Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin to produce smoother, brighter skin.
Exfoliation happens unintentionally when you shave or wax, but exfoliation should happen intentionally.
Cell renewal or “turn over” happens naturally when a new cell is formed below the skin’s surface. The new cell moves up toward the surface of the skin and eventually takes the place of the old cell. Each cell is replaced every 28 to 40 days. As we age, the cell turnover rate slows.
Intentional exfoliation helps the dead skin cells to be removed from the skin’s surface.
There are two types of exfoliation: physical and chemical.
Physical exfoliation includes dry brushing, using a salt or sugar scrub, or even just using a wash cloth. It is physical because you are using physical energy to remove the cells.
Chemical exfoliation is when a chemical, such as an acid, dissolves the dead cells. The chemical does the work instead of you.
How do you choose which method is best for you?
First, consider the area you want to exfoliate. You would not want to use the same method or product on your face that you would on your legs. Consider how delicate the skin is in the area. Also, consider if you have skin sensitivity.
Facial exfoliation will help makeup go on more smoothly. Your makeup will look more consistent and perform better on exfoliated skin.
Use caution when choosing a salt or sugar scrub. You want a scrub where the exfoliating substance has spherically-honed granules. DIY or inexpensive scrubs can cause microscopic tears in the skin. These tears can allow bacteria to enter the body through the skin. This is why you never want to shave or heavily exfoliate your lower legs before going for a pedicure. Those skin tears can allow bacteria to enter from the pedicure water.
Be gentle when you are using a physical exfoliate. Let the product do the work, not your muscles! You can’t scrub away a pimple, scar, or wrinkle. After exfoliating, your skin will look brighter, but the new cell coming to the surface is the same type of cell. Being too heavy-handed will only damage the skin’s barrier. The skin’s job is to protect our bodies from the environment.
You can over-exfoliate. You can tell if you have over-done it if your skin looks thin. Have you seen women who have skin that looks like you can see through it? This is from over-exfoliating, usually from retinols – a chemical exfoliate.
How often should you exfoliate?
Two to three times a week is plenty. We tend to focus on exfoliating the face, but forget that the rest of the body needs our help as well. Find a method of exfoliation you like and will use consistently. If you like to exfoliate in the shower, then choose something you can keep in the shower. Come up with a schedule – Sundays and Wednesdays for example – and exfoliate on those two days. This is an important step. How many of us have products in the shower that we do not use, but we look at them each day? Keep the schedule until it becomes a habit.
Making exfoliation a habit will lead to smoother, brighter skin.