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We’ve all heard the saying “Beauty is pain,” right? Perhaps we’ve even chuckled or gotten sucked into the rabbit hole of TikTok extraction videos (for blackheads, ingrown hairs, etc.) out of pure fascination and empathetic acknowledgement that “Oof, it’s notalwaysa pretty picture when you’re tending to your looks.” But we’re not here for that outdated perspective, and quite honestly, a gentle, soothing, and consistent skin care routine is the best defenseagainsthaving to resort to the more aggressive and uncomfortable treatment measures down the line. 

Exfoliation is necessary in any skin care routine, for sloughing off dead skin cells, unclogging pores of excess oil and dirt, smoothing and evening skin’s texture and tone, and revealing a cleaner, more supple and radiant complexion. But over the last few decades, it’s kind of become the step that has wreaked the greatest havoc on our faces (bodies, too), because we’ve gambled with “too much of a good thing.” Over-polishing anything from furniture to jewelry to your car can lead to dullness, debris buildup, a thinning out of paint or natural luster, and overall vulnerability to damage and disrepair — and that’s exactly what excessive exfoliation does to our skin.

Scrubs, chemical peels and enzyme masks, professional laser treatments, and at-home buffing tools are all effective means of exfoliation, with the potential to put our skin care games in high gear, but they must be used consciously and strategically. And that takes the mode of exfoliation — whether manual or mechanic (via granular, textured scrubs and washes and micro-exfoliating, cleansing face tools) or chemical (via acids like glycolic, lactic, and alpha hydroxy acid, that penetrate the skin to break down the bonds in dead skin cells and eliminate them) —  frequency of use (very few are recommended for daily use, we suggest twice to three times weekly, at most), chemical concentration of said chemical products, degree of pressure, and level of abrasiveness of physical exfoliants all into consideration. 

Given our legacy as a professional, treatment-focused skin care company, we’ve seen so many people come into our spas with over-exfoliated, irritated, dry, dehydrated and dull skin, and we’ve been asked by so many of our estheticians how to treat clients with particularly compromised, barrier-impacted, and over-sensitive skin. So, at Repêchage, we’ve launched a number of products (that can be used personally, at-home and applied during facials and treatments, in-spa) that aid exfoliation in a gentle, mild yet incredibly results-driven way.

Gentle exfoliation continues to circulate in conversations among dermatologists, estheticians, and celebrity facialists, alike, but we’d like to say that we were first to the table on this safe exfoliation trend. 

Here are our top tips for exfoliation that gets the job done (helping your skin with its natural process of shedding — which occurs roughly every 27-28 days) without doing damage in the process:

Photo Credit: @Mist_facials
  • When using physical exfoliators (as in rich, textured scrubs), look for options that feature smooth-edge granules — likerice bran, which we use in our high-performance scrubs — that will gently roll on and off skin without being too rough on your skin’s barrier. Anything that’s too abrasive, like nut shells or certain microbeads, can cause micro tears in the skin’s surface and lead to a buildup of contaminants/bacteria than spawn breakouts (any breaks in the skin does just that, let bad things in) and/or further irritation and sensitivity.
  • When using chemical exfoliators (those acids we mentioned earlier), look for products that react with the skin to dissolve dead cells and promote deep skin cleansing and pore purging. Opt for AHAs harnessed naturally from fruit sources like strawberries, kiwis, and apples or Lactic Acid derived from milk. Products that couple acids with other natural, skin-friendly ingredients, like chamomile or green tea, can also help to calm the skin and prevent any irritation from flaring up.
  • When using skin tools for exfoliation, look for scrubbers that are metal versus rubber based and use high-frequency, ultrasonic sound waves. These skin scrapers or spatulas (check out our own Ultrasonic Skin Spatula, which was recently featured in MindBodyGreen) work to dislodge buildup and clarify clogged pores, slough off dead skin cells, debris and dirt of any kind, to improve the smoothness, tone, texture, and vibrancy of the skin while also priming the skin for deeper treatment product penetration. 


Our Physical Exfoliators 

Honey and Almond ScrubThis has been a cult favorite of ours for over 40 years, providinggentle exfoliating benefits before that was even the ‘cool’ thing to do. Our concentrated, completely waterless formula teams pure honey, crushed almond meal, and oatmeal to lightly exfoliate the skinwithout leaving micro-tears. We never use the abrasive shell of the almond, but instead the gentle meal of the nut, ground up and moistened with sweet almond oil. Plus, the addition of St. John’s Wort helps to purify, deep cleanse, and tone, making the product a truly multifaceted find. 

One-Minute Exfoliating MaskWe categorized this aschemical, because it is enhanced with acids, but truly this mask can hang with our physical exfoliators/scrubs, too. Tiny spheres of Rice Bran Wax and Lactic Acid work to slough off excess oil and dirt, while oil-absorbing seaweed, astringent Lemongrass, Mulberry Root extract, and soothing Cucumber extracts leave skin feeling clean and smooth. We especially love the addition of potent brighteners, including Kojic Acid, Farnesol, and Licorice Root that also aid in a more luminous, glowing complexion. 

Oh! And the really wonderful thing about Rice Bran Wax is that it breaks down quickly in the environment. Because it’s so gentle, it can be used anytime day or night to reduce the appearance of oil—after work, the gym or outdoor chores. So, if you find yourself a little more oily than usual, you don’t have tosweatusing this on the regular! 


Our Chemical Exfoliators

Rapidex® Marine Exfoliator With Phyto-Marine ActivesReturning to the idea that you canabsolutely go a little too far with exfoliation, this 14-day, at-home peel was designed specifically to control application and ensure safe and effective dosing. The formula that pre-saturates large cotton swab applicators combines seaweed, phyto-marine extracts and multi-fruit Alpha Hydroxy Acids along with glycolic and lactic acids to mildly exfoliate the skin, improve its tone and texture, and smooth and soften its look. The soft, oversized cotton swab and unique, medically-inspired unidose application system ensure the product's purity, ease-of-use and efficacy every time — essentially, it provides a controlled application process to prevent over-exfoliating skin, whether with microdermabrasion, chemical and acid peels or laser resurfacing procedures. Lydia, our Founder, created this brand-favorite product in 1996, too… which again, goes to show how keen we were on gentle, skin-kind exfoliation - decades before the rest of the beauty industry took note. 

Hydra Medic® Beta Hydroxy SerumAnd to stay true to the title of this post: Exfoliation is critical forevery skin type, even and especially those with oilier skin. The targeted AHA and BHA (beta hydroxy acid) blend exfoliatesto reveal smoother, cleaner skin, while seaweed extracts, such as Laminaria Digitata and Ascophylum Nodosum, bolstered with other botanicals, help to reduce the appearance of dryness for a more luminous looking complexion. 

Do keep in mind that the addition of AHA and BHAcan cause increased sensitivity to the sun, so you’ll want to prevent risks of sunburn with a protectant (before going outside). Our Mineral Face Shield is stellar — it glides on effortlessly and leaves a gorgeous, even-matte finish that is never greasy or shiny. Check it out!

1 Response

Katherine Stribakos
Katherine Stribakos

March 28, 2022

So true! I find gentle exfoliation is best for overall skin health.

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