The Importance of Exfoliation
Exfoliation is just as (if not more) important as the application of moisturizer. Exfoliation first removes the dead skin cells to reveal the fresh, new skin underneath. After exfoliating, apply an appropriate moisturizer for your skin type. Not only does exfoliation keep the skin fresh, youthful, and soft but it also keeps the skin free of any congestion, which causes acneic breakouts and other forms of inflammation.
Imagine covering your face with water and then pressing your face into a sandy beach. Theoretically, the sand would adhere to your water-covered face, and the sand represents the dead skin cells. Then imagine applying moisturizer to your sand-covered face. Very little of the moisturizer would absorb into the skin because the sand would act as a barrier. Thus, your moisture-starved face would eventually dry out. The same analogy goes for the skin over your entire body.
Exfoliation can be done either manually (or physically) or chemically, and the two methods have their differences.
Manual and Chemical Exfoliation
Exfoliation with Manual Exfoliants
A manual exfoliant can either be an abrasive tool/cloth or it can be a product containing micro-beads. Manual exfoliants are anything by which the dead skin cells are removed physically. Any part of the body can be exfoliated. The frequency of exfoliating is different for everyone – some people may need to do it every day while others may only need to do it once a month. Either way, removing those dead skin cells is crucial and everyone should do it.
In order to avoid weakening of the acid mantle, or skin barrier over the entire body, never ‘scrub’ your skin when exfoliating manually. Gently move the cloth upward and outward over your face, never downward or inward. When exfoliating manually, begin only doing so two or three times a week in order to let your skin relax and rejuvenate itself. Listen to your skin before increasing any necessary frequency.
“Exfoliating every day can strip the skin of its natural oils, which can cause breakouts. It can also cause irritation because you’re removing the top layer of skin before it can heal.”Celebrity Facialist Joanna Vargas, Exactly How Often Should you Exfoliate, Glamour
Exfoliation with Chemical Exfoliants
Chemical exfoliants are creams/gels that are left on the skin for approximately seven to ten minutes or so and then wiped off with water or washed away with facial cleanser.
If left on for too long then the skin may become red, inflamed, itchy, or even worse. In extreme cases, scarring can occur – and that can be easily avoided.
When using either of these methods, first be sure that the area has been cleansed well. First, carefully read the instructions listed on the packaging because not all types of chemical exfoliants should be left on your skin for the same duration. This allows for the dead skin cells to become emulsified (i.e. loosened) before they are removed.
Unlike the manual method, chemically exfoliating daily can be dangerous. Even if the exfoliant is left on the skin for the appropriate time length, daily use can definitely weaken the skin’s barrier and destroy the skin’s elastin.
Never Use Vinegar, Citrus Juice, or Baking Soda
If you’d like to try a DIY exfoliant at home, never forget that you might severely damage your skin if you do not first have a plan in mind and take precautions.
The pH scale tells of the product’s acidity. It rates products as being 1 (or very acidic) to 14 (very alkaline.) The average pH of the skin is approximately 5.5, meaning that it is somewhat acidic and allows itself to ward off pathogens and various bacteria. Conversely, products that are high in acidity may produce severe burning and, conversely, the skin can become dehydrated if it is too alkaline, thus weakening the acid mantle.
Certain DIY methods profess to incite the exfoliating and cleansing of the skin but always remember that a process of efficient chemical exfoliation (an AHA/alpha-hydroxy acid or BHA/beta-hydroxy acid) has a pH that is somewhat lesser than the skin’s pH (around 3.5-3.4.)
Baking soda is a common additive of DIY recipes and comprises a pH level of roughly 9, which is highly basic/alkaline. Additionally, another popular DIY skincare additive, which is white vinegar, is rated as a 2.5-3.5 on the pH scale. This leaves you susceptible to chemical burning. It’s like giving your body a sunburn. Lemon juice, which contains a pH rating of 2, is recommended to never be massaged right into the skin. As for skincare products, extractions are altered to shield the skin. Do not forget that such constituents are chemicals and just because they are derived organically doesn’t necessarily mean that they are safe for your body.
If applied incorrectly, products that are normally kept at home are capable of causing extreme damage to the skin. It’s always better to entrust skincare concoctions to ethical, professional lines instead of risking the condition of your skin with God-knows-what – especially with procedures such as chemical exfoliants. If you need something natural for exfoliation, try epsom salt.
The Bottom Line
Exfoliating both manually and chemically can provide many greats benefits to your skin. Actually, lots of people do not believe that their daily routine would be complete without this step.
People have very different skin and, because establishing an effective daily skincare routine can take a long time, choosing an exfoliant that works best with your skin type may take some time also. Deeply consider your skin type and always purchase products based on your personal skincare needs.
As a reminder, whether you decide to chemically or manually exfoliate, be gentle with your skin. We strongly urge you not to expect dramatic results instantly. Still, when you are patient with your skincare products and allow them ample time to take effect, you’ll be thankful for the smoothness, clarity, and overall healthful look of which your skin is capable.