Over the last couple of years I’ve been hibernating a lot at home, so I’ve built up a lot of dead skin. When I found out about these special exfoliating mitts that make rolls of skin come off I got pretty excited – because I knew I’d be in for a treat. A disgusting treat.
The video is here, keep scrolling for the text version…
Why do we need to exfoliate?
We normally have 10 to 20 layers of dead skin in our stratum corneum, the topmost level of our epidermis. These cells normally shed in a process called desquamation, but sometimes your skin needs a bit of a nudge. How well your skin desquamates depends on many factors like age, hydration, the climate, and your skincare routine – in general, moisturised skin sheds more easily.
For more about different exfoliants and how to add them to your routine, check out my Free Exfoliation Guide
If you have too much dead skin it looks dry and flaky, dull, and it can also trap ingrown hairs.
There are a lot of different ways to exfoliate, but cloth mitts have taken off lately. They’re sold as Turkish bath mittens, but I think they’re actually used by a lot of cultures around the middle east and north Africa. They’re traditionally used after a steam bath when the skin is really soft.
While they’re mostly advertised for use on the body, some of them also say that you can use them on your face.
The most famous one is probably the Baiden Glove. It is $78, has rave reviews, and calls itself the “superior exfoliator glove”.
The keywords on Amazon include
- dead skin
- highly recommended
- make sure
- stretch marks
- dry skin
- worth every penny
- worth the money
and most importantly,
- much dead
So overall very promising!
But right next to it on Amazon, I also saw gloves that were only eight dollars each.
So of course, I had to buy them all and try them out.
Testing exfoliating gloves
I actually bought two types of the cheaper gloves. One is a lot rougher and the other is softer, but the listings don’t really give any indication.
The mitts are all made from rayon fiber. They have a weave that makes them a balance of rough and soft – rough enough to scrub off dead skin, but soft enough that you don’t destroy everything else. They work a bit like really fine grit sandpaper to mechanically buff away dead skin cells.
The Baiden mitten (the expensive one) comes in relatively fancy cardboard packaging. It’s a sachet covered in direct marketing, shopping tv-style marketing, and even has a little money-back guarantee seal in the corner. There’s Papyrus font, and it comes with the story of the mitten inside it, with actual marketing copy, and instructions, and claims to last for two years.
The other two mittens came in sandwich bags.
I don’t think I’d pay all that extra money just for the cardboard packaging (although it is an interesting read), but that’s your choice.
The expensive Baiden mitten has a fine sort of grit, but it still feels rough.
With the cheaper mitts:
- The black mitt has the same fine fineness of the grit, but feels a lot smoother, almost like it’s been worn down already.
- The red mitt was a lot rougher and coarser.
After using them a bunch of times, you can actually really feel the difference between the fabric. The Baiden glove feels a lot finer, and thinner. These other two gloves are a bit stiffer. They don’t feel like they’re quite as nicely woven, and the Baiden glove definitely feels like it’s of higher quality.
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I also looked at the weave of these under a microscope, so you can see that the Baiden mitt does have a different weave from the other two.
The most important part is, of course, the actual results.
I tried them according to the instructions, which say to try these right after a shower and to rub them back and forth, not in circles.
Trial 1: Shins
The Baiden glove definitely got the rolls off much faster (you can see this happening in the video). But the red glove did pretty well too, while the Black Glove was a bit underwhelming – there were some rolls, but it took a lot of effort.
However, with all the messing around with the cameras, I think my second shin dried out a bit before I got to it so that might’ve biased the results.
Trial 2: Thighs
I tried again on my thighs, but with the cheaper mitts first to check if the drying time made a difference.
Black mitt: tiny amount of rolls
Red mitt: some rolls
Baideng mitt: some rolls
So I think the Red mitt is capable of getting these rolls, although maybe not as much as the Baiden mitt.
With all the mitts, my skin was incredibly soft afterwards.
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Trial 3: Face
All of these mitts say you can use them on your face, but I was really hesitant to use the red one on my face because it feels so much rougher than the other two.
I tried the Baiden mitt on one of my cheeks, and some small rolls did come off, but I didn’t press very hard because I was pretty scared. My cheek felt red and hot afterwards, but it didn’t really sting any more than my other cheek when I put on products later.
I don’t know if I would recommend using it on your face. It might be an option if you don’t use any other exfoliating or irritating ingredients, and limit it to maybe once a week on your face with very gentle pressure. But for most skincare enthusiasts who use a lot of irritating skin care products, it’s probably not a great option, especially if your barrier is already somewhat compromised.
Dead skin rolls under the microscope
I also looked through the roll-covered glove through my microscope. You can see that the rolls are actually dead skin, and the mitt stays intact. The rolls don’t look at all like the fibers in the mitt, so it’s very different from a peeling gel where the rolls are mostly bunched up product.
Related post: Do peeling gels really peel off my skin? (with video)
The Baiden mitt packaging made a lot of claims, so let’s go through them:
The Baiden mitt claims to be like microdermabrasion, which I really doubt – the rayon mitt really just isn’t as efficient as the mineral particles used in microdermabrasion. If they had a study where they compared the two head to head, I’d be okay with that comparison. But as it stands, it’s pretty exaggerated.
“Immediate improvement in blackheads and large pores”
You might dislodge some blackheads, especially after the steam from the shower, but I don’t think you’ll do that much. Blackheads are oxidized sebum and cells inside your pores, and not really on the surface. This sort of physical exfoliation is very surface-level.
I think you would get much more benefit if you use something like a chemical exfoliant that can get deeper into the pores. It’s the same with large pores – I don’t think it’s going to do very much.
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Firmness and Wrinkles
I think this does increase circulation, which can make your skin temporarily more firm. It’s not going to do anything like stimulate collagen though.
Exfoliation in general does help the appearance of wrinkles, and that’s simply because if you have a whole bunch of dead skin, it can make wrinkles look a lot coarser.
Scars and Stretch Marks
Exfoliation might make these look a bit better because you’re helping the surface look better, but it’s not going to have a really big or permanent effect.
Massage, in general, can reduce stretch marks and it can soften up scars. But beyond that, I don’t think the glove is doing anything special that any other exfoliant wouldn’t also do.
Improve Skin Tone
Exfoliating with this mitt can get rid of maybe some cells on the surface, but I don’t think it’s going to make a massive difference to skin tone. On the other hand, a stronger chemical exfoliant like lactic acid can make a larger difference with superficial pigment.
Finally a claim that isn’t overblown! An exfoliating glove can definitely help remove dry, flaky skin.
Deep Skin Detox
“Detox” is always a red flag for pseudoscience.
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This exfoliating mitt can definitely help with even tanning. Fake tan reacts with dead skin, so if you have a lot of dead skin in one area and not somewhere else, you end up with a patchy tan. Exfoliating before a tan is always a good idea.
Related post: The Science of How Fake Tan Works
I guess all exfoliation can help a bit with acne, but this is a pretty big claim for something that’s just a physical exfoliant!
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Is this mitt too rough on skin?
There’s a bit of concern that these exfoliating gloves are too rough on skin. I think it really depends.
One of the issues is that these are really prone to user error. It’s very exciting to be rubbing off all of this dead skin… but it turns out that you need some dead skin!
Those 10 to 20 layers on the surface of your skin are there to protect the living layers of your skin. If you get rid of too many, then you end up with a really compromised barrier. You’ll experience stinging and irritation, and it takes a while to build that barrier back up.
So self-control is essential with these gloves. You can’t go too hard, or use them too often.
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I think it’s especially dangerous on your face because a lot of us already use active ingredients that can pack down our stratum corneum. So if you’re using a mitt on top of exfoliating actives, then you’re probably getting rid of too much skin. That means that you end up with a compromised barrier, and that means irritation and sensitivity. Your face skin is also thinner than skin on most of your body, so you’ve got less dead skin to take off to begin with.
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Bacteria and mold
You also have to be careful when looking after exfoliating gloves. They need to be washed and dried out properly in between uses.
Dead skin is really good food for microbes, and in combination with moisture you can end up with lots of bacteria and mold. Then if you rub the mitt back onto your skin, you can end up with an infection.
The most common infection is Pseudomonas folliculitis, which is when Pseudomonas bacteria end up in your hair follicles. It looks a bit like tiny red pimples with pus in them – not the kind of gross we want!
So is the $70 brand-name version worth it?
I think the Baiden mitt does have a much nicer texture than the cheaper ones. It feels a lot more effective without being too rough. It also feels a lot better constructed, so it should last a bit longer (2 years according to the packaging).
I do think the cheaper mitts can still definitely do the job. But it might take a few goes to find the right one, and you might end up with one that doesn’t really do much, or one that’s a bit too rough. I think if I weren’t trying these for a review, I would probably just buy five cheaper ones and use the one that worked best.
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