Exfoliation in skincare refers to the removal of old dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. The skin sheds dead skin cells every 28-40 days on its own but these dead cells do not shed completely. This can make the skin appear flaky and patchy. Exfoliating can help to prevent this. The skin’s natural exfoliating process can be slowed down by aging, hormones and even weather changes. This simple guide to exfoliation will explain the basic things to know about exfoliation.
Exfoliation can be done by physical or chemical means each having its advantages and disadvantages. Physical Exfoliation is achieved when dead skin cells are removed mechanically. Physical exfoliants can be in form of
- Face brushes
- Face clothes
- Rinse-off products like scrubs and peeling gels.
Physical exfoliation has its advantages like immediate results, that instant gratification that you get after using your Neutrogena scrub when your face instantly brightens up immediately after. Physical exfoliants pose less risks to the environment and because more often than not they’re reusable. This makes them not only environmentally friendly but economic.
Physical exfoliation only works on the uppermost skin layers. They can also be irritating when you scrub too hard. Results gotten from physical exfoliation can be quite uniform since its possible to devote the same intensity of scrubbing to all areas uniformly. Scrubbing particles can be messy too.
Chemical exfoliation occurs when a product is applied to the skin in order to break down dead skin layers so they can be sloughed off or easily removed from the surface of the skin. This type of exfoliation can be achieved by the use of AHAs such as Lactic acid, glycolic acid and BHAs.
One of the advantages of chemical exfoliation over physical exfoliation is that chemical exfoliation provides a more uniform or even result. Chemical exfoliants also have other secondary advantages like fading hyperpigmentation and smoothing out wrinkles.
Other Exfoliation Methods
Some methods of hair removal have exfoliating benefits to the skin. Waxing for example is a mechanical process whose primary aim is the removal of hair but it indirectly exfoliates skin. But because waxing is not done as frequently as exfoliation it should not replace an actual exfoliation routine.
Use of retinoids as exfoliants is actually on the increase. Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives that exfoliate the skin by speeding up skin cell renewal.
Protein-digesting enzymes from fruits like papaya, kiwi and pineapple can dissolve the cells of dead skin which makes them good enough for exfoliation.
How Often Should You Exfoliate
When starting out on chemical exfoliants, less is always more. It is advisable to start with a low percentage product before working one’s way up. And because it is better to underexfoliate than overexfoliate, you should start once a week for a few months and gently work up to using 3 times a week.
While exfoliation produces magical results, overexfoliation can set back your weeks of progress. Chemical exfoliation is more suited to oily and acne-prone skin while dry and sensitive skin will greatly benefit from physical exfoliation.
Check out some fan favourite exfoliants below!