Our skin cells get old and die. When we’re young, those dead cells remove themselves with little effort on our part. As we get older they need more help, and if they don’t get that help, they start to pile up in a disorderly fashion. This makes our skin’s surface irregular.
The irregular surface refracts and reflects light in funky ways. That funkiness is what makes us look dull, drab and sallow.
Those piles of dead skin cells, along with oil and dirt, can also get trapped inside your pores. This “stew” emphasizes your pores and makes them look larger. Your face looks bumpy with blackheads and pimples instead of smooth and clear.
Why Do You Need To Exfoliate?
Exfoliation helps to get rid of that disorganized, clumpy layer of cells so that new skin cells can be laid down in an orderly fashion. The new orderly cells are smoother and reflect and refract light in a way that makes skin look more radiant and youthful. Exfoliation also helps to clean out your pores to keep skin looking smooth.
If you want to look luminous, then you need to exfoliate.
Types of Exfoliators:
There are two main ways to exfoliate your skin. They are chemical exfoliators and physical or mechanical exfoliators. Each one works in it’s own special way.
You may have heard of alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA’s) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHA’s). Those are chemical exfoliators. They’re not the only chemical exfoliators, but they are the most popular.
Some names you may be familiar with include glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, phytic acid, and salicylic acid (just to name a few). These acids work by dissolving the bonds that keep dead skin cells attached to our face. This loosens the cells so they slough off down the drain (see ya).
- AHA’s target fine lines and wrinkles and help increase hydration. Glycolic acid is a popular and effective AHA.
- BHA’s get deeper into the pores than AHA’s and work great for acne. Malic acid is a commonly used BHA in many formulations.
The AHA’s can make your skin more sensitive to the sun so wearing sunscreen is even more important if you use them.
BHA’s don’t tend to have the same effect.
The stronger acids can be too aggressive for those with dry or sensitive skin. A mild glycolic acid is recommended as it acts as a humectant (moisturizer) as well as exfoliator.
Chemical exfoliators can also be included in a facial cleanser. You are busy, and adding an additional step to your skin care routine may not be something you can make a habit. An exfoliating cleanser combines 2 steps into one.
- Glycolix 10% Moisturizing Cleanser is recommended by several dermatologists. It has some great ingredients including green tea and can be used by pretty much any skin type.
- MD Sun makes Skin Exfoliation Pads that have some amazing ingredients. These will not only help remove pore-clogging debris to minimize breakouts but will also improve skin tone and texture.
- A great exfoliating cleanser for your body, and one that I use, is Glytone Exfoliating Body Wash. I usually follow the wash with Glytone Exfoliating Body Lotion. These are both gentle and hydrating. The only downside is that the lotion has more of a medicinal smell. The odor is undetectable a few seconds after it’s applied.
Physical exfoliators use a tool like brushes, sponges, or scrubs to remove dead skin cells. Some examples include salt and sugar scrubs, Buf-Puf, jojoba beads, coffee, and oatmeal.
A couple of professional physical exfoliation treatments include microdermabrasion and dermaplaning.
- Microdermabrasion involves gently sanding away dead skin cells. This is accomplished with either an applicator with an abrasive surface or a spray of fine particles like aluminium oxide or sodium bicarbonate with suction.
- Dermaplaning is essentially shaving off the top layer of dead skin cells along with any “peach fuzz” you may have. This is great if you wear face makeup or use sunless tanner on your face. It makes for a smooth finish.
The key to physical exfoliation is to gently apply the exfoliant using small, circular motions.
You don’t need to grind it into your face and you don’t need to spend an hour exfoliating. Gently rub in circular motions for approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute. Do this one to two times per week. Any more and your run the risk of over exfoliating causing raw, irritated skin.
- These types of exfoliants can be too aggressive for those with dry, sensitive, or acne-prone skin.
- They do work beautifully on normal or combination skin.
- Physical exfoliators also work great for all that skin that is not on your face, neck or décolletage.
Rodan and Fields offers a Micro-Dermabrasion Paste that works for the skin on your face and your body. It’s made with small salt and sugar granules which will gently buff away dead skin cells. It also works great for my lips.
Another great option for a physical exfoliator is to use a rough shower cloth. Salux exfoliating shower cloth is inexpensive and long enough to reach your back. Don’t use this on your face. It’s meant for the rest of your body. I love that I can scrub my back easily and it feels great!
I also use a body scrubbing sponge by Daily Concepts. I received this one in my New Beauty Test Tube and I really like it. It even comes with a handy suction cup holder so the sponge hang-dries.
Benefits of Exfoliation:
- Improved skin hydration
- Smoother skin surface
- Increased collagen production
- Improved skin tone and texture
- Minimizing the appearance of wrinkles
- Your products will work better because they don’t have a gooey layer of dead skin to go through
- If you use sunless tanner, exfoliating is a must before application. This will ensure an even, streak-free tan
All of these benefits contribute to a more radiant, youthful glow
How to Exfoliate:
- Cleanse and tone your face, neck & décolletage. If exfoliating the rest of your body then you don’t need to tone.
- Apply preferred exfoliant.
- If using a physical exfoliant, gently scrub in circular motions for approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Do not exfoliate directly on your eye lids or on your lower lash line. It’s okay to exfoliate around your eyes (think crow’s feet area). Just be very careful to not get it in your eyes.
- If you are using a physical exfoliant, then you will need to rinse with tepid water and pat dry. Some chemical exfoliants require rinsing and some don’t. Make sure you read the label.
- Apply any other products and you’re good to go.
- Many dermatologists recommend exfoliating once to twice per week. If you are using a low strength chemical exfoliator you can benefit from daily application.
- You can experiment with different kinds and strengths to see what your skin likes best.
Exfoliation is something almost everyone could benefit from. Whether you opt for a physical or chemical exfoliator (or both), your skin will reward you.
How to safely exfoliate at home
Epidermal Permeability Barrier in the Treatment of Keratosis Pilaris
Cosmetic and dermatologic use of alpha hydroxy acids
Applications of hydroxy acids: classification, mechanisms, and photoactivity
Hydroxy acids and retinoids in cosmetics
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