For you tough guys out there, exfoliation (the process of removing dead cells from the skin's surface) isn't strictly for those with two X-chromosomes. Both gals and guys can have dry skin, acne, large pores, aging skin, or other dermatological concerns. What makes it a man's sport? Men typically have thicker skin than women, and thus may experience the most benefit from exfoliation. Think of it like that home-improvement project - you have to use a sander to smooth out rough edges for that perfect finish. Exfoliation is just another tool on your tool belt.
Your skin is composed of different layers, the newest, most supple skin being at the bottom and the oldest (and most dead) skin at the top. As we get older, cell-turnover, the body's natural way of bringing fresh cells to the surface, slows down. This means the dead cells hang around longer and skin appears dull, blotchy, and uneven. Sun damage over the years also slows the turnover process because it thickens skin, thus taking longer for new cells to reach the surface. To keep skin looking fresh and younger, you have to speed up the cell turnover cycle - removing the old cells forces the skin to regenerate more quickly. The easiest method of speeding this up is by exfoliating in moderation (with the word moderation being key - there is such a thing as over-exfoliation!).
There are essentially two types of exfoliation, chemical and physical. Chemical exfoliation is the process of using chemicals to remove dead surface cells from the skin. There are a few types of mild to harsh acids used in skincare for this, but between AHA, BHA, PHA, the NFL and the NHL, it can be a little brain-racking. Let's tackle chemical exfoliation later and talk about the easy stuff now.
Physical exfoliation is just that - using particles or rough cloth that scrubs and polishes the skin. This typically consists of using a cleanser that contains a physical exfoliating component, like ground nuts, shells, beads, or anything else that can be crammed into a six ounce bottle. This method of exfoliation is typically less expensive than chemical exfoliation treatments. Most physical exfoliants that you find at the store are full of harsh chemicals, on top of using plastic beads to scrub the face. Your exfoliant should gently clean the skin and remove dead cells - not leave your face squeaky-clean like a stripped hardwood floor. It's all about balance. Look for an exfoliant that utilizes finely ground natural particles or alumina, so it cleanses your face like a microdermabrasion treatment - similar to gentle sandblasting. Not to toot our own horn or anything, but EVMAN's Wash & Buff is a great example of an exfoliant that utilizes alumina, is gentle, smells great, and leaves your skin smooth. So, you can still be that tough guy. Sounds manly to us.
Oh, and as always after exfoliation, make sure you moisturize with an SPF moisturizer to protect your newly revealed skin from the sun's harmful rays. It saves you from looking like an old tough guy!