Our skin cells are the building blocks for healthy skin. As cells age they push upward towards the surface of the skin until they naturally shed and full away. However, due to lifestyle and environmental impacts our skin sometimes needs a helping hand to remove these old cells. This is where exfoliation can help, but only if it is done correctly.
Exfoliation is the removal of lifeless cells from the skin’s surface. This process should instantly reveal smoother, fresher and healthier looking skin, while also helping to make other products more effective.
It’s important to exfoliate both our face and our body. This can be achieved through at home products and professional salon treatments. Although it’s important to exfoliate, we don’t want to go over board as this can irritate, dry and thin the skin. Therefore, if it’s not done properly it can do more harm than good.
There are two types of exfoliation, these are chemical and physical. Which one is right for you?
Now, we aren’t talking about any of those harmful, toxic chemicals. Chemical exfoliation can be performed with natural ingredients and refers to the process where Alpha Hydroxy or Beta Hydroxy acids and enzymes exfoliate the skin without the use of an abrasive bead. Allow me to break this down little more.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA)
Some examples of AHA’s include glycolic and lactic acid, there are also naturally occurring fruit and botanical AHAs. These are water soluble and will stimulate exfoliation from the inside out. They penetrate the skin and dissolve the bonding, or glue, that holds these lifeless cells together and will stimulate the production of healthier ones to rejuvenate aged, dehydrated and dull looking skin.
Beta Hydroxy acids (BHA)
These naturally occurring acids include almond derived mandelic acid and salicylic acid which is from willow tree bark. BHAs are oil soluble and work really well on oily skin with breakout concerns. They work within the pore to help with dissolving blocked oils which will treat congestion, blackheads and breakouts. BHA’s also refine and balance excess oils on the skin’s surface to improve the feel and texture of the skin.
The upper layer of your skin is made mostly of dead skin cells containing keratin protein. Enzymes are gentle, yet effective, exfoliators and work by breaking down the keratin protein, resulting in soft and smooth skin. Look for fruit or vegetable enzymes like papain (papaya), pineapple or pumpkin.
My Top Pick
Personally I prefer chemical exfoliation for myself and my clients. Chemical exfoliation is suitable for all skin types and is particularly beneficial for sensitive and reactive skin types.
A good example of a chemical exfoliator is the Facial In a Jar. It contains fruit acids, mandelic acid + fruit and pumpkin enzymes. This is applied like a mask to clean skin and left on for about 5 minutes. The acidic nature of this product means you may feel some activity which is a gentle tingling or prickle sensation. This exfoliating mask also contains clinically proven actives that will feed the skin post exfoliation to stimulate the production of healthy, new and vibrant skin.
This is a mechanical type of exfoliation which includes grains or a type of abrasive such as jojoba beads and botanical grains. Some products will instead contain plastic micro beads. These should never be used as they are extremely harmful to the environment as they pollute our waterways with toxins and harm wildlife. Beads and grains help the skin release their cells by physically ‘rubbing’ them away from the skin’s surface.
The main challenge with physical exfoliators is to find the right blend of suspended beads that are gentle yet effective for weekly use.
My three pieces of advice for physical exfoliation are:
- The beads should be small and perfectly round, with no jagged edges. Fruit kernel and nut grains should never be used on the face as they can tear the skin which can create sensitivity and leave the skin’s texture rough and bumpy.
- The consistency of the product is very important, as you want the beads to be evenly suspended in a creamy formula so that it will be gentle and won’t drag or pull the skin. You also don’t want to lose all the beads if the product is very thin or watery.
- How aggressive you are will change the outcome of your exfoliating experience. It’s best to use a scrub on a damp face as this will reduce the drag on the skin. Use only your fingertips and gently, very gently, use circular movements to exfoliate. Also, don’t overuse scrubs. Yes, it may feel amazing your very first time and you might then vow to use it everyday. Please don’t do this as it will certainly irritate, thin and dry out your skin. Over scrubbing will also stimulate extra oil production and may result in blackheads and blocked pores.
Physical exfoliators can be useful for very oily, thickened, strong skin types but should always be used sparingly and very carefully. Revival Refining Face Scrub contains jojoba beads and kaolin clay to lift and remove excess oils and dead skin cells.
If you’re looking for an in salon exfoliating treatment, I recommend you book into a salon to experience a professional peel such as:
Plumping Pumpkin Peel
A powerful anti-ageing peel for uneven and dry skin with ageing concerns.
Zen Berry Peel
For sensitive skin soothing, strengthening and hydrating for sensitive skin types and pregnancy safe.
Purifying Pineapple Peel
Clears breakouts and balances skin for oily and combination skin.
Exfoliation isn’t only for your face; our body, hands and feet also benefit from regular exfoliation. But remember, if it’s for your body or feet then it’s NOT suitable for your face. My final pick for body exfoliation is Eco by Sonya Pink Himalayan Salt Scrub It deeply removes dead skin layers whilst drenching your skin in a beautiful blend of lemongrass, grapefruit and citrus botanicals.
If you are unsure which exfoliant would be suitable for your skin please contact me for a complementary skin analysis.