Exfoliating is important. It removes the dead cells from the surface of the skin. Without exfoliation, these cells build up, to the detriment of the healthy cells underneath. Products are absorbed by the dead cells, which, being dead, simply dry out again. They also block pores, and result in the surface of the skin looking dull. Removing them gives the healthy cells underneath a chance to breathe, and absorb all the wonderful products we use.
There are different ways of exfoliating; knowing how they differ can be the first step to choosing a skincare routine that works with your lifestyle.
- Grain exfoliators, or scrubs, are granular products that buff off the surface of the skin. They are simple to use at home, in the shower – provided you remember! It is not a good idea to use them too often, as this irritates the skin, causing it to become dry and easily inflamed.
- Acids fall into two groups – alpha hydroxy acids, or AHAs, and beta hydroxy acids(BHA) or salicylic acid as it is also known. Both remove the surface of the skin, however BHAs are oil loving. They penetrate deep into the pores and remove the oil and dead matter blocking them – great for oily skin. Although AHA containing products can be bought over the counter, the concentration is too low to be of any great benefit. In a salon or clinic environment, qualified staff use concentrations of up to 30% to remove the skin surface. The treatment itself takes 15-20 minutes, and the skin will take a few days to peel away, depending on the strength used. This type of exfoliation is particularly good for those with acne scarring; it also reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Both types of acids can be used regularly, and a course of peels is usually recommended.
- Finally there are machines, such as microdermabrasion or lasers. It uses a high pressure stream of inert crystals to sandblast the skin surface, leaving it smooth and clear. Microdermabrasion can be used regularly, but is also is a great adjunct to any established skin care regime – even the most diligent will find their skin is rejuvenated and clearer after a treatment.
Although acids and machines are slightly more time consuming than a scrub in the shower, they are a great alternative for those of us who are just too busy to remember. A fortnightly commitment is sometimes easier to keep than incorporating another step into the daily routine.