Exfoliation is one of the basic skincare steps you’ve been doing for yonks. You know it’s important, but are you actually doing it correctly?
The thing is, though, exfoliation isn’t just about scrubbing all the dead skin off your face – there’s a little bit more to it. And it’s not a one-size fits all kind of thing.
Everyone’s skin is different, and for people with certain skin concerns, exfoliation done incorrectly can really compromise the health of your skin.
That’s why it’s important to know the best way to exfoliate for your skin type, and the best products suited to your specific needs.
We’ve pulled together a list of some of the definite don’ts of exfoliating, and what you should do instead.
Our skin is in a constant process of renewal. However, as we get older, our skin’s cellular turnaround time decreases, skin takes longer to turnover and dead surface skin cells sit on the surface of the skin for longer. Meaning? Your skin can appear lacklustre and dull.
By removing or exfoliating the accumulated dead surface skin cells, we force our skin to produce new fresh cells (aka cellular renewal).
If you use the correct amount of exfoliation (whether it be through acids or physical exfoliation), it will help break down oil, debris and dead surface skin cells, making your skin appear healthy and radiant.
However, if you over exfoliate your skin and go too hard with the wrong type of products, you can end up irritating your barrier function.
To put things into perspective, your skin basically has a natural renewal cycle of approximately 28 days – so, exfoliating your skin too much means you can irritate and make your skin dehydrated.
You’re basically stripping the skin’s moisture barrier and risking things like redness, inflammation and irritation, and even breakouts.
Instead, you need to give your new, fresh cells tome to serve their purpose.
Well, it depends on your skin type and the type of products your using (different exfoliators have different levels of concentrations). However, for most skin types, scrubbing your skin every day is just not necessary – and it’s no more effective than scrubbing it once or twice a week.
If you’re opting for a physical exfoliator, we recommend sticking to once or twice a week.
While giving your skin a good scrub may feel good, it’s certainly not doing your skin any favours – a gentle approach is always best.
If you’re going in too hard with something quite abrasive, you can really end up messing up your skin, creating irritation and potentially flaring up existing skin issues like acne, rosacea and the likes.
When it comes to exfoliation, all you’re really doing is giving your skin a gentle nudge – your skin will do the rest on its own.
It’s also important to know that there are two different kinds of exfoliants: mechanical and chemical.
Mechanical exfoliators remove dead surface skin cells physically (by scrubbing the skin) whereas chemical exfoliators are acids such as AHAs, BHAs and PHAs which penetrate the skin and break up and dissolve dead surface skin cells, allowing them to shed effectively.
T cells that sit on the surface of our skin are old keratinocyte cells, held together with a glue-like substance called desmosomes. Chemical exfoliators dissolve this glue-like substance which allows the old dead skin cells to shed.
AHAs and BHAs are different in chemical composition and have different functionalities and penetration rate. BHAs acids - such as salicylic acid - are oil soluble and able to penetrate deeper than AHAs which makes them better at keeping pores clear.
AHAs – such as glycolic acid - are used to improve the look and feel of the skin as well as the elasticity of the skin.
Lactic acid (one of the mildest forms of AHA) is a very hydrating acid that can provide exfoliation and hydration.
Mandelic acid is a large molecular AHA that is great to use as it penetrates slowly and is gentle and effective for sensitive skin. Studies report that it helps to reduce sebaceous glands and sebum production which makes if very effective in treating oily and problem prone skin.
In a nutshell, the exfoliation process that best suits you will depend on your individual skin type – so it’s important to consider any skin concerns you might have when choosing a method.
Both of these products feature salicylic acid in concentrations that won’t irritate or disrupt the skin, providing gentle exfoliation to help keep pores clear and impurities at bay. The concentrations in these products are low and designed to be suitable for everyday use to help keep pores clear.
So, while it is possible to exfoliate too much (see point number one!), using the right products with low concentrations (those that run a marathon, not a sprint) that are designed for daily use, will help keep your skin healthy and radiant, without causing irritation.
For normal to dry skin types, we recommend a physical exfoliant such as Skin Virtue’s Pure Exfoliating Mask. It is the perfect mask to use before an event, boosting radiance in lacklustre skin and smooths away dead surface skin cells.
Unlike other abrasive facial scrubs on the market, our Pure Exfoliating Mask is extremely gentle and soothing. It features barrier restoring properties that help protect the skin while still removing dead surface cells and boosting circulation. This product is recommended to be used one to two times a week as it is a mechanical scrub.
If you’re looking for other options, Skin Virtue’s Pure Radiance Glow Serum is a glycolic exfoliator that is suitable for all skin types. It effectively removes dead surface skin cells while providing hydrating and purifying properties that help to improve the look of the skin providing a radiant glowing complexion.
This kind of product is recommended for those who need a stronger exfoliator that will remove dead surface skin cells and impurities from the skin, encouraging cell renewal and increasing the skin metabolism.
It's important to note that this particular product has a higher concentration of acids and should not be used more than one to two times a week. So, be sure to follow the instructions.
In terms of professional in-clinic treatments, chemical peels such as Skin Virtue’s Ultra AHA Clinical PRO Peel are designed to eliminate dead skin cells and gently activate the skin’s renewal system – delivering a whole host of benefits for plump, nourished, clear and glowing skin.
It’s not only how you exfoliate your skin but what you do afterwards, too. Moisturising will help hydrate and replenish your skin and keep that moisture locked deep in the layers of the skin.
Not following up with a good moisturiser (or hydrating serums) can leave your skin feeling dry, tight and irritated, leaving it feeling worse than it did pre-exfoliation.
So, don’t skimp on this step!
Are you guilty of any of the above mistakes?
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By Gary Williams, Bio