Exfoliate your way to healthy skin

Did you throw off your clothes in the bank holiday sunshine (yesterday was World Naked Gardening Day after all…) and wish your skin was softer and more supple? We know that the body’s largest organ can really suffer in the cold weather. However, you can bring lacklustre skin back to life through exfoliating at home for soft and healthy skin, says Pawan Ahsan.

You don’t have to go to great lengths to achieve skin greatness or fork out a small fortune on spa visits or ridiculously expensive products. You can take matters into your own hands and give yourself the attention you deserve with a little pampering at home.

Cell renewal can slow down with age and dead skin cells also slow the process further as they accumulate on the surface of the skin. These then form layers that can harden and make the skin look dry and dull, covering up the healthier skin underneath. Regular exfoliation not only gets rid of the dead skin cells to reveal the healthy skin underneath but also promotes healthy blood circulation.

Dry body brushing or body scrubs are the most common ways to exfoliate and each do the job effectively. Both are similar in how they work but can provide different benefits. It’s recommended that a dry body brush should be made from natural bristles as synthetic bristles can be harsh and leave minor scratches on the skin surface. The brushes are mostly made of either boar hair or sisal, which is a type of grass and suitable for vegans. Dry brushing your body with long, firm-yet gentle-strokes, from the extremities inward towards the heart (you can also go over the stomach, buttocks and thighs with gentle circular strokes) will not only instantly make your skin feel baby soft but increase the circulation of lymph, the waste-removing fluid the runs underneath our skin, helping to detox. If lymph slows down, it can, in fact, make the skin lose its natural glow and become more prone to cellulite and water retention. Regular dry brushing can make the skin more toned on the surface and much healthier, but you should always avoid brushing skin that’s inflamed, bruised or broken and areas with visible varicose or spider veins. Finish with a shower or bath, followed by your preferred moisturiser.

Body scrubs are equally as wonderful at removing dead skin cell, improving blood circulation and adding moisture to the skin. Applied in the shower, with similar circular strokes to dry body brushing, then washed off and patted dry. The main ingredients are usually various types of sugar or salt which are combined with oils such as almond, olive or coconut and then naturally fragranced with essential oils, citrus fruits or even coffee. You can also make your own body scrub using different forms of exfoliants such as rice bran, apricot kernels, jojoba beads, walnut shells or coffee grounds. If you have more sensitive skin, you should go for the finer grains and opt for sugar over salt as you may find that salt can be too harsh and irritate the skin.

So below, is a recipe for a wonderfully indulgent body scrub made from Epsom salt, which contains magnesium that can reduce inflammation, while sulphates flush out toxins. It’s also packed full of minerals that benefit the skin. I’ve chosen extra virgin olive oil as its base because it contains antioxidants, vitamins A and E which help repair skin damage, and provides moisture resulting in smoother skin. I’ve scented it with lavender essential oil but you can choose whichever natural fragrance you prefer.

Ingredients

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup Epsom salt or sugar of your choice

1-2 drops essential lavender oil

Method

Combine all the ingredients in a dry and clean bowl, adding more olive oil if necessary for your preferred consistency. Transfer to a sterilised, airtight jar and store away from heat and moisture. Salt scrubs usually last longer than sugar scrubs but have a shelf life of around six months.