Exfoliating your skin is one of the absolute best things you can do. Your products won’t do shit if they can’t penetrate (heh…heh heh…) the layer of dead skin cells. Skin cells turn over every 28 days or so, and proper exfoliation can help assist the process. Exfoliation also helps your skin appear younger and softer. It also helps stimulate collagen production and improves circulation, and provides the deep cleansing needed for oily or acne-prone skin.
I cannot stress how important it is to find and utilize the correct exfoliant for your skin type, and that’s speaking as someone who avoided exfoliating like the sun for the longest time. I honestly thought it was making my skin drier and that I needed that layer of dead skin for hydration. I can’t make this up yall…I was really, REALLY uneducated about skin before going to school for it.
There are two types of exfoliation: mechanical and chemical. Mechanical exfoliation is the term used for scrubs, cleansing brushes such as the Clairsonic, scrubby gloves, etc. A mechanical exfoliant contains physically abrasive ingredients to scrub off the skin. Chemical exfoliation sounds scary as hell, but I promise it’s not. I actually prefer chemical to mechanical in this instance. Chemical exfoliants utilize ingredients that literally eat away at the dead skin. That sounds so appetizing, I know. I prefer these exfoliants because they tend to be more gentle on the skin.
The problem with mechanical exfoliation is that most people just aren’t gentle enough to use them. They use a considerable amount of force when applying these scrubby products to their face, which leads to inflammation and irritation. Not only that, most mechanical exfoliants utilize overly abrasive ingredients to do the scrubbing, such as apricot seeds, walnut shells, etc. These ingredients have ragged edges that tear at your skin. And if you have active pimples, a mechanical exfoliant will cause the pimples to burst and spread bacteria to the healthy skin. Luckily, plastic microbeads are being removed, but look at how much damage they’ve already done. It’s absolutely imperative to find an exfoliant that works.
You should be exfoliating twice per week, unless you’re using an exfoliant specifically designed to be used every day. Many chemical exfoliants are gentle enough for daily use. It’s pretty simple how they work-there are lipids that act like glue and hold dead skin cells together; the acids in a chemical exfoliant breaks down those lipids, and some even work deep into pores to remove sebum. AHAs and BHAs fall into this category. Then you have your enzyme peels, which digest only the dead cells on the surface. These are much gentler than AHAs.
The one benefit to keeping your dead skin is it acts as a natural sunscreen. When you remove that natural layer, you need to replace it. This is another reason why it is absofuckinlutely important to apply sunscreen daily, especially after exfoliating.
I find that all of this is much easier to understand using tables, so here, have some tables:
Milady Fundamentals Esthetics textbook
The Little Book of Skin Care, Charlotte Cho
The Best Skin of Your Life, Paula Begoun)