Exfoliation 101: Everything You Should Know

At the end of a long day, caked-on sweat, pollution, and makeup from 7:00 am can leave your skin looking (and feeling) dull and tired. A skin care routine that incorporates exfoliation is essential to shedding dead skin cells and maintaining a healthy, glowing complexion. However, exercise caution – exfoliating too often or too aggressively can cause more harm than good.

Healthy skin completes a renewal cycle about every 6 weeks. As we age, our skin cell turnover tends to slow, which can lead to a buildup of dead cells on the surface of the skin. Health conditions and other factors, such as thyroid issues, smoking, poor nutrition, tanning, or aging can also slow this process, resulting in lackluster and rough skin. Gently removing dead skin cells will help to prevent clogged pores (and breakouts), promote skin renewal, improve texture, and even out the complexion. 

A good skin care regimen is the most effective way to encourage healthy skin cell turnover. Adding a retinoid into your skin care regime will accelerate the skin cell turnover process naturally. Retinoids repair the effects of photodamage and aging, leaving skin looking younger-looking and fresh.

Chemical exfoliants, such as polyhydroxy acids (PHAs) or alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), dissolve the "glue" holding dead skin cells together, allowing them to be easily sloughed off. On top of promoting exfoliation, PHAs and AHAs have a variety of skin-friendly perks - they increase hydration, have anti-aging properties, and stabilize oil production.

Manual exfoliation with an exfoliating cleanser/scrub or a facial brush lifts and dislodges dead cells off the surface of the skin. This is best done after you have been in the shower for ten minutes or so. To lock in hydration, apply a moisturizer while your skin is still slightly damp. For most skin types, you can exfoliate manually a few times a week, but for those with more sensitive skin, once a week (or even less) is enough.

Tip: Be wary of harsh treatments like at-home chemical peels, at-home microdermabrasion, or DIY sugar scrubs. Stripping your skin by scrubbing doesn’t necessarily strip years off of your appearance. Instead, it can cause sensitive skin problems, which can make the skin hyper-sensitive to other treatments.

Finding the right balance of chemical and manual exfoliation will leave your skin more youthful, smooth, and radiant, without the risk of damage from over-scrubbing.

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