Our bodies naturally shed dead skin cells from the outer layer of the skin. As we age, this natural process slows down, leading to a buildup of dead skin cells on the epidermis. This creates duller, rougher and less radiant looking skin. Regular exfoliation will encourage the removal of dead skin cells to reveal the newer, younger skin. It also reduce dullness, speed up skin recovery and help fade acne scars faster.
Even in my teenage years when my skin was at its best, I enjoyed exfoliation. It helps brighten the face and encourages skin turnover so that acne scars and pigmentation fade faster. I now rely on exfoliation to bring back youthful radiance whenever my skin begins to dull.
Physical Exfoliant: Scrubs and Creams
There are many physical exfoliants on the market. They usually consist of sugar, salt, or some sort mineral crystals or beads. They are often inexpensive and easy to use. The small granule in these scrubs rub against the skin to manually remove the dead cells. Scrubbing too hard can lead to irritated and red skin. The Biore Even Smoother Microderm Exfoliator is my go-to exfoliator as it is immediately effective and sold in most drugstores. I do not recommend St. Ives Apricot Scrub because it contains sharper exfoliants that can cause micro-tears in the skin and widen pores.
Physical Exfoliants: Exfoliating Devices
As another physical exfoliant, these skin polishing devices work in a similar way to the scrubs and cream exfoliants above. That is, they physically brush away dead skin cells to leave you with a fresher canvas. These tools trend to be effective and are easy to work with – albeit they can be expensive. If you are a believer of exfoliation, however, they are worth the investment. The Clarisonic is a very popular tool. A drugstore alternative is the Neutrogena Wave. You can also read my review on the Sigma Cleansing and Polishing Tool here.
Chemical exfoliants come in many form and often contain alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) or beta hydroxy acid (BHA), found naturally in some fruits. Salicylic acid, a common ingredient in acne creams, also works as an ingredient in chemical exfoliants. These chemicals work by weakening the bond that holds dead skin cells to your own skin. This results in the loss of the dead layer of skin, revealing the newer, younger cells. The advantage to chemical exfoliants is that they don’t require manual scrubbing and physical abrasion of the skin. Some chemicals can be harsh though, so proceed with care and always start with a low acid concentration.
Dead skin layers act as a physical barriers to protect your current skin. Any form of exfoliation will remove the extra layer of protection. Chemical exfoliants, particularly AHA, can also make the skin more sensitive to the sun. Sunscreen is always recommended after any form of exfoliation. Do not over-exfoliate or you could risk damaging and drying out your skin. Finally, know that it is always best to seek a dermatologist first if you have any serious sensitivity or skin issues.