Sure, you can cleanse, moisturize, and slather on the sunscreen but if you’re not exfoliating, your efforts won’t amount to much. Every 28 to 45 days, our skin renews itself. The new “baby” cells are born deep within the dermis and move up to the epidermis only to slowly die in turn. Therefore, the surface of our skin is made up of dead skin cells and once they fall off or are removed, the old ones will be replaced by new, healthy cells until those too become dead cells in a regular cycle. As we age however, cell turnover slows down and if dead skin cells are left and start to clump together, leeching the luster from your skin, making it look dull, lifeless and at times even grey.
In order to stimulate the production of newer cells and keep your skin healthy, you should ensure that exfoliation is part of your skin care regimen. There are two ways to exfoliate – mechanical or chemical. Scrubbing or even scratching skin is already a form of mechanical exfoliation. This method uses physical abrasion to rub off dead skin cells. Examples of this method include using salt or sugar scrubs, coffee grounds, and skin brushing. When picking out your body scrub, go for products that have small, round and gentle particles like jojoba. Scrubs that are too harsh or have jagged particles can leave micro tears on your skin. Be sure to use a gentle, light touch when exfoliating – that’s enough to get rid of the dead skin cells. Any harder and you’ll just be irritating or even hurting your skin.
The other method is chemical exfoliation such as peels and masks. This makes use of enzymes, alphahydroxy acids or betahydroxy acids to provide a deep level of exfoliation. These chemicals will help loosen the glue holding cells together so they can be washed off. Glycolic acids reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while salicylic acids work on acne. Retinoids meanwhile help to promote cell turnover while exfoliating the skin. Chemical peels may be gentle or abrasive, depending on how strong the peel is.
Whether your skin is oily, dry, combination or normal, regular exfoliation should be part of your skin care routine. For oily skin that’s prone to acne, exfoliation can help unclog your pores. Experts recommend exfoliating no more than once a week because too much scrubbing would actually stress your sebaceous glands more and make breakouts worse. For those suffering from a bad case of acne, you can pay a visit to your dermatologist and for a chemical peel using salicylic acid and retinoic acid.
For dry or sensitive skin, you’ll need to use an even gentler and lighter touch to avoid irritation. Steer clear of strong exfoliants such as those that contain glycolic acids. Instead, go for scrubs that have rounded particles and gently massage them unto your skin using light, small and circular motions. Again, once a week is enough and over exfoliating can backfire in the form of irritated and even more dried out skin.
Those with normal skin can withstand more varied forms of exfoliation and deeper pressure. You can use alpha-hydroxy acid cleansers and use a facial massager to aid the products in penetrating your skin better and even leave you with a rosy glow due to stimulated blood circulation.
Exfoliation, when properly and regularly done, will remove dead skin cells from the top layer of the skin. This would allow the moisturizers and other creams that nourish the skin to actually seep in and work on healthy cells rather than sitting on top of dead ones.