If you’re thinking about adding daily exfoliation to your skincare routine, you may have quite a few questions. Does exfoliation really work? How are the exfoliation benefits? What does it mean to “exfoliate” the skin anyway?
You’ve got questions, and we’ve got answers. Take a look at these FAQs, and learn more about skin exfoliation – and how you can turbocharge your skin care routine by exfoliating your skin.
What Is Skin Exfoliation?
Skin exfoliation refers to any process that removes the outermost layer of dead skin cells on your skin’s surface. As part of the natural process of skin regeneration, outer layers of skin die and just “sit” on the exterior of the epidermis (the topmost layer of the skin.)
Removing these dead skin cells allows for the fresh skin underneath them to be revealed, leading to a wide variety of benefits (which we’ll discuss a bit later on).
If you’ve ever had any kind of “peel” or used any kind of loofah, body scrub or other abrasive material in the shower, you’ve already exfoliated your skin. There are a huge number of ways that you can exfoliate, which we’ll explore in the next section of this article.
How Does Skin Exfoliation Work? Understanding Chemical And Physical Exfoliation
There are two primary ways that skin exfoliation works – by using chemicals, or by using a physical facial exfoliants or object that has a mild abrasive quality to remove dead surface skin through friction. The following shows more information about physical and chemical exfoliation.
Chemical exfoliator usually includes some kind of acid such as an alpha hydroxy acid AHA, which reacts with the dead skin cells and the outer layer of your skin, to remove debris. Chemical peels, facial pads, and many other beauty products use this method of exfoliation. AHA includes glycolic acid and lactic acids. Some natural sources of AHA include citric fruits, berries, and apples. However, if you have sensitive skin, it can be tricky to find a gentle exfoliating product that won’t react with your skin.
Physical exfoliation uses some kind of abrasive product to physically “scrape” away dead skin. This could be a facial scrub skin care products that includes microbeads or some other mild abrasive, or a specialized pad which has been designed with a sandpapery texture. Water or a facial cleanser is used as a lubricant, and then the product is rubbed onto the skin, physically removing dead skin cells.
Do I Need A Special Tool To Exfoliate My Skin?
Not necessarily. You’re probably thinking of those electric exfoliating brushes, which have gotten very popular in recent years. Those are nice to have if you prefer physical exfoliation, but they’re not necessary. In almost all cases, you can simply purchase a chemical or physical exfoliation product, and use it on its own, with no other special tools or other skincare products required.
What Are The Major Exfoliation Benefits?
So, why bother with exfoliation at all? Well, it’s been scientifically proven to be an effective skincare method. Here are 4 major benefits of exfoliating, to preserve your skin and enhance its appearance.
1. It removes dead skin cells
This has a number of exfoliation benefits. It’s easier to apply foundation and makeup to a face that’s free of dead surface cells, for example, and to achieve even coverage. Removing dead skin cells also makes your skin look younger, and can reduce the intensity and color of dark spots and other skin imperfections of dark marks.
2. It reduces symptoms of acne and hormonal breakouts
If they are not removed regularly, dead skin cells can combine with facial oil and sebum especially for oily skin. Then, this debris may clog your pores, and cause acne. Whether you suffer from hormonal breakouts or any other kind of acne with clog pores, exfoliation helps remove these cells, unclog pores and prevent them from building up and causing blemishes. Salicylic acid based chemical peels have proven to be particularly effective for this .
3. It enhances skin texture and glowing skin appearance
Healthy, living skin has a much better texture and a more youthful appearance. When you remove the outermost layer of dead cells, you’ll immediately notice a huge difference in the brightness and “glow” of your skin.
4. Improves moisture absorption and retention
Dead skin cells do not need moisture, as they’ll eventually just slough off of your face. If you apply moisturizer while you have a thick layer of dead skin over your epidermis, it won’t be absorbed as readily. Conversely, if you exfoliate before applying a moisturizer, your skin will be able to absorb all of the nutrients and moisture that it needs, which reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and keeps your skin looking younger and healthier. Also, it is important to choose a high quality organic skin care moisturizer for optimum results.
Exfoliating Tips: Is It Possible To Over-Exfoliate?
Yes. Whether you use chemical peels or a physical, abrasive product to exfoliate your skin, it’s definitely possible to overdo it and start scraping away healthy skin from your epidermis. If you do this, you’ll probably notice some facial pain and irritation, as well as redness.
This is counterproductive to the goals of exfoliation, so we recommend that you use common sense when exfoliating, and don’t overdo it. If you have “normal” skin, we recommend exfoliating two (and no more than three) times per week. If your skin is sensitive, exfoliate mostly once per week.
What’s Microdermabrasion? Is It The Same As Exfoliation?
Microdermabrasion is usually delivered at spas and beauty clinics. It uses physical exfoliation, usually through a crystal-based skin product, and a special suction machine to remove the outermost layer of dead skin cells from your skin.
Given the powerful clinical tools used, microdermabrasion can typically do a better job of thoroughly removing dead skin cells, compared to at-home treatments. However, it’s still doing the same thing – using an abrasive medium to remove dead skin. If you’ve got the budget, feel free to get microdermabrasion treatments, but there’s nothing wrong with DIY exfoliation, either! You’ll see similar results.
Regular exfoliation is simple, and it’s easy to add to your existing natural skin care routine. Just be sure to pick out high-quality products that work for your skin type and skin conditions, and be gentle – over-exfoliating can lead to discomfort and irritation. Start today to experience the exfoliation benefits.
Reference and Citations:
 Arif, Tasleem (26 August 2015). “Salicylic acid as a peeling agent: a comprehensive review“. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. 2015; 8: 455–461.