How to exfoliate skin effectively
Every skincare routine can benefit from the addition of an exfoliant. Of all skincare practises, it’s the one step guaranteed to provide instant results. Often touted as the key to glowing skin, exfoliation is easily integrated and quickly effective. Using an exfoliant is also not an isolated benefit, the skin may instantly feel and appear smoother, however, this effect also helps prepare skin for penetration by serums and moisturisers, maximizing the benefits of a skincare routine. There are many different methods of exfoliation and choosing the most appropriate depends on a person’s age, skin type, and skin concerns. The benefits of exfoliation For many, exfoliation is a process used to achieve smooth, silky skin; however, there are many more beneficial side effects. Similarly, to hair and nails, skin sits in a constant state of renewal. Skin cells are born, skin cells mature and finally skin cells desquamate (exfoliate). This process is normal, natural and healthy – scientists call it skin’s cell turnover rate. When skin behaves healthily, skin cell turnover occurs in the order of around 30 days1. Successful turnover allows for an even skin tone and a youthful, voluminous glow. When skin cell turnover slows, as it does naturally with age, skin can become dull, uneven looking and prone to congestion. Exfoliation can help increase a declining skin cell turnover rate also leading to;
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- Prevention of spots, pimples, and acne
- Helps to minimize the appearance of pores
- Increased penetration of serums and moisturisers
- Helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
- Evens skin tone
- Facial scrubs use powders or microbeads to mildly buff away a layer of dead skin cells. Microbeads can be renewable i.e. made of jojoba wax or polluting i.e. made from plastic. Many facial scrubs contain powders made from broken nuts or seeds, although natural, these ingredients are not perfectly spherical and may, therefore, cause microtears – invisible to the naked eye trauma. Facial scrubs are not recommended for sensitive skin types.
- Facial brushes are a recent and new exfoliating concept, they work in a similar way to facial scrubs, however instead of exfoliating powders, they use an exfoliating brush. Facial brushes are not recommended for sensitive skin types.
- Konjac sponges are a natural form of sponge – instead of the traditional ocean sourced sponge, Konjac sponges are made from the Konjac plant – a potato plant native to Asia. Konjac sponges provide a gentle method of physical exfoliation, however, their porous nature can lead to the accumulation of dirt. Konjac sponges may not be washed, however, may be microwaved for sanitation.
- Muslin cloths are an extremely natural method of exfoliation, using a finely-woven, breathable form of cotton to gently and mildly tease dead skin cells away from the stratum corneum. Muslin cloths can be used alone on dampened skin or in combination with a skin type-appropriate cleanser. As a physical method of exfoliation, the effect and sensitivity can be tailored to a person’s skin type. For particularly sensitive skin, a much lighter touch will tailor treatment, for normal skin types, a slightly longer treatment of skin may be appropriate. Muslin cloths such as the griffin+row Exfoliate natural exfoliant cloth can be washed weekly along with other cotton to remove dead skin build up and prevent bacterial contamination – this is a great benefit over other less easily cleanable methods of physical exfoliation.
griffin+row Exfoliate muslin cloths have a unique texture that gently removes dead skin cells. With gentle daily use, it will last for approximately 3 months, can be used at the basin or in the shower, and is also bio-degradable. Exfoliate boasts a luxurious feel and a generous size of 40cm x 40cm which is larger than the average muslin cloth.
- Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) are a type of chemical exfoliant suited for normal to dry skin types. Chemical exfoliants gradually break down the glue which holds dead skin cells together. The most commonly used AHA is glycolic acid. AHAs can be found in cleansers, toners and even in moisturisers.
- Beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) work similarly to AHAs, however, dissolve more easily within oils. This difference in chemistry means BHA containing skincare products are specifically suited for oily to combination skin types. The most commonly used BHA is salicylic acid.
- Enzyme-based exfoliants are a chemical exfoliant with a similar mode of action to AHAs or BHAs. Enzymes such as bromelain or papain are considered milder than exfoliating acids, however, do require specific conditions e.g. pH to work effectively. Results can be variable.
- Chemical peels are considered treatment products not designed for everyday use. They contain concentrated quantities of AHAs and BHAs which cause a very quick shedding of the stratum corneum. Chemical peels are not recommended for sensitive skin types.
- Microdermabrasion is a salon based physical method of exfoliation. Microdermabrasion is also considered a treatment product not designed for everyday use. It uses a fine stream of powder, blown quickly towards skin to loosen and remove dead skin cells. Microdermabrasion is not recommended for sensitive skin types.
- Sensitivity / heightened sensitivity
- Dry, flaky areas of skin – although an already dry and flaky skin type can be improved with regular exfoliation, a skin type that has been over-exfoliated will begin to rear similar symptoms. An important function of the skin barrier is to retain hydration, when an individual’s skin barrier becomes over thinned, it becomes ineffective and therefore dry and flaky.
- Irritation, itchiness
- Shiny skin – the easiest to spot warning sign of over-exfoliation. Shiny skin appears when light has no texture to dissipate into, instead directly bounding off from the skin. The skin should naturally have a degree of texture.
Sources and References:
- Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, et al. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 4th edition. New York: Garland Science; 2002. Epidermis and Its Renewal by Stem Cells. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK26865/
- Pathological mechanisms of acne with special emphasis on Propionibacterium acnes and related therapy. Uta Jappe Acta Derm Venereol. 2003; 83(4): 241–248.
- Age-related changes in sebaceous gland activity. P. E. Pochi, J. S. Strauss, D. T. Downing J Invest Dermatol. 1979 Jul; 73(1): 108–111.
- Isolation, cultivation, and differentiation of normal human epidermal keratinocytes in serum-free medium. Zellmer S, Reissig D. Methods Mol Biol. 2002;188:179-84.
- R C Allsopp, H Vaziri, C Patterson, S Goldstein, E V Younglai, A B Futcher, C W Greider, and C B Harley, Telomere length predicts replicative capacity of human fibroblasts, PNAS 1992 89 (21) 10114-10118
- Oxidative stress shortens telomeres. von Zglinicki T. Trends Biochem Sci. 2002 Jul;27(7):339-44.
- Skin stem cells: rising to the surface. Fuchs E. J Cell Biol. 2008 Jan 28;180(2):273-84. doi: 10.1083/jcb.200708185. Epub 2008 Jan 21.