving moisture content.
You can kefir at the supermarket already made or make some yourself with some kefir starter culture.
Raw honey is great for you whether you eat it or smother your face with it. And it makes the perfect natural exfoliant for sensitive skin. Why? For starters, it’s packed with antioxidants. Plus, it’s got the enzyme glucose oxidase which produces the antibacterial, antimicrobial hydrogen peroxide, a well-known disinfectant – which is what gives raw honey its gently cleansing, bacteria-fighting properties, perfect for clearing up acne and impeding the growth of new blemishes.
Raw honey also contains tiny little granules which are like nature’s own exfoliants for your face.
More reasons to put honey on your face? Honey is also what is called a humectant, from the same route as ‘humid’, which means that it can actually draw moisture to your face = perfect for dry skin types as well!
As the name suggests, the konjac sponge is a sponge that’s made out of konjac. Konjac is a plant that you’ll probably know best – if at all – for being used as a weight loss treatment, but it also has numerous benefits for the skin when you throw it in a scrub. It contains four of the vitamin B range as well as vitamin D, E and (wait for it) C. All of those are vital minerals in the upkeep of your skin- vitamin C in particular.
The konjac sponge is a lovely natural exfoliant for face and body that’s remarkably soft and unlikely to irritate sensitive skin while very effective at cleaning the grime out of your skin- including blackheads and dirt. It balances sebum levels- a fancy name for the oil that our body produces naturally – and gets rid of any excess oil, making it a perfect choice for those with oily skin.
Plus, it’s one natural exfoliant you can use again and again and…well, until it gets all ratty tatty (which takes a long time).
Find them here!
Citrus acid is particularly good at killing bacteria, so it follows that it’s great to use as an anti-bacterial exfoliator – and what an exfoliant it makes! Instead of forcing your dead skin cells away with grains, citric acids work by dissolving the cement between dead skin cells so they become unglued and peel off on their own.
Not to mention that citrus fruits like lemons, oranges and limes tend to contain a ton of vitamin C, a wonder vitamin that can reduce the appearance of sun damage whilst boosting your own body’s ability to protect yourself as well as having a powerful anti-inflammatory effect. .
Fair warning; for the love of god, don’t smear undiluted citrus acid on your face. You know that feeling when you just bite into a lime, and your mouth kind of just stops functioning for a while whilst you cringe at the sourness? Ouch. Not something you want happening to your face. The results can be big, nasty red blotches. So dilute your lemon juice- lime juice, whatever- until you feel like it’s sufficiently weakened, and then lather away. Definitely not for use on sensitive skin. Keep safe from unnecessary redness.
Just reading the name, you might think you’re trapped inside an eighties anime, but activated charcoal is just carbon that’s had a bit of a makeover to make it absorb things better. But, wait- that probably still doesn’t answer your question. Why the hell would you want to rub coal on your face?
Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret; charcoal is a toxin magnet. It’s used in medicinal settings as a treatment for things like overdoses and alcohol poisoning, because it sucks up all that dangerous stuff before it can do any damage. Surprisingly, it actually does the same for your skin, clearing out all of the dirt and excess oil from your pores. It’s also got anti-bacterial properties, so those with acne-prone or oily skin can sing a quiet hallelujah.
How to use it? Get it in capsule or powder form and mix it into your DIY face masks. Exfoliate gently when you wash off.
Cinnamon powder is a bit of a mixed bag. As in, it comes with benefits that some welcome and some may not really view as benefits.
Case in point – cinnamon powder improves blood flow which plumps up your skin and swells it slightly, which is something you may or may not want. It also has a drying effect on the effect, which is very welcome if you’re oily and/or struggling with acne but not so great if you’re prone to dry skin and peeling.
Additionally, cinnamon is not something you’d want near your eyes – so this is one natural exfoliant you want to use just on focus areas.
It’s not easy to go the natural route; at one point, you’re going to wonder why you’re covering yourself in fruit. Other people will wonder too. But you can say an intensely satisfying ‘I told you so’ to those people- including yourself- when you come out with better, vibrant and younger looking skin.