Health and beauty hacks are plentiful on TikTok, because most of us are open to any product or technique that may improve our self-care or simplify our daily routine. The latest trend sweeping the video-sharing site promises a more effective and efficient approach to a common skin-care practice: exfoliation.
The concept of using an exfoliating glove to slough off dead skin isn’t new — Korean spas have been offering the service for many years. Yet the oddly satisfying images of dead skin cells shedding from users’ bodies on social media are causing the technique to have a moment. On TikTok the search term “exfoliating gloves” yields a whopping 128.7 million views, while #exfoliatingglove has racked up more than 62 million views, with thousands of users sharing their own video evidence that the budget-friendly beauty item is more effective at sloughing unwanted dead skin off the body than other physical or chemical exfoliators.
The gloves look similar to a tanning mitt and are worn over the hand. Most videos offer a similar demonstration: Users rub the glove up and down their legs and other body parts, oftentimes after soaking in a tub, resulting in visible skin shedding.
A silk exfoliating glove from No. 1 Illume has achieved cultlike status on TikTok. One video shared by Hana Amara in which she used the glove from the British beauty brand has been viewed over 6.6 million times. Not only does it offer physical evidence that the glove effectively and immediately sheds dead skin, but she says it is the only relief her sister, who has the skin condition keratosis pilaris, has found to treat her dry, rough patches of skin with tiny bumps.
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How Do Exfoliating Gloves Work?
Kathleen C. Suozzi, MD, the director of aesthetic dermatology at Yale Medicine and an assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, explains that there are two ways to exfoliate the skin: chemically with topical acids, or mechanically (sometimes referred to as physically) with scrubs in the form of washes or tools such as sponges or brushes. “Exfoliating gloves are made from fabrics that are designed to remove dead skin cells with gentle mechanical abrasion,” she says.
Howard Sobel, MD, a clinical attending cosmetic dermatologic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, adds that they are designed to instantly remove the top layer of dead skin cells from the epidermis and fit seamlessly onto hands, making it easy to get to hard-to-reach areas like the back and shoulders, the bikini area, and the heels and toes, making “thorough body exfoliation easy, quick, and mess-free,” he says. “It’s almost like a dry rub spa treatment that you can do at home.”
They are great multitaskers, too: Dr. Sobel suggests adding your cleanser or shower gel to the glove to wash and exfoliate simultaneously. Once any dead skin is removed, your moisturizer will penetrate the skin, providing improved hydration, as the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) notes.
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Are There Any Risks to Using Exfoliating Gloves?
The AAD explains that mechanical exfoliation may not be right for every person. For example, people using certain medications or skin-care products that cause dry or sensitive skin may experience acne or extra dryness. And some skin types may not react well, including dry, sensitive, or acne-prone skin. They also urge anyone with a darker skin tone to avoid mechanical exfoliation, as it may result in dark spots on the skin.
While exfoliating gloves can make exfoliation easy, Sobel points out that if they’re left in the shower they may be too convenient and lead to overexfoliation even for those with normal skin types.
“Overexfoliation breaks down the skin’s barrier and can create micro cracks in the skin that let in bacteria and germs,” he explains. “It can also irritate some conditions, creating redness and inflammation in the skin.”
Generally, Dr. Suozzi says, if you’re using exfoliating gloves more than once or twice a week, you may be overdoing it. But “for most people it is a safe and effective means of skin exfoliation.”
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When to Avoid Using Exfoliating Gloves
Suozzi advises people with acne and people with sensitive skin to be cautious when using exfoliating gloves.
For individuals with acne-prone skin, overuse of exfoliating gloves may cause acne mechanica, a type of acne caused by heat, pressure, or friction on the skin, according to the AAD. “Mechanical exfoliation can lead to minor abrasion in the skin if overdone,” she says.
“In patients with sensitive skin, repetitive mechanical exfoliation could cause irritation, could flare acne or eczema, and in extreme circumstances could lead to skin superinfection,” which she explains is a staph or other bacterial or viral infection on the skin, usually occurring on damaged skin as a result of a rash or procedure.
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Should You Use Exfoliating Gloves?
As long as you avoid overuse, both MDs give their seal of approval when it comes to the latest TikTok trend. “I recommend them, especially in the wintertime to buff off dry, flaky skin and keep the body smooth,” Sobel says.
And, they are an “easy and fast way to incorporate exfoliation into your skin-care regimen,” adds Suozzi. “Also, generally speaking, they are low cost.” One of the most popular exfoliating gloves on Amazon, EvridWear, with an average 4.5 star rating in more than 15,000 reviews, retails for $14 for two pairs (four gloves), compared with the $22 viral No. 1 Illume single glove.
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