Gentle Exfoliation: How To Renew Your Skin This Spring

We made it! Spring has officially sprung and while we're still layering up here in the Pacific Northwest, we're doing so to head out into the garden and get our hands in the dirt.

Energy naturally tends to stagnate in the winter. We eat heavier foods to keep our bodies nourished through the colder months. We rely less on fresh fruit and veggies because, while they're more available than they were a century ago, pale, underripe, expensive strawberries in January just don't do the trick.

Try as we might, our wintry hibernation often leaves our skin feeling dull, dry, and rough.

When we finally emerge, sometimes we notice redness, irritation, or congestion.

It's tempting to grab for that face scrub to slough off any roughness, texture, or sluggishness leftover from winter. It feels so good right after you use it, right?

Your skin feels so smooth. There's a lovely healthy glow. Your moisturizer soaks right in, validating your belief that your skin simply needed that pesky extra layer of dead skin cells removed so that it could effectively absorb all your fancy skincare products. But then by the end of the next day, it's starting to feel rough again. It no longer radiates that glow. It feels dry, dull.

Does this sound familiar?

Trust me, I get it. 

I've totally been there. I tried so many face scrubs and polishes, and yes, many of them were natural products. And you know what? My skin got worse. It felt more dry AND I got more blemishes. Cracking and breakouts is NOT a good look and it feels terrible.

It took me time and research to understand what was going on with this pattern of mechanical exfoliation leading to a decline in skin health. Here's what I've learned...

You see the problem is, the more you use a scrub, the more you need to use it because it causes damage to your skin that results in your skin ultimately feeling more rough. It's a self-perpetuating cycle leaving you dependent on this kind of exfoliation to feel like your skin is smooth.

The solution is to just...stop. Stop using them and just see how your skin responds. Let it speak to you. Allow yourself time to listen.

Now, I'm not here to knock face scrubs (ok, maybe I am). But I do want to share some gentle, yet just as effective, alternatives.

I actually think these "alternatives" can be more effective than the scrubs that are often so tempting when our skin feels far from the healthy, dewy glow many folks strive for.


Because face scrubs are often band-aids. They don't address the root cause of why your skin might feel rough, congested, dull, or flaky. They simply strip your skin of dead skin cells, which actually serve a vital function for your skin's health.

And did you know your skin is quite good at getting rid of what it no longer needs? It doesn't need a scrub to assist in the sloughing, and mechanical scrubs often strip your skin's oh-so-important lipid barrier.

An alternative approach to mechanical exfoliation is holistic, gentle, and encourages true health and vitality for your skin. It creates long-lasting change by revealing your skin's innate vibrance.

Doesn't that sound better than being stuck on the Face Scrub Train?

I think so. I'm guessing since you're here, you do too. So let's dive into an alternative, truly holistic approach to gentle exfoliation this spring.

1. Hydrate with humectants.

Humectants are substances which keep skin hydrated by drawing moisture to the skin. They essentially attract water to your skin. If your skin feels dry and flaky, it needs hydration and would greatly benefit from humectants. Some examples of humectants are glycerin, honey, and hyaluronic acid (HA).

Many of you know we don't use standardized extracts like hyaluronic acid in our products. Instead, we use whole plants that are high in particular compounds, like HA, while preserving the other compounds in those plants so that the constituents can act synergistically. In essence, the whole is greater than its parts. Tremella, or Snow Mushroom, is incredibly high in hyaluronic acid as well as supportive polysaccharides, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that make that naturally occurring HA even more effective than it is on its own.

If it sounds like your skin would benefit from more hydration via humectants, try out Ceres Replenishing Tonic, Verbeia Calming Tonic, Mel Honey Mask, or Soma Hydrating Mask.

2. Do a weekly botanical mask.

Part of the reason skin either feels rough and dry, or oily and congested is because its detoxification/elimination processes are sluggish. Our dry masks support your skin's natural detoxification processes by helping move lymph, balance oily production, tonify your skin, and calm inflammation.

While I mentioned two masks above, those are really geared toward hydration and can be used however often you like. I'm sharing two of my favorite spring masks below to actually assist with exfoliation and be used just once a week in place of whatever face scrub you may have on your bathroom counter. These two masks are formulated for slightly different skin - which sounds more like yours?

Does your skin tend to get dry or flaky this time of year? Is it dull or exhibit signs of dry rosacea or dermatitis? If this sounds like you, your skin will likely love Sylva Renewal Mask. It contains my favorite clay for all skin types (Rhassoul), which feeds your skin with an array of minerals while gently detoxifying and exfoliating. It also has one of my top herbs for addressing inflammatory skin conditions - Oregon Grape Root. It soothes dry, scaly, itchy skin and even addressing skin infections. And Sylva's colloidal oat and medicinal mushrooms hydrate, plump, and brighten.

Does your skin tend to feel oily or congested as we soften into spring? Rosa Purifying Mask is your match made in heaven. It's for the quintessential "Pitta" type - hot and damp, red and oily. Potent french green clay, neem, burdock root, and echinacea support lymphatic movement while white willow bark, plantain, and rose calm inflammation, soothe blemishing, and balance oil production.

3. Support your whole body system.

I know it may not seem as sexy, fun, or exciting as topical skincare, but supporting your skin internally is HUGE for promoting gentle exfoliation. Why? Because efficiently functioning elimination pathways mean your skin doesn't have to work so hard and will more likely shed its dead skin cells in perfect timing.

Here are my favorite ways to support your skin internally. Keep in mind, every body is different and what works for me or you might not be the best fit for the next person. Below are general ways to keep your whole being detoxifying as it needs to and ridding itself of what is no longer needed.

  • Support gut health. A good general "goal" is to have a bowel movement a day. This helps your body rid itself of excess estrogen and other waste products so they don't build up in your intercellular fluid.
  • Get enough saturated fats. This was a big one for me personally and for many folks I've worked with. Skin (and cells in general) really like saturated fats like coconut oil, butter, ghee, and tallow in your diet. This is not to say you need to use this ingredients on your skin! What is generally beneficial to consume is not always a good fit for your skin, and vice versa.
  • Get good quality sleep. This is such an underrated factor in skin health. Sleep is when your skin regenerates and repairs, but it's so much more than that. This is when your emotional body processes experiences. It's when your liver builds and cleans blood. It's when your mind resets and dreams and digests its own experiences. Do what you can to protect your sleep and work on sleep hygiene.
  • Process your emotions. Part of my own skin journey has been acknowledging the ways my skin was communicating to me regarding my emotional landscape. When I'm not listening to my intuition and following my inner guidance, it shows up in some way on my skin every. single. time. Have you noticed this for you too?

So, yes, this approach is vastly different than simply turning to a face scrub. It takes a bit more work, more time, more listening, more paying attention, more presence. It isn't an easy, short term fix like a face scrub. Your skin may not change drastically overnight (although it's possible. My own skin responds very quickly to Sylva).

The plus side? It will be more than your skin that benefits. Your skincare rituals are an opportunity to come back to your body, reconnect, notice and observe, acknowledge your body's signs and signals, and re-member your innate wisdom.

They are an opportunity to touch your skin. Massage it. Love on it. And to remind yourself that your skin is so much more than the skincare industry would have you believe.

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