Exfoliation: The Key to Great Skin
We know all too well how tired our skin can look and feel at the end of a long day. By the time that you are ready for your nighttime skin care routine, your skin has spent twelve or more hours protecting you from environmental toxins, enduring harmful ultraviolet light exposure, perspiring, and more -- all while buried beneath layers of makeup, natural oils and dead skin cells. You take care of your skin to keep it healthy, but it can be easy to forget everything that your skin is up against, and as a result you might be missing out on one of the most important components of a good skin care routine…exfoliation.
Healthy skin cells go through a regular cycle of renewal once every six weeks or so. This process is supported by your cell renewal factor, or CRF, which determines your cell turnover rate. As we age, our CRF slows down. This causes an accumulation of dead skin cells of the surface of the skin. The result? Skin that looks dull, lackluster, congested and rough. The accumulation of dead skin cells can also block pores, leading to breakouts and even exaggerate the fine lines that might be subtly sneaking their way onto your face.
Proper exfoliation can help clear off those layers of dead skin cells and promote speedier rejuvenation of the healthy skin cells underneath. Unfortunately, exfoliation is often thought of as a remedy for younger skin, especially skin that is prone to clogged pores. We tend to think that exfoliation is simply too rough or abrasive for mature, sometimes more fragile skin. Providing you exfoliate properly, this actually couldn’t be further from the truth.
An infant’s skin renews itself once every 14 days, while at the age of thirty the rate of renew has slowed to once every six weeks. By the time you welcome your fiftieth birthday the process can take anywhere some seven to twelve weeks. This tells us that while yes, young skin does benefit from exfoliation, more mature skin can possibly benefit even more.
The removal of dead skin cells isn’t the only benefit of exfoliation. Other benefits are many and include:
- Skin texture improves, appearing younger and smoother
- Skin tone is evened out
- Redness and inflammation are reduced
- Symptoms of acne breakouts are reduced or eliminated
- Pores are minimized
- The appearance of fine line and more prominent wrinkles is diminished
- Skin gains and maintains a healthy glow
- Collagen production is increased
- Skin maintains moisture more effectively
- Increased circulation of blood and the lymphatic system
- Skincare products and cosmetics work more effectively.
This is an incredible amount of benefits from one simple action. So, what is the best way to exfoliate and is it appropriate for every skin type? There are different methods and products that can be used for exfoliation. While regular exfoliation is suitable for all skin types, the product that you use and frequency that you use it can be different depending upon your skin type, age and lifestyle factors. Let’s begin with a quick lesson in the different types of exfoliants. There are two primary categories of exfoliants; chemical and physical.
The products in the physical category might be the first you think of when you hear the words “exfoliating scrub.” These are generally granular type exfoliants that use mildly abrasive substances as a means of scrubbing and lifting the dead cells away from the surface. Types of physical exfoliants added to skin care products might include grains such as rice or oatmeal. You might also see products that contain ground shells, seeds, sugar, salt or baking soda. The thing to remember about physical exfoliants is that the larger or sharper the exfoliant, the rougher it is going to be on the skin.
Many of the more abrasive scrubs and treatments on the market today are meant for use on parts of the body where the skin is thicker and not as fragile, for example knees, elbows or the bottom of your feet. A nice thick salt or sugar scrub can be great for your body when used in the shower, but granules that size can be too much for the delicate skin on your face. If you like the feel of a physical exfoliant for your face, choose one with gentler types of exfoliants such as soft rice, oatmeal or as in the case with our Ancient Orient Dermafoliant, bamboo. Physical exfoliants also include exfoliating tools such as loofahs, sponges or even a washcloth.
The second type of exfoliant is the chemical category. If you prefer natural skin care products, the word “chemical” might turn you off, but rest assured that many chemical exfoliants are natural and gentle, and the name refers mostly to the mechanism by which the dead skin cells are lifted from the skin’s surface. They work by dissolving not only the dead skin cells, but also the dirt, oil and other substances that bind them to the surface. Chemical exfoliants are not granular, although they are sometimes mixed with a gentle physical exfoliant as well. Common types of chemical exfoliants are enzymatic exfoliants such as pineapple and papaya enzymes, alpha-hydroxy acids such as glycolic and lactic acids, beta-hydroxy acids, and salicylic acid.
With so many different types of exfoliants, it can be difficult to know which one is best for your skin. Choosing an exfoliant that is too harsh for your skin, or not knowing how to use your exfoliant properly, can cause irritation and damage to the delicate facial skin rather than promoting healthy cell renewal. So, how do you know which type is best for you? As a rule, you want to remember that gentler is generally better, no matter what your skin type. However, there are certain components of exfoliators that can make them more compatible with certain skin types more so than others.
For example, if you have acne prone, inflamed or congested skin, some physical exfoliants can irritate and damage your skin.
If your skin is sensitive, stay away from harsh exfoliants, both physical and chemical. Mature skin can especially benefit from enzymatic exfoliants and those that contain alpha-hydroxy acids. You always want a product that has a gentle glide so as to not tug and pull unnecessarily on skin. OZNaturals Ancient Orient Bamboo Dermafoliant is gentle enough for sensitive skin, and ideal for mature skin as it combines both lactic acid and physical exfoliants to gently lift away dead skin cells without causing any irritation.
You can use grainier, stronger exfoliants on your body, just take care when it comes to areas where the skin in a bit thinner and more delicate, such as the chest and neck area.
You can have the best of both worlds. If you love the effects of chemical exfoliants but need to physically feel your exfoliant whisking away dead skin cells, there are wonderful combination products available, including our own Ancient Orient Dermafoliant. Just make sure that the individual exfoliants are all gentle.
Knowing the different types of exfoliants and choosing the best one for your individual skin care needs is only one part of the equation. To get the best results, you also need to know how to properly use your exfoliation product. While different exfoliators might have slightly different instructions, these following exfoliation tips suit just about every skin type and the exfoliator that goes along with it.
- First, don’t overdo it. Check all your skin care products for ingredients that can be considered exfoliants. For example, if you are using an exfoliating cleanser in the morning, followed by a serum with papaya enzyme and then an AHA cream at night, you are probably exposing your skin to too many exfoliant products, which can eventually cause irritation and damage.
- Speaking of overdoing it, you really shouldn’t need to exfoliate more than twice a week, unless you have severely congested skin. Exfoliating more than this can cause oil production to increase, which in turn can clog pores, cause breakouts and help dead skin cells stick to the surface. If exfoliating just twice a week causes irritation, then reduce the amount to once a week. Exfoliation is the perfect example of how too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
- Some products that contain exfoliating ingredients such as AHAs, including creams, serums and cleansers are designed to be used daily. Our Vitamin C + AHA Facial Serum is a good example. Always take into consideration your personal skin type and your skin’s reaction to these types of products. The concentration of exfoliating ingredients is generally lower and the ingredients are typically gentler, so that you get a subtle exfoliation effect daily. However, if your skin is sensitive, these gentle products might still cause you irritation if used every day. Adjust your skin care routine to suit your needs.
- If you started off your exfoliation routine a little too overzealously, and are paying the consequences, don’t trash your exfoliant altogether. Instead, give your skin time to recover and then use the exfoliant less frequently and follow the specific instructions for product use.
- When using a physical exfoliant like our Ancient Orient Bamboo Dermafoliant use gentle, sweeping upward and circular motions with your fingertips. This helps to improve circulation and is the most effective means of lifting away dead skin cells.
- Use a dry brush on your body before your shower to shed dead skin cells, but use extreme caution before dry brushing your face. They typical brush that is used on the body is too abrasive for facial skin. There are very soft, facial brushes available, but honestly if you are using a gentle exfoliating skin care product you really don’t need to excess stimulation on your delicate facial skin.
- Only use products designed for the delicate skin around your eyes in that area. Anything else is simply too harsh for that thin, fragile skin to handle.
- If you are using a wash-off facial exfoliator, rinse your skin by splashing warm, not hot, water over it until the product is washed away. Then dry your face by gently patting it with a soft, nonabrasive towel.
- Exfoliation creates the perfect canvas for your favorite moisturizer or serum. With all those dead skin cells gone, your serums and moisturizer can really absorb into your skin and work more effectively.
Exfoliation can be, and should be, a regular part of your skin care routine, regardless of your skin type. From acne-prone to beautifully matured, every type of skin becomes healthier and more vibrant looking with the right exfoliation routine. You have a beautiful, glowing fresh face to reveal to the world, and the perfect natural exfoliant can help uncover beauty that is more than just skin deep.