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Exfoliation, the process of removing dead skin from your face and body, is one of the keys to smooth, healthy-looking skin. You can use a granular scrub, a chemical exfoliant, or an exfoliating tool like a loofah on your skin. Here, we’ll talk about the best ways to exfoliate the skin on your legs.
Many easy-to-use store-bought products can be used either in the shower or on dry skin to help you manually exfoliate your legs.
Leg exfoliator brush or sponge
Leg exfoliator brushes or sponges have a rough texture that removes dead skin as you scrub. Dry brushing is when you use the brush or sponge on dry skin. In addition to exfoliating, dry brushing can also improve circulation, reduce the appearance of cellulite, and may help remove toxins through the lymphatic system.
Other brushes can be used on damp skin with your normal bodywash. There are also exfoliating gloves that are easy to grip and convenient to use in the shower.
Exfoliating scrubs contain granular beads that exfoliate the skin. You can gently apply the scrub in a circular motion on the legs, which will buff off dead skin and leave your legs soft to the touch.
Make sure your scrub doesn’t contain plastic microbeads, which can be abrasive to the skin and bad for the environment once they wash down the drain. In fact, some states have even banned these products.
Sugar or another natural granular texture is a better option — just don’t use a sugar scrub on your face, where your skin is thinner and it can do more harm than good.
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)
Many people hear the word “acid” and fear that AHAs will be harsh and intense, but if used correctly, they can actually be quite gentle. AHAs are water-soluble acids that are typically derived from fruit, and they gently dissolve the outer layer of skin.
Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA). It’s also a chemical exfoliant, and while it shares common properties with AHAs, it tends to work more deeply in the skin and is good for acne-prone skin.
Salicylic acid is derived from natural sources, including willow bark. Some over-the-counter products contain both AHA and salicylic acid.
If you prefer to make your own exfoliant, there are effective DIY leg exfoliators you can make from materials and ingredients you likely already have in your house.
Loofah or towel
Because loofahs and towels have a rough texture, they can make for effective exfoliants. To exfoliate with a washcloth or a loofah, wet it with warm water. If it’s dry, it can be too rough. Rub the cloth in small circles on your legs, then follow with moisturizer.
If you’re trying to use the scrub to reduce the appearance of cellulite, let it sit on the skin for a few minutes.
- Combine 1/2 cup of coffee grounds with 2 tbsp. of hot water. Add 1 tbsp. of olive or coconut oil if you have dry skin.
- Massage the scrub onto clean legs in the shower, which will make cleanup easier.
- Rinse thoroughly. You also may have to clean out the shower, as this scrub can be messy.
Sea salt scrub
The coarseness of the sea salt will exfoliate your legs, but be careful if you have a cut because salt can sting.
- Combine 1/2 cup of sea salt, 1/2 cup of oil, and a few drops of essential oils (optional).
- Apply a small amount of scrub to wet or damp legs, and rub in a circular motion.
Honey sugar scrub
- Combine a 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/4 cup of coconut oil, and 2 tbsp. of honey.
- Apply the mixture to your legs in circular motions. It’s best to apply it in the shower to avoid getting honey on other surfaces.
- Rinse it off thoroughly, until you feel no stickiness.
Brown sugar scrub
Brown sugar is an inexpensive ingredient that you likely already have in your house, which makes the scrub convenient and easy. But don’t use it on your face or other sensitive parts of your skin.
- Combine a 1/2 cup of brown sugar with a 1/2 cup of oil you have on hand. Coconut, olive, almond, or grapeseed oil are all good choices.
- Apply it in circular motions to the legs, and rinse thoroughly.
Depending on which exfoliation method you choose, the proper way to exfoliate will vary.
Brushes and sponges
There are lymph nodes behind the knee, and using a brush there may help with lymphatic drainage.
Brush the leg from groin to ankle using circular motions. Exert enough pressure so that you feel it, but not so much that it hurts.
If you’re using a loofah or a brush in the shower, make sure that your body is damp and that you’re using a lubricating agent, which may be your normal bodywash or oil.
Shop for exfoliating brushes and sponges online.
First, wash your legs to avoid pushing any dirt or oil further into the skin. Then, put the scrub into your palm, and apply it to your body using small, circular motions. Make sure to get your full leg, front, and back.
Be sure to stop if you notice redness, irritation, or if the scrub causes pain.
Shop for exfoliating scrubs online.
AHAs and BHAs
Chemical exfoliants, (AHAs and BHAs), may be used a bit more frequently than manual exfoliants, as they’re not abrasive to the skin. Instead of sloughing off dead skin, they dissolve a layer.
Some chemical exfoliants will come infused in a scrub or bodywash, and those are meant to be washed off. Others are sprays, serums, or lotions, and those can be left on overnight and will absorb into the skin.
Generally speaking, you shouldn’t exfoliate more than once or twice a week. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends allowing time between exfoliation sessions, especially if you have dry or sensitive skin.
If you have oily skin, you may be able to exfoliate more frequently. However, it’s important to read the directions on any store-bought scrubs carefully and not be too rough with brushes, sponges, or exfoliating gloves.
For manual exfoliants, 3 minutes will generally be enough to remove dead skin, but the time may vary depending on the size of your leg and how dry the skin is.
There are precautions you can take to avoid irritating your skin:
- Apply slight pressure when exfoliating, but not so much you feel pain.
- Stop exfoliating if the skin is red, inflamed, or peeling.
- Be especially gentle on sensitive areas of the legs, including behind the knee.
- Check with a doctor if you have redness, stinging, or an allergic reaction from a product.
- Avoid additional exfoliation if you’re using products that contain salicylic acid, retinol, or benzoyl peroxide, all of which have exfoliating properties.
Exfoliating the legs is a quick, easy way to get smooth, even-looking skin. You can use a loofah, towel, brush, exfoliating scrub, or chemical exfoliant.
Always be careful not to over-exfoliate, as this can irritate your skin and potentially damage the skin barrier. Stop exfoliating your legs if you feel pain, or if your skin is red, peeling, or inflamed.