By Janet Thompson
You can use all the expensive skin care products you want, but if you're not exfoliating on a regular basis, you're wasting your money. Proper exfoliation removes the barrier of dead skin cells clogging the skin, and uncovers fresh new cells below. It allows the skin to “breathe,” and opens the way for moisturizing products and serums to penetrate more deeply into the skin, which makes them more effective. Regular exfoliation will leave your skin looking fresh and healthy.
As we age, the process of cell regeneration slows down. Our bodies are slower to shed skin cells (called desquamation), and generate new ones (known as the cell renewal factor). Babies and young children have a faster cell turnover rate, because they're growing quickly. That explains why little kids have such bright, soft, luminous-looking skin — their cell turnover rate is twice as fast as adults. They always have new skin cells on the surface.
As our cell turnover rate slows down, our skin begins to age. That's why our skin never looks quite as "bright" as it did when we were younger. The old skin cells start to pile up on the surface, and can leave it looking dull, rough, and dry. In those who suffer from acne, buildup of dead skin cells can result in excess oil and clogged pores, leading to infection and blemishes.
There are two main types of exfoliation – mechanical and chemical. Mechanical exfoliation literally rubs the dead skin cells off with some kind of abrasive – anything from jojoba beads to a diamond-tipped microdermabrasion machine. Chemical exfoliation uses acids — anything from gentle fruit enzymes to super-powerful peels — to dissolve the glue-like substance that holds the cells together. They both have great benefits, and personally, I like to alternate between the two with my clients. This way, they get the best of both worlds.
What is the Best Way to Exfoliate?
The best type of exfoliation depends on your complexion, and the health and sensitivity of your skin. If you have extremely sensitive skin or severe acne, you will want to choose an exfoliating product and method carefully. A professional Esthetician can help you choose the method most appropriate for you.
If you use a manual exfoliating scrub, choose one with smooth, round, jojoba beads rather than jagged, rough particles like apricot, walnut, or pumice. Exfoliating beads that are not spherically round can cause tiny micro-tears in the skin, inviting bacteria to invade. Be gentle with the scrub—a light touch is all you need to slough off the dead skin cells; more than that and you’re likely to irritate your skin.
If you choose chemical exfoliation, peels and masks that contain alpha or beta hydroxy acids provide a deeper level of exfoliation. If you have sensitive skin or rosacea, you should avoid chemical peels at all costs. There are gentler enzyme exfoliants that are made specifically for sensitive skin – talk to your Esthetician.
Exfoliation is the most crucial aspect in skin care in order to maintain youthful, healthy skin. I recommend getting professional facials on a monthly basis after the age of 28, to ward off the early signs of aging. If monthly facials are not in your budget, talk to your Esthetician, and tell her what your budget is. She can give you some advice on products to use at home, in between your facial services to extend your results. If not, give me a call and I'll be happy to work with you to achieve your skin care goals.
Janet Thompson is a licensed Esthetician, and owner of Spa La Vie Organic Skin Spa, located in Wasco, IL. 630-485-2788. SpaLaVie.info. Janet loves helping people achieve their skin care goals – the natural way.