Exfoliating Body Treatments

Chasing Away Winter’s Harsh Effects

By Lydia Sarfati

Exfoliating body treatments are a great way to restore your skin, especially in dry, cold winter months. While some of these treatments can be performed at home, there is something wonderful about having these services performed by trained professionals, as you meditate in the sensation of the experience.  

Types of Exfoliation

There are many options for body exfoliation treatments—from head-to-toe scrubs to spot-treatments for hands and feet. In general, there are three methods of exfoliation:
• Chemical: Using a product or treatment that contains gentle exfoliating acids, like alpha hydroxy, beta hydroxy, or salicylic acids, or enzymes, which help remove dead skin cells and are gentle and nonabrasive on the skin.  
• Granular: Using a cleansing product that contains materials such as sugar, rice wax, or almond meal.
• Manual: Using a tool that scrubs, like a brush, loofah, or washcloth.

Exfoliating Treatments to Try

A variety of exfoliating treatments can be added to your spa service or combined into a package. Your massage and bodywork practitioner also may offer some of these services or have a referral for you. Here are a few of the most popular treatments to try as you fight off winter’s drying effects.

Dry Brush Treatment  

This vigorous form of manual exfoliation helps loosen dead skin cells on the body while stimulating and invigorating the skin’s surface. Dry brushing is also great for prepping skin for waxing, as it helps lift the hair from the skin surface, prevents ingrown hairs, and allows for more even hair removal.   
To try this at home, use a dry body brush with a wooden handle and all-natural boar bristles, since this fiber is softer on the skin and can be easily cleaned. To dry brush the body:  
• Start at the feet and move upward, toward the heart, using light pressure.  
• Stop at the breast area and dry brush arms in a soft, gentle, circular motion going upward toward the shoulders.  
• Exfoliate the delicate décolleté and neck by using a smaller face brush. Be sure not to be too aggressive.   
• Follow dry brushing with a shower or bath to wash away the loosened material, and then finish with body oil or cream that contains moisturizing natural extracts (such as seaweed or vitamin E).
If your skin becomes the least bit red or irritated, you are being too aggressive. Also, don’t dry brush on areas shaved that day.    

Sugar Scrub Body Treatment  

This deep cleansing and invigorating exfoliating treatment creates head-to-toe silky-smooth skin  
by combining softening sugar with other natural ingredients (such as aloe, cocoa, coffee, lemongrass,  
matcha, seaweed, or a multi-fruit AHA complex to refine the skin).   
For this service, you will be given disposable underwear, and bra if requested. You will lie face-down on the table and be covered with a Mylar sheet. Your practitioner will uncover one part of the body at a time and gently buff your skin with a dry brush to remove grime and oils. They will apply a sugar scrub and begin massaging it into your skin with moistened fingertips or hot stones. Each area that is completed will be re-covered with the Mylar sheet, and then work will begin in a new area. Next, the scrub will be removed with wet, warm towels, and the area re-covered. You will then turn over so the practitioner can proceed with the sugar scrub application and removal process on the arms and legs. The service will finish with a rich body cream or body oil that contains ingredients to help strengthen and  
restore the skin barrier.  

Honey Body Polish  

Using a variety of ingredients, including honey and oatmeal, this mild exfoliating spa body treatment helps remove dead skin cells and hydrates skin. The ingredients can also be mixed with yogurt, hot milk, or almond milk to add a natural, mild lactic acid exfoliation.   
This is what a honey body polish entails: The honey, combined with either buttermilk or plain yogurt, is warmed ahead of the treatment. You will lie facedown on top of a Mylar or plastic sheet. Your practitioner will begin massaging the honey body polish into your skin, starting on the back, buttocks, legs, and feet. You will be turned over, and the legs, stomach, and chest area will be addressed next. Talk to your practitioner ahead of time about your comfort level with their work on various body parts, or to walk through the process so you feel comfortable with their protocol.  
Next, you will be covered with a Mylar sheet and blanket for approximately 20 minutes. Once unwrapped, you will shower off the product, and then likely receive a short massage with body cream or oil.  

Dead Sea Salt Body Scrub  

This is an exfoliating body treatment for drier, coarser skin types that uses Dead Sea salts as a key ingredient. Seaweed, aloe, and peppermint oil may be added to help stimulate the senses while softening the skin. Delicate areas, such as your décolleté and chest, will be avoided, and you will not want to shave on the day of this service.  
This treatment looks similar to the sugar scrub procedure. You will lie facedown on the table and your practitioner will massage your entire body with Dead Sea salt scrub. You will turn over and salts will be massaged onto the front of the body. Focus will be given to the elbows, knees, and soles of the feet. Your body will be covered with a plastic sheet while you rest for approximately 10 minutes. During this time, your practitioner may apply soothing eye pads, administer a pressure-point massage, or offer another treatment. You will likely be offered a shower, and then receive an application of body cream or oil for 15 minutes.  

Exfoliating Hand Treatment  

This is an essential treatment after extreme weather exposure or before important events to dramatically improve hand appearance. Wearing gloves, your practitioner will apply a mild glycolic peel evenly to the hands and leave it on for 5–7 minutes. They will remove the product with water and follow it with a moisturizing serum and moisturizing cream, massaging your hands for another 10 minutes.


Why Body Exfoliation? 

Stress can have enormous effects on the body and the skin, including the production of the stress hormone cortisol. Increased cortisol levels can trigger everything from immune dysfunction to inflammation and skin problems.
Plump skin cells are continuously traveling from the lower layers of your epidermis to the upper layers of the stratum corneum. Once skin cells reach the surface, they are no longer living cells but flat and scaly debris, ready to be sloughed off through a process known as desquamation.   
Typically, it takes about one month for a skin cell to pass through all the epidermal layers and be sloughed off, but a disruption (such as stress) in the body’s ability to regulate can slow down cell renewal, and result in dull, tired-looking skin. Oily skin tends to saturate dead skin cells, making it difficult for them to fall off naturally. Dry skin tends to let dead skin cells accumulate too quickly, which can make skin look dry and dull.  
The key benefits of exfoliation include reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation or uneven skin tone, helping unclog pores to reduce breakouts (which can manifest on the back, buttocks, and thighs), minimizing the appearance of skin imperfections (such as stretch marks and cellulite), and, perhaps most importantly, providing a smoother, more receptive surface for the application and absorption of skin care ingredients to restore the proper moisture barrier to the skin.

Lydia Sarfati is the founder and CEO of Repêchage, the first company to bring seaweed-based skin care treatments and cosmetics to the US market. Sarfati is an international industry leader and developer of the world-renowned Repêchage Four Layer Facial.