Exfoliation is the skin’s natural process of shedding dead skin cells, allowing fresh, bright skin to surface. The top layer of skin is constantly going through the process of shedding and regenerating, which can sometimes lead to unevenness or may occur at a slower pace than we would prefer.
There are many skincare products on the market, which can speed up the exfoliation process, but what are the benefits? The answer is that when we speed up the exfoliation process, we encourage the process of cell turnover, which can help your skin look younger and brighter.
Exfoliation: Chemical and Mechanical
There are two types of exfoliation available to you: chemical and mechanical. Both aim to reveal new skin cells beneath the skin’s surface layer. The difference lies in how they accomplish that goal. Chemical exfoliators are usually more acidic, which allows them to separate dead skin cells from living ones. Mechanical exfoliation, on the other hand, requires a rough surface (washcloth, cleaning brush) or exfoliation products (scrubs) to remove the top layer of skin.
There are two main chemical exfoliators: Alpha-hydroxy Acids (AHA) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA). For oily, acne-prone skin, BHAs such as salicylic acid is recommended to break down the fatty components (oils and sebum), on the skin’s surface. For combination/dry skin, AHAs such as glycolic acid are a better option, since not only do they penetrate the skin to encourage cell turnover, but they also aim to promote hydration. If you have sensitive skin and are interested in chemical exfoliation, you will want to begin with lactic acid, which is a gentle AHA.
When you use a rough object such as a washcloth or a facial scrub you are performing mechanical exfoliation. While mechanical exfoliation can be beneficial, you have to be careful about what tools you use. Many facial scrubs, specifically those that have microbeads, can cause tiny cuts on the skin if used too aggressively, which can result in inflammation and increase your chances of developing an infection. Using gentle exfoliants and gently scrubbing your face will ensure your skin stays injury-free.
It may be tempting to experiment with DIY exfoliation treatments, but they can cause serious damage to your skin if you are not careful and do your research. The skin’s normal pH is around 5.5%, which allows it to protect itself from harmful bacteria. Many products used in DIY exfoliators, such as baking soda and lemon, are too acidic for the skin and can actually cause burning. If in doubt about a DIY exfoliator, it is best to refrain from risk your skin’s health and safety.