What, when and why you should use them
By Kristin Carlson, Medical Esthetician
We all have our own idea of what it means to exfoliate. What does it mean to you? Is exfoliating a homemade sugar scrub you use on your body during a long bath? Is it cleansing your face with a Clarisonic Cleansing Brush? Or is it getting a chemical peel with your skin-care provider? All of these are examples of exfoliants. In fact, there are many types. Let’s talk about what they are, when to use them and why they are beneficial.
What is an exfoliant?
Exfoliating is the process of removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. There are two main types of exfoliants: physical and chemical. Physical exfoliants require manual “scrubbing” or manipulation. Physical exfoliants include product with granules in them (like a body scrub), and devices such as a loofa, body brush, a sonic cleansing brush and even dermaplaning. Chemical exfoliants are enzymes, hydroxy acids and retinoids, which go on smooth and create a chemical reaction on the skin. Typical treatments falling in this category would be a chemical peel, an enzyme facial or an at-home skin-care regimen including a retinol product. Chemical exfoliants are most commonly used on the face and décolleté, whereas physical exfoliants can be used on all areas of the body (be careful on the sensitive neck and under-eye area).
When to use an exfoliant?
Our skin is in a constant state of regeneration; creating new skin cells and shedding the old ones. Due to oil, sweat, makeup and lack of cleansing, the dead skin cells can get trapped on the surface of the skin, causing clogged pores and dull, flakey-looking skin. Depending on your skin type, exfoliants should be used anywhere from daily to weekly. If you have oily skin, daily exfoliation is great. Exfoliating before bed creates a clean slate for sleep and allows products to penetrate deeper into the skin. If you have more sensitive or mature skin, exfoliate two to three times per week. Sensitive skin needs more time to rest and heal in between exfoliants, while more mature skin has a slower cell turnover rate, meaning there is less need to exfoliate daily. If you wake up with your skin looking a bit dull, a light exfoliation in the morning can really brighten up the skin and create a smooth canvas for your moisturizer, sunscreen and makeup.
Incorporating an exfoliant into your skin-care routine has many benefits. In addition to unclogging the pores, deeper product penetration and a brighter complexion, long-term exfoliation can increase skin elasticity and promote the production of collagen—minimizing fine lines. If you are not sure where to start or what type is right for you, schedule a consultation with your skin-care provider. For brighter, tighter, healthier looking skin, add this easy step in to your routine.