Pretty much the first regular, at-home beauty treatment I indulged in was an exfoliator. Obsessed with the size of my pores (magnifying mirrors have a lot to answer for) and persistent oiliness, I was convinced I could scrub my skin into submission. Like drinking Malibu and hanging around unsuitable boys, scrubbing perfumed grit into my face was a hard teenage habit to drop. But drop it I did, and thank goodness, because guess what? Madly scrubbing away at oily skin is precisely what you should not do.
The line between exfoliating and overstimulating oil glands is a fine one, as I learned to my cost, yet I still find myself tempted to reach for the grit as soon as my skin shows signs of oiliness. For some reason, I seem to apply the no pain, no gain rule to exfoliators - unless I can feel the top layer of my skin being stripped away, or at least some sort of stinging or burning sensation, I just don't believe they're doing me any good. And judging by the inside of my friends' bathroom cabinets, I'm not the only one.
But times they are a-changin', and there is a new generation of exfoliators. They work a treat, and there's not a grain of grit in sight. Cream exfoliators and peels are the way ahead, and I predict that in a couple of years the old ones will seem as dated as french manicures and white musk perfume.
"We were very conditioned, especially in the 1990s, that the harder the particle, the more effective the scrub. But not now," says Noella Gabriel, director of product and treatment development at Elemis. "Now, we have 'peels' and exfoliating creams with no particles, which give the resurfacing effect but without the aggression."
If you must use a scrub, make sure it's a natural one, says Gabriel, and use it in moderation, once a week at most. If you're going down the peel or cream route, ask for advice at a beauty counter, but don't be bullied into buying anything scary - anything more complicated than a wash-on, wash-off job shouldn't be done at home. Hardcore exfoliating should be left to the experts.