Exfoliating makes me feel both smooth and grown up : here’s how and why

Exfoliating feels like effort, because instead of lying on my bed watching telly with a facemask on, it requires movement- it feels a little vigorous and I can think of more immediately enjoyable things to do with my arms, but the payoff seems worth it in the long run.
Publish date:
October 4, 2012
beauty exfoliating scrub cleopatra skin moisturising

I’m absolutely bloody exhausted, but it’s an amazing kind of exhausted. I’m not tired because I haven’t eaten in a week, I’m not sick because I need a fix, I’m a bit poorly and knackered because I’m juggling a few jobs and it’s just been fashion week and I woke up early for a meeting - and that feels great. Two days ago, I realised that I needed to repeat my prescription, and I did it, on time, and I got new medication, on time, this morning - and that is pretty incredible for me.

I never understood how to do basic things before. I never had permanent accommodation because I didn’t understand how to get a flat- how to go to the estate agency, how to get a deposit together, how to find other people who could make rent each month and wanted to live with me (the two were fairly mutually exclusive).

I never knew how people’s banks knew where they lived, to send them statements that I never would have opened anyway. I never knew how people had milk in the fridge. It all seemed frighteningly grown up, terrifyingly alien. I’m learning how to do this stuff, doing laundry rather than stealing new underwear still feels a bit exciting. I still feel proud when I do things that real people do, and I like that.

Exfoliating my body feels grown up, because it’s the sort of self care that isn’t obvious to other people, so I never bothered with it. Like I have mentioned before, my beauty-product goals have changed recently, from wanting to look fuckable to wanting to feel good. And few things make me feel better than silky smooth calves and upper arms (why do those bits end up so bumpy anyway?).

Exfoliating feels like effort, because instead of lying on my bed watching telly with a facemask on, it requires movement- it feels a little vigorous and I can think of more immediately enjoyable things to do with my arms, but the payoff seems worth it in the long run. Seriously, I’m silky smooth right now, it’s pretty cool, and I’m going to tell you how I did it.

I’ve always wanted to go to the Dead Sea because Cleopatra used to hang out there, but I’ve never been together enough to buy milk, let alone book a holiday. Second best has turned out to be AHAVA’s ‘Active Deadsea Minerals’ products- my favourite of which is the combination of their Liquid Dead Sea Salt, which I use as a sort of bath oil, and their Softening Butter Salt Scrub.

The principle behind AHAVA is that they use Dead Sea minerals (which encourage osmosis between epidermal layers) to draw moisture and nutrients from deep below the skin to the outer layers. The idea of the products restoring natural balance to the skin is really attractive to me, because it isn’t just about slathering stuff onto myself and hoping it seeps its way through somehow. Anyway, however it is meant to work, it does something because I feel pretty good and I’m saving a lot of money on airfare to Israel.

The premise of the scrub is that you massage it in, slowly adding water, so I use it on my dry skin whilst the bath is running and then continue massaging it in when I am in the water. It is like rubbing grainy Lurpak onto my body, in the nicest possible way, and it leaves my skin feeling genuinely moisturised. Sometimes (shock horror!) I don’t even moisturise afterwards. It doesn’t leave my body coated with an oily film, but rather smooth and hydrated.

I do sometimes like a slightly more intense exfoliation, particularly around my knees and ankles, and then I use REN’s Exfoliating Body Balm with an exfoliating glove. REN is one of my favourite beauty brands, hands down, and this scrub is pepperminty and creamy and delicious and, again, it really works. However, it leaves a slight balm on my skin, which is quite nice and probably intentional but it means I need to shave my legs before I scrub it on or I feel like the razor doesn’t cut close enough. These are things that I think about a lot. Does anyone else ever vaguely consider this stuff?

Exfoliating your dead skin sounds gross, but it means your skin looks brighter and fresher and it allows moisturisers to penetrate more thoroughly. It also makes me feel more completely clean, which is generally what I am aiming for when I wash, so I like to do it every time that I bathe.

I would like to quickly point out that I do not use large-grain exfoliants or an exfoliating glove on my chest, because the skin on your décolletage is incredibly delicate, so I like to treat it sort of as I do my face. I use Organic Surge’s lemony smelling Skin Perfecting Polish - it has finely ground apricot stone and walnut shell as its exfoliating ingredients and almond oil, which I love, as a moisturising agent.

The polish is fairly liquid which is good for my chest, because it means that I can apply it more gently that I can an exfoliating balm, which protects the delicate skin. I only do this once a week because, like I said, I don’t want to end up with wrinkly boobs before it becomes inevitable with age and that is what will happen if I scrub at them too vigorously or frequently.

I absolutely adore bathing, because I can listen to BBC4 at the same time as rubbing some sort of exfoliant onto my legs which makes it more interesting. But I cannot abide by the idea of washing my hair in the bath, so I shower when I wash my hair. Obviously, this requires an adjustment of products for two reasons - I don’t like using tubs of products in the shower, I like a pump dispenser and also because I like a more gentle daily exfoliant so that I don’t end up with paper-thin skin which dermatologists told me would happen if I microdermabrasion-ed too often. I know that this isn’t about microdermabrasion scrubs, but general exfoliation follows the same principle.

I’m really into Love Your Skin’s Cleanse & Smooth Exfoliating Wash (which I think is for your face, but I use all over). It is gentle enough that it can be used to remove all of your makeup - including eye makeup - so you can just lather it all over yourself for optimum efficiency. It feels like a gel, has really small, exfoliant beads and uses willow bark sacylic acid so it isn’t so gentle that it does nothing, but it is gentle enough to use every day.

You only need a little bit to build up into a soapy later, and it washes off completely clean with no residue but also no residual tightness- I hate when soapy products can make my skin feel like it has shrunk. I’m incredibly fussy when it comes to facial washes, I think because there are just so many that exist that I can be, but there is something about this one that I really like. Possibly the faint rosemary smell, which is lovely. Also possibly because it is perfect to use with my Olay Cleansing Brush which I am still besotted with.

After all of the exfoliating, I need moisturising and I have two favourites. I hate those that take too long to sink in, or leave you greasy, or make you smell weird and I swear that neither of these do. I promise that REN aren’t giving me any backhanders for my promotion, I feel like I should show you my bank statements or something to prove it (hah! As if I keep bank statements!) - but their Moroccan Rose Otto Body Cream is pretty much the most divine smelling thing I have ever found. Almost every day that I use it, someone says that I smell amazing which is one of my favourite compliments. And it makes me all smooth. What more could I want?

However, on the days I am using a rose scented perfume and don’t want to overload, or want a slightly more daytime-y aroma, I am besotted with Living Nature’s Active Manuka Honey Ultra Rich Body Cream. When I was little, my mum used to make me eat spoonfuls of Manuka honey when I got sick because it is antibacterial and antiseptic, but when applied topically it is also healing but covering myself in honey sounds like a Cosmopolitan tip to spice up my sex life, so I’m down with it as an ingredient in a product rather than just buying a vat of it.

This is also the best smelling moisturiser I have found since the REN one years ago- it smells almost like orange sherbet and it is so good that sometimes I just sniff the tube. Manuka honey is also a natural humectant, drawing moisture into the skin to keep it hydrated, so it is really effective as a moisturiser. When I wake up in the morning having exfoliated and honeyed myself the night before, I am still surprised by how lovely and soft I am and how delicious I smell. I cannot recommend it enough.

So there you have it - my shelf-full of products for keeping my body soft. What do you use? Do you care about being soft as much as I do? What else do you want me to investigate? Follow me on Twitter (@oliviasinger) and let me know in the comments!