Exfoliation 101

What is exfoliation?

It's the technical term for removing dead skin cells from your skin's outermost surface. 

Why exfoliate? 

It increases cell turnover because new cells are not bogged down under the weight of old ones. A good exfoliator can clean out clogged pores, fade brown spots and fine wrinkles. 

What are the 2 types of exfoliants? 

Physical and Chemical. Physical exfoliants - scrubs and beads to physically remove the top layers of the stratum corneum - they rely on brute force to work. Avoid microbeads that are bad for the environment and banned in the US.

Chemical exfoliants - like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) work at a deeper level to shed dead skin cells and boost cell turnover. Chemical exfoliation using a well-formulated product is better as it is less prone to errors than physical exfoliation. 

Should you exfoliate every day? 

No. The most important thing about exfoliation is that it is easy to overdo and causes skin irritation and especially physical exfoliation can loosen collagen bonds making skin wrinkle and sag and compromising the skin's barrier function. #counterproductive. It is an addictive habit to feel fresher than merely cleansing but to reap its full benefits you need to be careful not to over-exfoliate. 

How often should you exfoliate? 

You need to exfoliate more with oily skin but a maximum of twice a week and less with dry skin. Once week if you don't break out or even 10 days to a fortnight. 

When should you not exfoliate? 

When your skin is inflamed in any way - allergies, sunburn, breakouts - all these are irritations and to add exfoliation to your skin at this juncture is to compromise the skin's barrier function. Also when you are pregnant it is important to avoid BHAs also commonly listed as salycilic acid as they can cause complications. 

What to do after you've exfoliated? 

Recognise that you have riled up your skin into being more sensitive even if its for its own good so you need to slather on serums and preferably avoid the sun. Avoid any alcohol based products that are drying and hydrate skin comprehensively. 

What is the best exfoliator? 

You do you. This is not easy to identify without experimentation - always ask for samples before you choose an exfoliator especially a chemical exfoliator and be ready for a little irritation - don't do this before a big event.