The French Exfoliation Method You've Probably Never Heard of Before

It's perfect for sensitive skin.

Updated 09/25/19
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We love international beauty, which is why we report on it often. Most recently, we took a deep dive into the surprising simplification of the traditional 10-step Korean skincare routine, we learned about the one makeup product Italian girls love most, and we read a first-person account of the French-meets-Cali facial of one editor's dreams. Like we said, we love all things international beauty, and we've found some of our favorite products, philosophies, and techniques from exploring our findings.

This time we're talking about a gentle method of exfoliation that's favorited by the French. It's called gommage, and even though it's popular in France, it's still relatively unknown in the U.S. Despite the lack of stateside popularity, I think it's high time we all become familiar with gommage and it's skin benefits, so keep scrolling to learn all about it straight from Valerie Grandury, who is a French beauty expert and founder of all-natural skincare brand Odacité.

Gommage
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Gommage is a method of gentle exfoliation in which manual and chemical exfoliation is combined in order to slough away dead skin and other debris from the surface of the skin. "Gommage, which in French means 'to erase,' is a product that exfoliates the face and/or body," Grandury explains. "This is done through the use of enzymes paired with the method of mechanical exfoliation through gently rubbing the product to activate it. The active enzymes break down the topical keratin protein and remove the dead skin cells."

Like all other forms of exfoliation, gommage unclogs pores, prevents acne, allows other skincare products to penetrate deeper, evens skin tone, and increases cell turnover. However, it does all of these things gently and in such a way as to not irritate or inflame the skin. How, you ask? It's simple. It maintains the skin's natural barrier. "Gommage is a French spa classic that is making a big come back. One of the rule in French skincare is 'do no harm.' Sadly the peel craze has done a lot of damage, thinning the skin and compromising the skin barrier. This gommage method is uber-effective yet does no harm." I see this "no-harm" efficacy first-hand, since I have traditionally red, sensitive skin (but more on that in a second).

Gommage
 Stocksy

"Gommage is most definitely a more gentle alternative to the exfoliant methods we see on the market today (many of which are harsh and/or damaging when used in the incorrect way)," she continues. "This beloved method not only effectively removes topical dead skin cells but it also simultaneously maintains the integrity of the skin barrier."

This makes gommage essential for anyone who struggles with sensitivity, redness, or inflammation (like yours truly). Oftentimes, when I exfoliate with masks, scrubs, or peel pads, I'm left with red, stinging skin. Even when I use a calming serum and moisturizer after, the redness and slight burning feeling takes time to subside. That's why I've found myself sticking to tried-and-true favorites that I know won't irritate my skin—like Peach & Lily's Super Reboot Resurfacing Mask and Ole Henriksen's PHAT Glow Facial Mask, both of which I have inducted into my metaphorical exfoliation hall of fame.

Gommage
Odacité Bioactive Rose Gommage $62
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Odacite's Bioactive Rose Gommage is the latest product to be inducted into my metaphorical exfoliation hall of fame. Here's the low-down. You can use this product as a traditional exfoliating mask or as a gommage. If you prefer the former, leave it on until it dries down and gently rinse it off the skin. If you prefer the latter, leave it on until it's just slightly tacky to the touch. Then, gently massage it around your skin in circular motions until it starts pilling under your fingers and falling away from the skin. I use it both ways, although I find the gommage method to be more tactile and thus more satisfying. Maybe it's because I can actually see the product rolling up and falling away, but every time I use it in this way, I feel like I'm making a big difference to the state of my otherwise dull and congested skin.

After each use, my skin looks and feels smooth and plump, but here's the kicker: There's no down time. Unlike other exfoliating products, I don't have to wait for any redness or stinging to subside before my skin looks calm, bright, and glowy. In other words, it's a gentle exfoliating product that's actually gentle and exfoliating (crazy, right?).

Aside from the gentle yet effective exfoliation it offers, I love the cooling gel texture and the fresh rose scent (so many rose products smell heavy and powdery, like an old school perfume, so I appreciate the way that this smells light and botanical). I use it once a week or so, switching it in and out with the other aforementioned exfoliating masks, so that I end up exfoliating my skin about 3 times a week. That's the ideal amount, according to Grandury. "Dependant on the user's skin type, skin condition, and overall sensitivity level, the usage may vary. But a good rule of thumb would be to exfoliate at least 2 to 3 times a week."

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