Warning: this post contains grossness. Gross picture. Gross. You have been warned.
Exfoliation is a common practice and for good reason. Between skin oils, dirt and grime from outside, makeup and other assorted elements, our skin often has a greasy film over it that sticks dead skin cells, dust and dirt to our bodies. Exfoliation gently removes this whilst stimulating the healthy skin to keep our pores clean and our natural barriers strong. All in all, exfoliation can improve our skin health, produce a radiant glow, eliminate dirt and discourage acne and black heads.
Which is why I’m surprised that we only use gritty exfoliants, like sand, sugar, salt or walnut shells, to clean our skin.
You see, a good part of exfoliation is scraping. And when we use a gritty rub, we aren’t really scraping all our skin. Sure, we think soap will “get it”, but the reality is quite different.
For illustration purposes, this is my two day unexfoliated face.
Bear in mind that the above picture is older as I forgot to take that day’s “before”, so my face is a bit plumper. However the complexion is a perfect illustration of my usual skin health a few days without exfoliating.
This face is washed once or twice daily with a bit of soapy water and when I wear makeup I use baby wipes to remove it before the end of the day, missing only a bit of eyeliner each time. So how much grime could be on this face?
How about this much grime?
Normally I would use a soap or a natural oil to lift it more easily, but specially for you guys, this is just the oils and sediments that build up on my face when I don’t do deep exfoliation.
That is a lot of grime, right?
Yet this is how my face looks literally minutes after a Roman exfoliation, which removes all that nasty buildup:
And that is why we need to try and learn to exfoliate, Roman style.
1: The oils.
The first step to Roman exfoliation is something we all would rather avoid putting on our skin: oil. But like dissolves like and as the thing that is gluing all this gunk to our skin is oil, using an oil to dissolve it is only natural. Pick a soft oil like olive oil or coconut oil and apply a thin coat, just enough to get a little foam, over the body part you want to exfoliate.
Start under a warm shower, to open the pores. Step away from the stream. Rub in the oil nice and gently until it’s warm and a bit foamy. Let it sink and rub it again before moving on to scraping.
Ancestral origin: The Romans did this with olive oil!
2: The scraper.
Here anything that is firm but a bit soft will do. The scrapers you get with hair removal gels work great for large body parts, as does plastic cutlery, but for face and neck I much prefer just to use my nails. Pick something that scrapes off the oil, but doesn’t irritate your skin much.
Then, drag it over your skin, rinsing after each stroke. You want to lift off the oil and then wash it away, along with the grime it’s loosened. Press down firmly on spot and blackhead prone areas to empty and cleanse the pores and squeeze out any excess oils.
Ancestral origin: The Romans used a copper scythe-shaped scraper and were often assisted by servants!
3: The rinse.
Once you’re all scraped, wash yourself down in warm water. If your skin is dry or healthy you may want to use a bit of soap just to take away the remaining oil. But if your skin is very oily you don’t want to dry it too much, or your body’s natural oil production could be messed up even more. Just be patient and let the water do most of the work.
Once you no longer feel any oil on your skin, turn the water temperature as cold as you can stand it and wash yourself in it, to close the pores and tighten the skin.
Ancestral origin: The Romans loved nothing better than a cool dip after a good wash!
Were possible, air dry your skin. Any extra rubbing or stimulation could worsen any slight abrasions and encourage your skin to produce more oil defensively.
If you can’t air dry, at least just pat gently with a very soft, nicely clean towel.
I don’t recommend doing this more than every other day. Scraping causes slight abrasions on the skin and, even though they won’t bleed or hurt, they can build up over time. A day is all it should take to recover, but a 48 hour cycle gives you safer parameters.
But don’t worry! Even though my skin is quite pink in that post-shower picture, this is how I look a mere four hours later:
It isn’t dangerous. It’s very healthy and good for your skin. Just be careful with it, is all.
After all, most Romans didn’t shower or wash every day and you can definitely have too much of a good thing!
TTFN and Happy Hunting!