Forget what you think you know about exfoliating, guys. It’s not a sandy slather in the shower anymore. Our skin naturally sheds dead skin layers every day but as it becomes too oily, too dry, damaged by age or the sun, the process slows and it needs a little extra push from us to get the engine to turn again, so to speak. Think of exfoliating as time spent in the garage polishing up that vintage Mustang fixer-upper. How good is that bad boy going to look with a fresh coat of cherry red lacquer? Exactly.
Too many of us rely on beard-branded scrubs too get the job done when that’s only half the battle. Here’s why you should forfeit the fish-killing plastic bead method and let a BHA (beta hydroxy acid better known as ‘salicylic acid’) leave-on exfoliant lotion or liquid to do the trick without feeling like your head’s buried in the sand.
1 That scrub has been doing a half-ass job: Yup, those micro beads only sweep skin’s surface layers. While they provide some nice dusting of top-layer dead skin cells and oil – and maybe soften your beard hairs a bit, that’s it. Dirt, debris and build-up stay untouched. A lukewarm washcloth or even a close shave provides as much exfoliation as these fish-killing plastic orbs. You feel gypped? I did too.
2 Your abundance of clogged pores, whiteheads and blackheads will vanish: Say “au revoir!” to thinking there’s a black-dotted Gemini Club constellation forming on your forehead. Salicylic acid cleanses deep into pores to clear out build-up from the bottom up, eliminating an alarming number of blackheads and whiteheads. Think of it as Dawn dish soap: “Tough on grease.” Without an abundance of excess oil hogging the hole hotels in your facial skin, pores appear smaller and acne will be less likely to form. Peace out, pimples!
3 Welcome a better, smoother shave: While down in the pore, BHAs also sweep out dead skin cells around hair follicles to allow for a smoother shave. As a plus, salicylic acid is also known for its anti-irritating and anti-inflammatory properties to put those pesky post-shave red bumps to bed and leave you with less irritation after cleaning up. It’s even safe enough to apply post shave without fear of any Home Alone-like stinging squeals.
4 You’ll look younger: With dead skin cells in the bin, skin appears younger, smoother and fresher. Without build-up, wrinkles are also less likely to form and you’re less likely to lose youthful collagen. Fountain of youth, man!
5 Skin tone and texture evens out dramatically: Not to sound like an infomercial or dial-up advert, but within two weeks, my skin tone had evened out, there was less redness, dryness and flakiness. My girlfriends were jealous and wondered what I had done. “Facial? Primer? Cream? Lasers?” Dermatologists usually describe a proper leave-on exfoliant as how sandpaper can buff out rough wood into a smooth surface or how a pedicure leaves soft heels. The results show.
My favorite is Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Lotion ($26 at paulaschoice.com). Apply in the morning after cleansing and toner has dried, follow with an SPF. At night, apply before moisturizer or serum. Exfoliants are also available as liquid or gels, which works for more oil-prone skin. Or, if sun-damage is a concern: try an AHA (alpha hydroxy acid), which works to lock in moisture on the surface of the skin.