Tuesday, 23 August 2016 11:50

The Why, What, and How of Exfoliating the Skin

Written by   Susan Nathan, L.E., owner of Born Again Skin and Nutrient Skin Care

The opinions of skin care professionals regarding skin exfoliation vary widely. One of the misleading factors that clouds the exfoliation discussion is that the term exfoliation does not mean the same thing to everyone. Thus, the term is applied in a broad manner as if there is no difference among the products and modalities in regard to aggressiveness, technique, concentration, and effectiveness. There is a world of difference between receiving a microdermabrasion treatment and a gentle enzyme exfoliation.


The more clients know about the various forms of exfoliation, the methods of application, and the frequency of exfoliation, the more likely they are to see improvements.

The immediate result of exfoliation is more radiant, softer, smoother, and healthier skin. The most significant benefit of exfoliation is enhancement of nutrient and product penetration, both of which are essential for improved and healthy skin.

Exfoliation also speeds up the natural process of desquamation by stimulating cellular turnover – which usually takes four weeks or longer – resulting in a more frequent emergence of younger skin cells. Furthermore, removing dead skin cells unseals clogged pores, allowing sebum to flow out instead of being locked in where bacteria can grow. Exfoliation diminishes hyperpigmentation by removing layers of darkened cells and allows for a rebalancing of the skin's lipid-moisture barrier. As a result, oily skin is corrected to the proper lipid-moisture ratio and the removal of the protective dead skin layer allows dry skin to receive nourishing oils, resulting in an improved lipid-moisture balance.

Exfoliation methods are generally grouped as either mechanical or chemical. Mechanical exfoliation is achieved by using particles of hard substances to disrupt dead skin cells in procedures such as machine-applied microdermabrasion, buffing products, and scrubs. The finer the particle and the less pressure applied, the milder the exfoliation. Examples of mechanical exfoliants include aluminum oxide crystals, pumice, ground nut shells and leaves, salts, clays, dry brushing, sonic or rotary brushes, and microdermabrasion machine procedures.

Chemical exfoliants include glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acids, as well as a variety of botanical acids that range from mild to aggressive. Each acid acts on the skin in a different way and is mostly dependent upon molecular size and/or solubility in water or oils. In addition, vitamin A and C derivatives are excellent chemical exfoliants. Exfoliating enzymes, mainly papain and bromelain, digest proteins that attach dead skin cell layers to the lower layers.

The skin can be exfoliated every day, given that the right combination of methods and exfoliants is used. If the greatest benefit of exfoliation is enhancement of nutrient and product penetration, both of which are essential in daily skin care, then exfoliation should be performed daily to deliver those nutrients. The key to great skin is daily exfoliation. Exfoliating twice a day is even better when it is performed properly.

If there is one skin care myth that should be exposed, it is the notion that exfoliation will trigger the Hayflick limit of cellular replication, causing a person to run out of skin. Corneocytes are not affected by the Hayflick limit because they have already reached their regenerative limit. Once they are removed by exfoliation or sloughed off naturally, they are replaced by new corneocytes that have emerged from the epidermal stem cells, which are not affected by the Hayflick limit. Thus, daily exfoliation will not result in running out of skin. On the contrary, gentle exfoliation, accompanied with nutrients including anti-inflammatories and antioxidants, is an excellent way to achieve beautiful, healthy skin.

Whatever the client's skin type or condition is, there is an exfoliation procedure that will address their skin's needs.

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