Exfoliating is the secret to many celebrities’ glowing complexion. Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, and Kim Kardashian all get their dewy skin due to regular exfoliation, according to their medical aesthetician, Louise Deschamps. However, with two different exfoliation methods to consider, an array of exfoliation products on the market and your skin type to take on board, it’s important to understand how, why and when you should be exfoliating your skin.

What is exfoliation?

Exfoliation is a process whereby the dead keratinocytes on the epidermis, or outer layer of the skin, are removed. By doing this, the skin will appear and feel healthy and new skin cells will be encouraged to grow. There are two methods of exfoliation; mechanical and chemical. Mechanical exfoliation involves a tool being used, such as a brush, sponge or scrubbing disk to physically remove the dead skin from the surface of the skin. Whereas, chemical exfoliation requires products which contain salicylic acid or alpha hydroxy acids to be applied to the skin. They then actively work by dissolving the dead skin and no manual scrubbing is required.

Mechanical or chemical exfoliation?

One of the most important factors to consider before you exfoliate your skin is your skin type. The American Academy of Dermatology advises that individuals with sensitive or acne-prone skin are wise to steer clear of mechanical exfoliation as it can further irritate the skin. Instead, it’s best to use a mild chemical exfoliator alongside a washcloth as it’s gentler on the skin. Mechanical exfoliants can be used on oily skin as they can typically withstand a more abrasive cleansing technique. Although, care should still be taken not to damage the epidermis. It is, however, wise to stick to chemical exfoliants on the face and opt for the mechanical method on the rest of the body.

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How often should you exfoliate?

Exfoliating every day can irritate the skin, cause rashes, redness, and blotchiness. Furthermore, there are long-term risks associated with over-exfoliating. When the skin is damaged as a result of too frequent exfoliation, it ages quicker and wrinkles become more prominent. Therefore, leading skincare experts recommend that individuals with normal, dry or oily skin, exfoliate their face no more than two to three times a week. Meanwhile, board-certified Dr. Tanzi, suggests that this is reduced to just once per week for those with sensitive skin to prevent damage.

The exfoliation process

Exfoliation should form part of your cleansing, toning and moisturizing routine. Start off by cleansing your skin to remove dirt, sweat, and makeup from the surface of the skin. Your skin will then be a blank canvas to allow the exfoliator to work its magic. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests that chemical exfoliators are applied using small, circular motions for no longer than 30 seconds before washing off with lukewarm water. Once your skin is cleansed and exfoliated, it’s vital that you moisturize. Moisturizing helps to restore moisture in the skin and ensures that it remains healthy and hydrated following your skincare regime.

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The biggest benefits

Other than providing you with healthy looking skin, regular exfoliation can also boost your skin in other ways. When you exfoliate, the dead and dry skin, along with scraps of make-up are washed away. This prevents them from working there way into your pores, clogging them up and causing whiteheads and blackheads – something which Americans spend more than $300 million each year trying to tackle.

Regular exfoliation also increases the blood circulation in your body. Therefore, if you have conditions such as Raynaud’s disease or chilblains where you experience cold fingers and toes then you may find your body benefits from an exfoliating routine. This will help to bring color back to your skin which can also reduce the appearance of scars and discoloration. You’ll also see better long-term skincare results as exfoliating encourages skincare products to penetrate deeper into the skin.

Things to be wary of

The biggest concern when exfoliating is whether it will cause damage to your skin. This typically happens when:

  • You use an exfoliant which isn’t suitable for your skin type
  • You exfoliate too vigorously and/or too frequently
  • You exfoliate when you have open cuts, wounds or skin damage, such as sunburn

As such, always ensure you use products which are designed for your skin type, follow the recommended exfoliation process for your skin type and avoid exfoliating when your skin is already damaged.

It is also possible tto develop post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) following a skin scrub. This involves dark spots forming on the skin and those with dark skin are particularly vulnerable to the condition. Therefore, extra precaution is required when exfoliating and the gentlest strokes and products should be used.

Exfoliating is an important part of your skincare routine and should be actively carried out. When done correctly and according to your skin type, you will benefit from glowing skin, new cell growth and better circulation. However, there are risks associated with exfoliation too. So, it’s essential that you take precautions and know what you’re doing before using a brush or scrub to remove your dead skin.