Some people are really into watching blackhead-extraction videos and cosmetic surgery procedures. I find medical miracles fascinating, but for me, watching zit-popping is the equivalent of watching "2 Girls 1 Cup." The weird part is that I have no problem getting down to a self-extraction sesh with myself, but as a third-party viewer? Hard no.
Couple the self-sebum-bloodlust with my overeager exfoliating tendencies and I've found a perfect exfoliator to go to town on my face without overdoing it and getting the satisfying carnage of my dead skin turning into eraser dust.
Dubbed gommage (French for "gumming" — a gummy kind of scrubbing?), this type of exfoliator works in a unique way: you rub it around your face, and it clings to your outermost dead skin cells like micro-lint rollers, rolling them away in little bits.
I first got wind of these peeling gel exfoliators via Asian skincare products. Japan's alleged #1 exfoliating gel works this way too. I tried it a while ago, and it was fine, but it had a strong alcohol scent (even though alcohol isn't in it...?) that bothered me because my brain assumed it'd be drying.
Since then, I've found a Korean counterpart that does the job, smells like many other Korean skincare products (so like a medically sound gentle laundry detergent) and contains fermented birch sap, fermented pumpkin extract, and the same fermented yeast in my die-hard essences; I was into it before I even tried it on my skin.
I impulse-purchased a bottle at a local Korean beauty shop in Chinatown and tried it when I got home that night. Observe:
Look at all that gnarly eraser dust of dead skin!
Actually, don't be fooled — no one (with my level of skincare obsession) has that much dead skin hanging out on their face. I think that's the hype/deception of these gommage exfoliators. They're formulated to solidify and separate like that when mixed with oxygen and oil, like the small amount of oil on your face. The "eraser dust" acts as a super-gentle physical scrub (a gummy scrub, if you will), the particles of which pick up and cling to loose skin cells.
If you have really sensitive/reactive skin, these are great because you can't really over-scrub, so you don't need to worry about redness or micro-scarring.
I'm here for the fermented treatment ingredients in the formula that work simultaneously as I'm gumming away my rough skin.
The immediate result is super-soft, smooth, plump, hydrated-feeling skin. It says to use it once a week, but sometimes I use it a bit more frequently (I do notice there's more eraser dust the longer I go between uses).
I've noticed a few gommage exfoliators popping up from luxury skincare/beauty lines, most of which are the same kind of gel. I also found an exfoliating clay formula that works the same way from Mario Badescu: Rolling Cream Peel with AHA.
This has a clay-mask consistency (the main clay being kaolin) with alpha-hydroxy acids for a gentle exfoliating boost. This definitely has a learning curve. For one, when it says to apply a thin layer, apply a thin layer. Otherwise you'll be doing so much more work, rubbing and massaging it on your skin to get it to start gommage-ing.
Since it's a clay, it's tougher to massage, and I felt like I was just pushing my face around for a minute or so before the eraser dust started pilling. You're supposed to keep massaging the mask until the whole thing pills off your face, falling into (theoretically) the sink in front of you, and then remove the residue with a toner. This one is much more work, but you do double-duty by also helping clear your pores of excess oil.
Bonus: doing a gommage exfoliator before applying makeup is an excellent way to prep — it's almost like you don't even need primer (unless you use primer to cling to foundation as opposed to smoothing texture).
- Am I the only one new to these gommage exfolators? How come I'm always last to find out about everything?
- Are you guys pro-extraction-gore or does it make you super-squeamy like me?