by Casey Durrett, LEI – Social Media Director and National Educator, SkinPhD
If you’ve spent much time in the world of beauty, you’ll know that exfoliation seems to be the answer to everything skin. If you’ve got wrinkles – exfoliate. If you’re breaking out – exfoliate. If your complexion is dull – exfoliate. If you’ve got sun spots – exfoliate. If you’re dry – exfoliate. If you’re oily – exfoliate. So how is it that this one action can help to improve so many unsightly skin conditions? And with so many choices on the market today, how are we to know what to look for in an exfoliation product? How do all these different types of products really work with the skin? And could it be that there are risks associated with the overuse and/or misuse of these products?
If you’re a skin care therapist, or if you’ve visited one – you know we estheticians love our exfoliants. We love to use scrubs, enzymes, hydroxy acids, microdermabrasion, and chemical peels. Aside from a handful of conditions that contraindicate exfoliating, you’ll see us prescribing the use of exfoliants for just about every skin care concern imaginable. The chart below will provide information on some of the common skin types and concerns and how exfoliating properly can improve them.
How Exfoliation Improves Common Skin Types and Concerns
|An actual dry skin “type” is skin that does not produce adequate oil. This is not to be confused with normal or oily skin that is experiencing a build-up of dry, flaky skin cells. Truly dry skin may be fragile, sensitive, and have a tendency to age prematurely. Proper exfoliation of dry skin will improve skin texture and increase the movement of new healthy cells to the skin’s surface. It may also improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles commonly associated with drier skin.
|In oily skin, dead skin cells may have a harder time shedding from the skin because excess oil works as a glue that keeps dead skin cells stuck to the surface of the skin. This combination of oil and excess dead skin cells can clog follicles and lead to increased follicle size and breakouts.
|Pigmentation concerns are a 3-phase process. Excess pigmentation is first activated by some form of stimuli (hormonal, inflammatory, etc.), melanin is then synthesized inside melanocytes (melanin producing cells) and delivered to the surrounding skin cells. The final phase of this process is what we call “expression” this is where we visibly see pigmentation on the skin’s surface. Exfoliation targets the “expression” stage by sloughing off pigmented cells that have moved to the higher surface layers of the skin. It also improves the rate of cell migration from lower layers of the epidermis which can help pigmented cells to surface and be shed off more quickly. It is important to note, however, that exfoliating alone is not a viable option for controlling pigmentation concerns. All three phases must be targeted to provide a true solution for skin with excess pigmentation.
|Breakouts can be attributed to a number of factors. We often see complications with excess oil, uneven shedding of the follicles, acne-causing bacteria being trapped in the follicles, and excess dead skin cell build-up (other factors may be involved in breakouts as well). By responsibly exfoliating skin that is prone to breakouts, we can reduce the amount of dead skin cells on the skin’s surface, and with certain topical ingredients the follicle interior can also be exfoliated. This can allow increased oxygen into the skin, decrease the amount of trapped bacteria, and clear the skin of congestive factors that contribute to breakouts.
|As we age the process of cells dividing and moving up through the layers of the skin is slowed. Dead and rough cells linger on the skin’s surface longer and eventually we see an increased build-up of these dead, dry cells. As the top of the skin is thickening, the lower layers of the skin that keep the skin looking firm and plump are decreasing in thickness. Rough texture, lack of a healthy glow, fine lines and wrinkles are all common signs of skin that is aging or prematurely aging. Exfoliation of aging/prematurely aging skin can smooth the skin’s surface, speed up the rate at which new, healthy cells are delivered to the surface, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Certain exfoliating agents actually penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin and help to restore vitality to the areas of the skin where problems actually begin.
Responsible Exfoliation: Brings Positive Results without Negative Side Effects
As you can see, exfoliation is an integral tool in managing a variety of skin concerns. Texture is improved, new and healthy cells can move more quickly to the surface, breakouts and excessive pigmentation can be reduced, complexion can become brighter and more radiant, and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles can be significantly reduced. The key to these improvements, however, is exfoliating in a way that brings about these positive changes without damaging the integrity of the skin.
The skin is an important barrier and a living organ. It is designed with purpose and function. All too often skin is attacked, abraded, peeled, scrubbed, and over-exfoliated to the point of creating damage to not only the barrier of the skin but also the deeper tissues. The results of improper exfoliation can lead to disrupted barrier function, increased skin sensitivity, injury to fragile capillaries, stimulation of excess melanin in darker skin types, damage to the lower layers of the skin, and premature aging. Unfortunately, we don’t always see this damage taking place, so we don’t make the connection between exfoliating too much (or improperly) with negative changes happening in our skin.
Higher levels of exfoliation should be left to the hands of well-trained professionals. Chemical peels and microdermabrasion should not be performed at home and should be administered by licensed skin therapists. Home-care exfoliants such as alpha hydroxy acids and scrubs should be gentle, used as prescribed, and the skin should be monitored for any changes good or bad. Irritation, excessive redness and/or flaking of the skin are all signs that we may be over-exfoliating. For breakout prone skin, over-exfoliating may actually stimulate additional breakouts.
Choosing and Using Exfoliants Properly
- Chemical formulations that include alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acid, enzymes, etc. should be gentle and not cause excessive stinging, burning, or discomfort. Pain is often associated with a
product “working” – this is a dangerous viewpoint. Exfoliation does not have to be painful to work!
- Look for formulas that have added benefits. A great exfoliator won’t just take away the dead skin cells it will have added ingredients to create additional benefits in the skin. For instance, an exfoliator for dry skin should be formulated differently than an exfoliator for oily or breakout prone skin. Be sure your product is targeted to your specific skin type and condition/s.
- Mechanical exfoliants such as facial scrubs should not be overly abrasive and should not be aggressively scrubbed into and over the skin. Go for a “polishing” movement rather than a heavy handed scrubbing action. These exfoliants are best suited to skin when the abrading agent isn’t extremely rough and jagged. The ever popular “apricot scrubs” are well known for creating micro-tears in the skin which, though invisible, lead to inflammation and barrier disruption.
- More isn’t better. Over-using exfoliators is more detrimental to the skin than failing to exfoliate at all. Use exfoliants as directed. Generally, an exfoliant should be used 1-2 times per week, but this will vary according to product type and strength. Follow package directions.
Exfoliating Products worth Discovering
With the above guidelines in mind, I’d like to introduce you the SkinPhD exfoliating products. These products are designed to promote positive changes in the skin without causing irritation or barrier disruption. I have personally used each of these products and work with them professionally in my skin care business. They are effective, non-irritating, and the results of regular use are beautiful.
AHA 7 Fruit Amidroxy Exfoliator
Selected Best Anti-Aging Product!
This concentrated serum contains a special blend of red and citrus fruits that gently and effectively exfoliate the skin leaving it radiant and with improved color and complexion.
- Provitamin B5 moisturizes the skin, makes the skin more elastic, and has an anti-inflammatory effect
- Natural sources of alpha hydroxy acids contain minerals, vitamins, and proteins. These substances work together to slough away dead skin cells, stimulate collagen synthesis, and increase cellular renewal.
- Red Fruit Amidroxy is rich in minerals, Vitamin C, Flavanoids and other skin improving actives providing cellular regeneration and protection against free radical damage.
- Suitable for all skin types
|AHA Gentle Exfoliating CreamIdeal for the Special Needs of Dry Skin – A gentle exfoliating cream that effectively helps slough away dead, dry skin cells while also moisturizing and improving skin softness.
- Exfoliates with a multi-fruit alpha hydroxy acid complex that increases cellular regeneration and collagen synthesis while restoring radiance to dry skin.
- Contains Spirulina which is rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals.
- This unique formulation also contains shea butter which has unique healing properties and a wonderful fatty acid profile that moisturizes the skin, improves elasticity, and prevents wrinkle formation.
- An effective formula for dry skin – exfoliation and rich moisturizing activity in one product.
||Papaya Enzymatic ExfoliantA Wonderful Skin-Polisher with Enzymes and Micro-SpongesThis enzymatic exfoliant also contains soft, round micro-sponges that soften and smooth the skin.
- Enzymes in this formula effectively remove dead skin cells while avoiding irritation and dryness.
- Contains Vitamins A and C to neutralize free radicals.
- Micro-Sponges gently cleanse and polish the skin’s surface.
- Ideal for darker skin, oily skin, and thick skin.
- This product is an excellent replacement to harsh scrubs that actually cause damage in the skin.
Think over your current exfoliation routine. Have you been using the same product or method for an extended period of time and aren’t seeing visible results? If so, I want to encourage you to review how you’re exfoliating – how often, in what way, and is the product you’re using appropriate for your skin? Is it providing benefits beyond removing dead cells? If not, it’s time for a change!
Healthy, radiant skin is an attainable goal, and SkinPhD exfoliants can help you reach that goal more quickly, without irritation, and with results you will definitely see.
For more information on our products and signature therapies, please visit us at www.skinphd.com.