This seems like a simple enough question but I meet so many people who ask me just this. The question goes a little more like "why bother?" Or something of that nature. While exfoliating may seem like a luxury or for some just an extra step in your skin care regiment, it is actually necessary and very helpful for your other products to do their jobs properly.
Let's go back to basics and look at HOW to exfoliate. Your face/neck area and the rest of your body need to be exfoliated differently as your face is more delicate and needs a gentler approach. Typically skin cells reproduce about every 28 days and need to be sloughed off in order to keep pores clear, prevent ingrown hairs and give your skin the beautiful radiant glow it deserves. Exfoliation also makes even makeup coverage easier to achieve since there are no uneven dry patches.
Ok, I got off track, HOW to exfoliate is easy fun and feels great on your skin and to the layers below your epidermis (some say it even stimulates collagen, who doesn't love that?!?) My preferred method of exfoliation is rubbing the exfoliant in small circles beginning at the shoulders and working down to the feet (skip the soles if you are standing in the shower so you don't slip and hurt yourself.) I call this MY preferred method because the technical way to do this is to start at extremities and work towards the heart. It helps with blood flow etc. and your esthetician should do this if you go in for a treatment but when I am in the shower I always work from top down it's just my preference.
Pay special attention to your elbows, knee areas, backs of your hands and cuticle areas, chances are they are the driest because your elbows and knees are always bending and stretching the skin and you most likely wash your hands throughout the day drying out that delicate skin. I have used both sugar and salt scrubs, I like them both very much and think that it's really a matter of what you like best. You can exfoliate the soles of your feet (and they will thank you) but I recommend making sure you are sitting down because scrubs generally have oils in them. You can do a nice sole exfoliation, rinse well, put your favorite cream on (peppermint is great for feet and legs) and cover your tootsies with cotton socks, seriously your feet will thank you!
Ok so WHY exfoliate? Why add this one more thing to your regiment? Well you need to exfoliate in order to remove those dead skin cells and make it possible for your new cells to be able to absorb your favorite lotion, cream, balm, etc. It will also help to prevent ingrown hairs (ladies, I kid you not when I say exfoliate your underarms before you shave, you'll thank me later) You will also notice that after a good exfoliation your lotion will sink right into your skin. Also certain types of salts (dead sea salt for example) contain a high number of minerals and help to clean out pores which is awesome and helps with that beautiful glow we all deserve.
WHEN to exfoliate. This answer varies, two times per month would be a minimum, and once per week would be a maximum. Don't overdo it though, too much will become damaging and create micro-tears in your skin and be irritating.
FACIAL EXFOLIATION. It is not recommended to use your body exfoliant on your face and neck. The skin on your face is more delicate and needs an exfoliant that is formulated for that area. Be sure to get a separate one and once per week or to twice per month is more than enough for your face, our faces and necks take more abuse from sunlight, makeup, wind and many other elements that we need to treat it with care so we look fabulous long into our later years! A great way to exfoliate your face is to start from the top down, start with the forehead making small circles, work outward towards your cheeks then sweep in to your nose area and then down to the chin and jaw bone area. The jaw bone is a great area to spend a little time on because that is where many of the sebum glands are and it helps to keep them flowing (we like that). After the jaw bone, work down towards your neck but use light feather movements from your collarbone up to your jaw bone (help fight gravity!) You can also do your décolleté with your facial exfoliant if you'd like, that skin is also very delicate.
One other area to exfoliate that is always overlooked is our lips. It may sound like a foreign concept but if your lips are dry and you keep applying lip balm you are only applying it to the dead skin and you are:
A. wasting your money and
B. trying to raise the dead, literally, you are trying to revive skin that is dead and not benefiting your new young skin below. There are some great lip exfoliants out there that will make it worth your money because then your lip balm will work better and your lip sticks will glide on without clumping onto the dry skin.
Glow on my friends