Give your skin’s cell turnover a compassionate helping hand with ingredients that are almost good enough to eat.
Words Pamela McIntosh. Hero image styling Pamela McIntosh and Lisa Lodge.
As we age, our skin’s automatic process of cell renewal slows down. Sprightly twenty-somethings are in good stead, with cells replenished, on average, once every 20 days. Fast forward a decade and you’re looking at a turnover rate of once a month. And by the time the fabulous forties come calling, your now-sluggish cells are taking 40 days to complete each regeneration cycle.
Cell turnover is the process by which our body produces fresh skin cells. These cells travel from the lowest part of the epidermis (the most outer part of our skin’s structure) to the visible top layer, where they are exposed to the elements, die, and then shed off. It’s kind of lizard-like, but thankfully a lot less obvious.
While the turnover happens just fine without our interference, mild manual exfoliation does encourage more efficient cell turnaround, which helps to provide a radiant appearance and the reduction of dryness, pore blockage and irritation. Gentle exfoliation of the face and body also allows skin to accept external hydration (through moisturisers and serums) more readily.
The exfoliation step in skincare is nothing new (historically, pumice stone was likely one of the first ways to brush away dead skin cells), but the way we use abrasives on our skin has seen a few welcome changes.
Calling out microbeads
The awareness of synthetic, plastic microbeads – featured heavily in some chemically-made skin scrubs, shampoo and toothpaste – has caused an international flurry among beauty brands, with many announcing their desire to phase out microbeads in certain products by 2017. Beautiful natural-based abrasives still do a stellar job, and come with a promise that no harm will be done to waterways or ocean life once the remnants flow down the drain. Trilogy’s beauty expert, Corrine Morley, is passionate about this and says that in the world of beauty there is no worse polluter than plastic microbeads. Fauna & Flora International’s Good Scrub Guide has helped consumers by compiling a list of products that use safe, natural alternatives.
Over-exfoliation – it’s a thing
While it might feel good to scrub away the day, be mindful of not overdoing it. Everyone’s skin is different, but in general terms the ideal frequency of exfoliation is once every few days. If your forehead is overly shiny, skin has uncharacteristically broken out, or you feel a little puffy, then ease off the scrub for a week and re-introduce it only as required. “Young or sensitive skin really only needs to be exfoliated once or twice a week,” explains Carolyn Armstrong of Sub24 Natural Skincare. “Any more can irritate, inflame, or disrupt the pH balance of the skin.”
The good news is, with so many natural scrubs at the ready, products like the ones pictured here are far more gentle on skin than their chemical counterparts. So what’s doing all the good work, then? Core players in natural and organic skincare products are often little gems like jojoba beads, sea salt, ground fruit stone, and flower power (in the way of powder). Let’s take a closer look.
A salty saviour
“We use sea salt from Guérande, France,” says a spokesperson for REN Clean Skincare. “It encourages cell renewal due to its high concentration of good minerals. It also aids the skin’s natural detoxification pathway as salt helps to draw out toxins.” Closer to home, Earth Botanics harvest their natural sea salt from Lake Grassmere, near Cook Strait. Business owner Danvers Devereux says salt is easily absorbed into the skin and it’s suitable for most skin types.
Gentle exfoliation of the face and body also allows skin to accept external hydration (through moisturisers and serums) more readily
You had me at jojoba
The smooth texture and shape of a jojoba wax sphere means that they do not cause microscopic tears on the skin, and is the preferred key exfoliating ingredient for those with allergies. “The jojoba beads gently exfoliate and lift away dead skin cells,” says Brigit Blair, founder of Linden Leaves. Stephanie Evans, who created Canterbury-based Oasis Beauty, adds that while jojoba beads act as the granules to buff away dullness, their product’s partner ingredients like pink clay and kaolin create “the little suckers that will vacuum clean the skin.”
The good grinds
Ground peach and cranberry stones, seeds, and even peel (think orange, which is rich in vitamin C) is the way forward for many natural exfoliation advocates. And when combined with plant powders the results can be ravishing. Katie McLeod, La Mav’s resident naturopath says that their marriage of cranberry seeds and bamboo powder is an effective way to remove dead skin cells while improving circulation and regulating sebum production. Palmerston North’s The Herb Farm chose rosehip powder as the main player in their Brightening Exfoliating Powder. “Rosehip’s antioxidant properties give the skin a healthier, radiant glow,” promises managing director Sarah Cowan. This product has a personal application offering, where the powder is added to a cleanser to create a customised exfoliation. “You can add more or less depending on the amount of exfoliation you prefer and what suits your skin.”
Nature’s little helpers
From flax and leaf extracts, to carrot seed, coconut and avocado – oils of all types can help replenish our largest organ, our skin, from the outside in. For example, Evolu’s coffee, harakeke flax and skin-calming Kawaka leaf extracts provide a perfect preparation for moisturising treatments. Linden Leaves uses kōwhai extract to soothe, and tangerine essential oil for its rebalancing and antiseptic properties. Other scrubs have built-in aids to keep skin supple. “Vitamin rich grape seed and coconut oil infused with botanical extracts help to remove excess oil but not dry the skin,” says Leia Berryman of Burt’s Bees.
Your perfect match
A good exfoliant wouldn’t be complete without leaving your skin feeling rejuvenated, hydrated and protected from the elements. Cue the addition of oil. But oily skin owners, don’t back away just yet, because skin – while clearly different from person to person – naturally produces a certain amount of oil to protect, moisturise and clean itself. Traditionally, those with oily skin have opted for astringents to strip away the oil, but this only encourages the body to come to the ‘rescue’ and produce even more moisture to compensate. Whatever your skin type, it’s important to work with it. Seek the guidance of a dermatologist or herbal specialist to see which product is perfect for you.
01 Earths Botanics Gardeners’ Salt Scrub, 200gm $29.90 02 Sub24 Fresh + Flawless Facial Scrub, 75ml $32 03 Burt’s Bees Peach & Willowbark Deep Pore Scrub, 110g $25 04 Antipodes Reincarnation Pure Facial Exfoliator, 75ml $47.50 05 Oasis Beauty Fruit Smoothie Exfoliating Face Mask, $39.90 06 Linden Leaves Radiant Exfoliating Wash, 55ml, $35 07 Evolu Invigorating Body Scrub, 200ml $35 08 Trilogy Gentle Facial Exfoliant, 75ml $41.90 09 The Herb Farm Brightening Exfoliating Powder, 50ml $26.90 10 La Mav Cranberry Bio Exfoliating Scrub, 60ml $37 11 Sukin Pore Refining Facial Scrub, 125ml $14 12 REN Guerande Salt Body Scrub, 330ml $54