Exfoliating properly is one of the secrets to achieving soft, glowing skin. Up until your mid-20s, skin is completely renewed about every 28 days. That means that the dead, superficial skin cells are completely replaced with fresh cells. This constant regeneration of new skin keeps it radiant and luminous. As we get older, the skin can take twice as long to renew itself. As a result, the old skin cells stick around too long, and the skin appears dry and discolored. The process of massaging exfoliation removes these dead, sticky cells and stimulates the stem cells to generate fresh skin, which will lead to a more radiant complexion.
Even if you’re young, another reason to exfoliate is to remove dirt and toxins that accumulate in pores, leading to blackheads and breakouts. Exfoliation helps slough off dead skin cells, removes dirt and makes pores appear smaller. Exfoliating properly will also enhance penetration of skin care products, thus making them more effective.
There are basically two types of exfoliation: physical and chemical. Physical exfoliation consists of manually removing surface skin using abrasive forces. The downside to physical exfoliants is that many have edges that may cut and damage the protective barrier of the skin, causing inflammation and broken blood vessels. At home, choose an exfoliant with smooth beads and avoid those with seeds, nuts, husks or pits. And, never use a loofah as it harbors millions of germs. If your face feels raw or is red, you are being too aggressive, using it too often or using too harsh of a product. Even better, go to a dermatology office and get a professional treatment. A device called DermaSweep evenly removes skin cells and then infuses active ingredients into the skin, specific to your skin’s needs. This treatment will give your skin an immediate glow without any downtime.
Chemical exfoliation can be achieved with fruit enzymes or acids. They are effective for separating the “cement” holding old skin cells in place on the surface of the skin. Natural enzymes may be derived from pineapple (bromelain), papaya (papain), pomegranate and pumpkin. Acids, such as alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) and beta hydroxy acids (BHA), are also valuable. AHAs such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, mandelic acid and citric acid have anti-aging benefits to help moisturize, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and even out skin tone. BHAs such as salicylic acid are best suited for oily, inflamed or acne-prone skin.
In general, everyone should exfoliate. How often is determined by which products you choose and your skin type. The oilier your skin and the warmer the climate, the more you can exfoliate. In drier environments and colder weather, you will exfoliate less. Many people incorrectly believe that exfoliating may be too rough on dry skin, which is not the case. In fact, women with dry skin actually get an abnormal buildup of skin cells, preventing normal exfoliation and normal moisture retention. Exfoliating properly will actually improve the skin barrier and allow skin to hold on to more moisture.
My preference is to use a cleanser containing salicylic acid with an ultrasonic brush (Clarisonic or Philips PureRadiance) with monthly in-office DermaSweep treatments. Avoid harsh brushes that will irritate the skin. Exfoliating should leave your skin feeling healthy and refreshed, not sensitive, burning or red.