The Beauty Blow-Up: Exfoliation Experiments

Ah, winter. Never-ending darkness, subzero temperatures, unpleasant weather conditions and excessive precipitation. What’s not to love? The only upside I can see to all this inevitable wintery-ness that is on its way: it’s a great excuse to do a skincare overhaul. Change is in the air, which means it becomes visible on our skin, too. So in the name of cold climates and dark days, I’ve recently invested in a few new skin accouterments in the hopes that I can exfoliate my way to a holiday glow. If these don’t pan out, I guess I’ll be hibernating until spring.

boscia konjac cleansing sponge

Boscia Konjac Cleansing Sponge, $22, available at Sephora.

What is it? “A pillow-soft sponge that cleanses and exfoliates to deliver smoother, softer, brighter-looking skin.” Basically, it’s a Japanese root vegetable that is naturally alkaline, allowing it to balance the acidity of skin impurities and oils. It’s also rich in a number of vitamins and minerals and is touted as being gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin. It has about a 2-3 month lifespan.

First impressions: After the first use, my skin felt much cleaner than using cleanser alone. I felt like my skin could breathe better, if that makes sense, like the day’s makeup and other gunk had actually been all washed away but without the super-deep-clean feeling of a rough exfoliant. I’ve been using it morning and night to wash my face with cleanser.

What other people are saying: The #1 complaint people seem to have with this tool is the price (apparently you can get a non-brand name Konjac sponge for a fraction of the price if you’re willing to look a bit harder), but the majority of reviews were glowing. If you’re a fan of the Clarisonic but don’t want to take it on overnight trips, add this sponge to your cosmetic bag for a portable deep cleanser.

kiehls rare earth deep pore daily cleanser

Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore Daily Cleanser, $30 at Kiehl’s stores in Canada, or a bit cheaper online here.

What is it? “This pore-minimizing cleanser is formulated with fairly traded Amazonian White Clay to remove excess oil, toxins and residues from the skin.” Formulated for normal-to-oily skin types, this exfoliating cleanser claims to minimize the look of pores without being overly harsh on skin.

First impressions: My skin felt squeaky-clean! I used the same cleanser religiously for about 8 years before purchasing this (talk about a long term relationship), so I think my skin was ready for a change. I was using it twice a day since the description claims it’s gentle enough to do so, but when I revisited the Kiehl’s girls they recommended for my particular skin that I scale it back to a couple times a week. Since I tend to break out, the over-exfoliating wasn’t giving my skin a chance to heal my pimples properly; this caused increased redness and irritation and may have actually been spreading the acne bacteria around my face. Ew. However, using it a couple times a week seems to be just what my skin needs.

What other people are saying: It was our one and only Megan West who turned me onto this cleanser in the first place, and that girl has high standards for skincare, so I took her word as truth when she claimed it would change my life. Around the internets, reviews were overwhelmingly positive except for the ones from dry-skinned users who felt it didn’t offer enough moisturizing benefits.

glamglow youthmud

GLAMGLOW YouthMud Tinglexfoliate Treatment, $21 for 0.5oz or $69 for 1.7oz, available at Sephora.

What is it? “A 10-minute professional-quality mud mask.” It’s formulated with french sea clay, volcanic pumice rock, and green tea leaf pieces to leave skin smoother, brighter, and softer, with a more youthful look and tighter pores.

First impressions: They’re not joking about the tingling sensation: this stuff is intense. I struggled to keep it on for the full ten minutes – as it dried, it felt like my facial skin was rapidly shrinking and like I’d applied Vicks Vaporub (intense menthol version) all over my face. I was seriously considering what sort of sane person willingly applies this to their face more than one time…and then I took it off and saw how amazing my skin looked. I was literally glowing and had no post-tingle redness. Call me crazy, but I’ll definitely be doing this again. Maybe it will be easier the second time around?

What other people are saying: The brand’s consumer trials show stats of 97% of users having brighter, softer, smoother skin after just one use (you can count me in that group, too), with 100% saw brightening of dull skin after three uses in seven days. Some people find it too painful to use, while others (masochists..?) enjoy the tingle. Apparently there are problems with the packaging: since it’s in a jar, the plant extracts, vitamins, antioxidants are exposed to air when you open it, causing them to deteriorate (also you introduce bacteria every time your fingies reach into it). There are also many irritating ingredients that potentially cause increased oil production over time, though I couldn’t find any user reviews that actually complained about that.

Don’t forget, exfoliating is a key step in overall skin health! Different skin types require different exfoliating schedules, so pay close attention to your skin and avoid over-exfoliating (there’s a good article here talking about over-exfoliating and one here about suggestions for different skin types).

Much love, Madison Blake

For more beauty, fashion, and fun, follow me on Twitter (@muchloveMB)!

Images via &

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