You should absolutely be exfoliating below your neck—here's exactly how to do so.

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Taking a long shower or soak in the bath aren't the only ways to rejuvenate your skin from head to toe. Enter exfoliation, which helps rid the body of dead skin cells. While you may associate this step with your facial beauty routine, it's just as necessary elsewhere. "The skin on the body has more sweat glands (sebaceous glands) and can tolerate stronger exfoliating cleansers and percentages of products without getting irritated or inflamed than the skin of the face," says Dr. Purvisha Patel, a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Visha Skincare. To learn more about full-body exfoliation, including the products and techniques you will need to master the method, read on.

woman exfoliating legs with brush
Credit: Moyo Studio / Getty Images

The Benefits of Full-Body Exfoliation

This practice goes further than skin deep. "Full-body exfoliation is designed to bring rest, relaxation, and balance to your mind, body, and soul," says Kate Broadhurst, the spa supervisor at ESPACIO Spa. When done correctly, exfoliation can both aid in healthy circulation and remove dead skins cells. According to Rosa Santana, the spa manager at Banyan Tree Mayakoba, rubbing hard and removing flaky skin during the exfoliation process will leave your dermis feeling fresh, smooth, hydrated, and soft.

Physical Exfoliation

Per Dr. Patel, there are two leading types of exfoliation. The first is physical, which should be done twice a week. "Physical exfoliation uses a tool or device to take off the dead skin layer)," she says, noting that strong physical exfoliators should be avoided on the face. Coffee grounds, salt, pumice, and micro beads (disclaimer: this last one is the least environmentally friendly) are all options, but the most common tool is a dry brush, like the Dermstore Collection Dry Brush Exfoliator with Handle ($20, dermstore.com), or loofah. "Dry brushing is a triple-threat: Not only does it help to brush off dead cells, but it also helps to reduce the appearance of cellulite and detox your body through assisting with lymphatic drainage," Asti Yogi, the spa supervisor at Zemi Beach House, explains. "The loofah (in tandem with your own soap) also lifts dead skin cells from the top layer of your skin. Make sure to wash exfoliating instruments thoroughly after each use."   

Chemical Exfoliation

On the other end of the exfoliation spectrum are chemical products, which use acids or chemicals to loosen the bonds between the dermis' top layer of cells. "Ingredients such as salicylic acid, alpha hydroxyl acids, and bakuchiol exfoliate the skin and open the pores," notes Dr. Patel. "Vitamin A derivatives, such as retinol or tretinoin, also exfoliate, as well as shrink oil glands." Luckily, testing out chemical formulas is easy; in fact, these ingredients can be found in body washes and cleansers. Consider the Visha Skincare Top2Toe ($25, vishaskincare.com), an all-over wash with bakuchiol, tea tree oil, and AHA that exfoliates and decreases the microbes on the body. "A 'good' cleanser will cleanse and exfoliate without compromising the natural pH of the skin (which is our great barrier of protection)," Cynthia King, the spa director at the Spa at the Inns of Aurora, says. "For a quick fix in the shower or bath, use a healing body wash with either exfoliating spa gloves or (my new favorite), a Bellabaci Copper Mitt ($21.53, bellabaci.com)—that helps to fight free radicals."

Try It at Home

Ultimately, exfoliating treatments are soothing, whether you make a trip to the spa or opt for an at-home option. Some of King's go-to products currently on the market? The Red Flower Ohana Gingergrass Bamboo Scrub ($68, macys.com), which is ultra-fine and great for oilier dermis, the Red Flower Lemon Coffee Olive Oil Scrub ($68, redflower.com), as it's stimulating and detoxifying, and the Eminence Stone Crop Revitalizing Scrub ($48, dermstore.com), since it's gentle and brightening.

You can even make your own recipe. Broadhurst recommends combining half a cup of brown sugar, half a cup of coffee grinds, and a few drops of your favorite carrier oil into a paste. From there, begin the exfoliation process by dry brushing, then exfoliating with the mixture in a hot shower or soothing bath. As for this specific formula's benefits? "Brown sugar is a natural and gentle exfoliant, while coffee adds caffeine to improve circulation and invigorate the skin," notes Broadhurst. Just don't forget to moisturize when you're through—it's a must-do last step for soft arms and legs. "All of our scrubs conclude with a moisturizing application that has been thoughtfully chosen to complement and balance the exfoliant," adds King.

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