Real Girl Beauty

For every girl who's imagined herself as Lucky Magazine's "Lucky Girl." Or who's conquered her addiction to the bitchier-than-thou forums. Or who reacts every day to her Daily Candy email with the same: "Who can afford that?" Here are some heartfelt health and beauty tips from one Real Girl to another.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Don't Wait! Exfoliate!

I can’t believe it took an “Ask Real Girl” segment to get me talking about exfoliation. I will admit. I’m somewhat of an exfoliant newbie. I’ve always used granule-based scrubs on my body, but I’ve been afraid to swipe them over my sensitive, you-only-get-one-so-take-care-of-it-dammit, face. But I’ve seen the light. I’ve been converted. And now you get to hear about it…in superduper detail, bien sur.

Right after this question from Boozie:

Hey there,

I read your site about once a week or so to keep on top of stuff. Do you know anything about the
Clinique Pore Minimizer stuff? I like it, but I feel like there's probably something better out there, most likely something I've never heard of.

Any thoughts?

Hi Boozie! I’ve never used the Clinique Pore Minimizer products, so we’ll throw that question out to all the faithful, informed, fantabulous readers out there. But here’s the thing. Your pores don’t enlarge or shrink, they just appear larger when clogged. Especially when those blackheads hunker down and make you scream at them. Scream things like: Die, you blackhead bitches. Die. Beauty logic goes that if you keep your pores exfoliated, they not only look smaller, but those blackhead bitches actually do die. (Rest in peace mother f*ckers.)

But before Real Girl goes on, she wants to give props where La Props are due. What I’m about to write for this segment I learned almost entirely from Paula Begoun, the Cosmetics Cop in her book Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me.. According to Paula, exfoliating does more than clear out your pores. It sloughs off the dead skin cells so that healthier cells rise to the surface, and what’s more, research shows that exfoliating can increase collagen production. But here’s the stunner—to me, at least. All the facial exfoliating I’ve done in the past is…not quite right. I mean, it’s not exactly wrong. It just could be better.

For about a year, I’ve been using St. Ives Apricot Scrub Gentle, for Sensitive Skin. It’s not a bad granule-based exfoliator (or what Paula calls “manual exfoliant.”) Instead of using irritating sodium lauryl sulfate, it uses sodium laureth sulfate, which—go figure—is actually quite gentle. But the granules in this product—which, by the way are so less harsh than many others I’ve tried, including Clinique Exfoliating Scrub--might still be too harsh for someone with truly sensitive skin. If you’re wedded to a granule-based exfoliator (although I hope you won’t be by the end of this entry!!), then my buddy Paula recommends just “mixing baking soda with your cleanser to create a thin, paste-like consistency,” which—hey, cheap and easy.

But now let’s jack it up a notch. Let’s move past those granules and into something more scientific-like. One of the best ways to exfoliate your skin is to use either an AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) or BHA (Salicylic Acid) product that 1) stays on your skin, and 2) has a PH low enough to let the product do its pore-digging duty. The most common AHA ingredients are glycolic acid and lactic acid, and we’ve all heard of salicylic acid, which is in enough cleansers and scrubs to fill twenty pages. However!! If you’re looking for an AHA or salicylic acid fix from a cleanser or a scrub…you ain’t getting what you think you’re getting. This stuff needs time to work. It needs to hang in there, flushing out your gunk, sweeping away your tired old skin cells. You need to use a lotion or gel that will stay on your face all day or all night (you shouldn't need to apply twice.)

Now, let’s see which exfoliant is right for you. Got oily skin? Get breakouts occasionally? Go for the salicylic acid. That’s the only option that’ll break through oil and get down deep. AHA’s tend to stay more at the surface, but can be better for fighting sun damage and skin discoloration. If your skin tends to be dry, that’s your best option.

But here’s another thing. Lets say the PH of your lotion or gel is too high (which it most often is!!). Well, then, there goes the exfoliation. You might as well just use your pores for storage. Are you getting now that finding the best AHA and salicylic acid products ain’t so easy peasy???

There are a few good options out there. A very good, non-greasy AHA choice would be Dr. Mary Lupo AHA Renewal Gel II, or if you’re willing to pay more for added moisturizing and antioxidants, Exuviance Vespera Bionic Serum. But let me also direct your gaze to Paula’s own products. I hasten to say I haven’t tried them yet (I’ve got three samples on the way!!), but boy does she know her stuff when it comes to beauty ingredients. She’s got both AHA and BHA (salicylic acid) options, and one of the samples being sent to me is the 1% Beta Hydroxy Acid Gel (Please note! Her exfoliants will increase in price by $2 starting May 1!). I’ll be sure to report back on all. I’m pretty excited.

Other strong salicylic options include: MAC Oil Control Lotion, Neutrogena Clear Pore Treatment Nighttime Pore Clarifying Gel Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment (for very oily skin), Serious Skin Care Clarify Clarifying Treatment , and Ultima II Vital Radiance Skin Renewing Toner Normal to Dry Skin.

So! To summarize!! The best way to “minimize” your pores is to keep them gunk-free. Your best option to do that, for oily skin, is a salicylic acid-based lotion or gel, or for dry skin, an AHA-based lotion or gel. And for this information, we owe thanks to my friend (in my Real Imagination), Paula Begoun. I’ll report back when I’ve tried her product samples!

But, my darlings, what are your exfoliating secrets? Any thoughts to share? Products to recommend? Have you tried the Clinique Pore Minimizer line? Do you have a body scrub you adore? Let's talk skin sloughing!

With love from,
Real Girl