You're exfoliating your sensitive skin wrong - here's how to do it right

Sensitive skin can still be exfoliated, but it requires gentler methods and products. We explore how to exfoliate without damage.

Hair & Beauty

According to Mintel, one in three women has sensitive skin, and searches for reactions to exfoliation have increased by 22% in the last month.

Sensitive skin specialist Pai Skincare recommends exfoliating once a week if you have sensitive skin or mild rosacea; reduce it to once every seven to ten days for hypersensitive skin. Pai says “You’ll soon know if you’ve over-exfoliated; your skin may feel tight or more sensitive. It’s all about keeping your skin barrier healthy. If your skin is feeling resilient with weekly exfoliation, increase to twice a week for brighter results.”

Using a harsh exfoliator is a definite “no” for sensitive skin. Here’s what Pai suggests:

Best for manual exfoliation

Pai’s Virtuous Circle exfoliator, £29 can be applied and rinsed away by hand or using the soft terry side of the Twin Flyer cloth. Alternatively, using the muslin Aileron Cloth alone can provide gentle exfoliation.

Best for AHA exfoliation

The Dinner Out mask, £29, which includes the Twin Flyer cloth. Those with very sensitive skin should use the soft terry side.

Exfoliation can be manual or chemical. For manual exfoliation, use a muslin cloth or carefully formulated exfoliator to physically buff the surface of the skin. Those who prefer chemical exfoliation can use alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) designed for sensitive or reactive skin.

Skin scrub

Natural exfoliators

Choose one designed for sensitive skin like Pai’s Virtuous Circle £29, with natural Jojoba beads. Pai’s champion product polishes away dead skin cells and impurities without harming the healthy skin beneath.

It's rich in Kukui Oil to condition the skin and protect the moisture barrier, and packed with Omegas 3 and 6.  Apply by hand or rinse away using the soft terry side of the Twin Flyer cloth.

Extra sensitive types can also use the double layered organic cotton muslin Aileron Cloth, £13 for five. Try it dry or wet. Non-GM and grown in India without synthetic fertilizers, they can be washed and used again and again.

Prefer to use AHAs? Chemical exfoliants do all the hard work for you. Most brands are formulated with high levels of drying alcohols, but Pai Skincare’s natural AHA mask, Dinner Out £29, includes a Twin Flyer cloth, and uses naturally-derived AHAs from the Pomelo fruit along with gentle Kaolin Clay to draw out impurities and leave skin looking more even.

Five reasons to exfoliate

If you're sceptical about exfoliating because you're worried about damaging your skin, rest assured that there are many benefits to a gentle exfoliation routine, including:

1. Makes skincare more effective - Exfoliation supports cell turnover, so serums and creams are absorbed more effectively, rather than sitting on skin’s surface.

2. Improves texture - Polishing away dead skin and impurities leaves skin softer and smoother.

3. Bring back that glow - Exfoliating brightens, revealing fresh, healthy-looking skin.

4. Helps clear congested skin - Buffing away dead skin cells, excess oil and build-up on the surface helps unclog pores and keeps blemishes at bay.

5. Creates a smoother makeup base - By smoothing the skin’s texture and removing dry patches, exfoliating primes the skin for better makeup application.

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