Proper exfoliation is the key to achieving beautiful, healthy-looking skin. It smoothes the skin's surface while preparing it to fully receive any nutrients you apply to it. Without exfoliation, the skin tends to appear dry, dull and lifeless.
The trick to exfoliating sensitive skin is to use a modality that won't cause any inflammation or further sensitivities. Most acid-based exfoliation methods (i.e. chemical peels) and microdermabrasion are a NO NO for those with sensitive skin, rosacea and eczema-prone skin. If the skin is thin and delicate, a gentle method of exfoliation is preferred. Fragile and damaged skin means that cellular turnover slows down- a lot. When this happens, dead skin cells build up quickly making the skin appear dull and act sluggish. Plus, no products can penetrate properly through layers of dead skin cell buildup and your makeup will not apply smooth and flawless.
So, this leads up to what should be used to exfoliate sensitive skin. First and foremost, remember to be GENTLE. Always look for products that contain spherical beeds (such as jojoba spheres) or are made of a very fine powder. For dry sensitive skin, choose powders such as rice powder or yogurt powder. If you have oily skin that is sensitive, go for kaolin, rose or glacial clays. They provide a microfine exfoliation while absorbing excess oil at the same time. Stay away from any type of 'scrubs' or powders that contain particles that have jagged edges to them. These types of products (i.e. apricot kernels, walnut shells, etc.) can cause micro-tears in the skin which leads to further inflammation.
It's always best to seek the advice of a licensed skin care professional but if you don't have the time or the funds, you can do at-home treatments. Any of the ingredients I mentioned above can be found online and/or at your local health food store. You can mix them with plain distilled water, honey or milk/cream. Honey is best for oilier skin types while milk is best for those who are more to the drier side. After cleansing your skin, simply make a paste with the suggested ingredients for your skin type and apply to your face and neck. Massage gently (avoiding the immediate eye area) for about a minute and rinse off with tepid water. Follow with your favorite serum or moisturizer. You should do this 1 to 2 times per week in the evening- leaving at least 2-3 days in between treatments. So, a good schedule might be to do this on a Wednesday and Sunday evening before bed.
If you're consistent with this routine, you will see a noticeable difference in the way your skin looks and behaves. Of course, if you experience any irritation with the above mentioned suggestions, stop what you're doing and seek medical advice if necessary.
-Kelley (a.k.a. The Mineral Makeup Coach)