Who doesn't love smooth, glowing skin? One of the ways to achieve that is with consistent exfoliation. Unfortunately, many of our skin care products include exfoliating properties which can lead to over exfoliation redness, inflammation, and hyperpigmentation, especially among women with color. Could you be over exfoliating? In addition, knowing how to exfoliate can be confusing. There are many ways to effectively break down the top layer of our skin, but which one is best for you? Should you scrub, slough, or chemically dissolve? You're about to find out.
How Our Skin Functions
Our skin naturally sheds dead cells in a 28-day cycle. However, in the winter months certain factors like indoor heaters, stress, and the cold air can delay this process.
Three Types of Exfoliation
Physical exfoliants uses smaller, finer particles such as seeds, coffee, powders, sugar granules, or candelilla beads to manually loosen dirt and strip away dead skin cells.
Physical exfoliation is best for oily skin, since it helps remove any layers of oil buildup. Avoid rubbing hard on your face. Even people with oily skin might damage their skin if they are too aggressive with their exfoliation.
If you're super sensitive, skip the scrubs altogether, and keep it simple with a washcloth. You can use a linen washcloth, which is another great micro-exfoliator. Move the cloth across your face in small, circular motions to soften any flakes so they can be easily washed away on their own.
Some examples would be tech-savvy devices like Foreo or going to a dermatologist for a session of microdermabrasion or dermaplaning.
Dermaplaning devices use a vibrating blade that ever-so-lightly "scrapes away the top layer of skin and gets rid of dirt and vellus hair, better known as "peach fuzz."
Microdermabrasion uses a minimally abrasive instrument to gently sand your skin, removing the thicker, uneven outer layer. It is used to treat light scarring, dark spots, and sun damage.
Those with sensitive skin should avoid mechanical exfoliation and instead choose alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic acid.
Chemical exfoliants use ingredients like acids or enzymes that safely remove the top layer of dead skin, allowing new, youthful, healthy skin to show through. Since chemical exfoliants do not involve rubbing the skin, they are generally safer than many physical exfoliants.
There are two types of chemical exfoliants: AHA, or alpha-hydroxy acids, and BHA, beta-hydroxy acids.
a. AHAs are water-soluble and work primarily on the skin's surface. They can either be synthetic or naturally occurring - typically derived from sugar cane, sour milk, tomato juice and apples. They are best for treating fine lines, texture, dullness, and can even stimulate a little collagen production.
An example of AHA is mandelic acid which is derived from bitter almonds. You'll love it if you have sensitive skin! It also helps with acne, hyperpigmentation, and the effects of aging. Because it is gentler compared to other acids it penetrates the skin at a slower rate. This makes it less irritating on the skin. Mandelic acid can also improve the skin's appearance because it promotes collagen production.
For a more intense treatment or for mature complexions, glycolic acid has the smallest molecular weight of all AHAs, so it penetrates the deepest and can build collagen in addition to improving texture and tone.
b. BHAs like salicylic acid penetrate deeper into your pores so they're great for unclogging pores and preventing acne. They're great for oily skin because when you exfoliate the dead skin cells and pore-clogging oils are removed.
How Often Should You Exfoliate?
It is important to build tolerance in your skin when using active ingredients.
Normal and oily skin types can usually handle 1- 3 times a week with a gentle exfoliant. If you're using a stronger exfoliant, cut back to once a week.
If you have sensitive skin or dry skin, stick with a gentle exfoliation session once a week.
The Danger of Over-Exfoliation
Always keep an eye on how your skin is reacting to exfoliation. It's easy to go too far and over-exfoliation can cause damage to your skin.
If you experience redness, flakiness, and dry patches you're exfoliating too often, or you could be using the wrong type of exfoliant. Over exfoliating can strip the skin of its natural oils and when this happens the result can be dehydration, sensitivity, broken capillaries, and acne breakouts.
Exfoliation is not an option if you want healthy, clear, glowing skin. Without it, skin will often appear dull, flaky, can breakout, and feel rough.