If exfoliation isn’t already a significant part of your skincare routine, it’s time to add it STAT. Why? Exfoliation has a ton of benefits that can improve skin texture, restore radiance and luminosity and help solve some of the most common skin issues—and the results are visible both immediately and over the long term.
Before you start exfoliating in earnest, there are some things that would be helpful to know—and we’ll break them down in this post.
Why Is Exfoliating Important?
Your skin sheds its cells naturally, but it doesn’t always do so effectively or efficiently (it did when you were younger, but the process slows down with age). Exfoliation, simply put, helps shed the dead skin cells that pile one on top of the other and effectively gives your own skin’s exfoliation process a boost.
When done regularly and correctly, it can help unclog pores, smooth away rough texture, brighten dark spots like old acne scars, prevent acne and make wrinkles and fine lines less noticeable. Moreover, it can make other ingredients in your serums and moisturizers absorb more readily into skin so that you can get the most benefits from them.
Chemical vs. Physical Exfoliation
Chemical exfoliation involves using acids to dissolve dead skin cells; physical exfoliation involves using scrubs that contain small beads or a tool like a brush. Both are effective in different ways. For chemical exfoliation, acids like glycolic, lactic and salicylic acid are used to help break down the sticky sebum (oil) and dead skin cells that clog pores and give skin a rough texture and dull tone. Glycolic and lactic acid are alpha hydroxy acids, while salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid. The main difference is that glycolic and lactic acids are water-soluble, while salicylic acid is oil-soluble. This means salicylic acid can penetrate deep into the pore, and this is why it’s often used in acne medications to unclog pores and reduce acne lesions.
However, glycolic acid is a superstar ingredient that can help diminish the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines thanks to its ability to stimulate collagen production. Chemical exfoliants are usually very gentle on the skin, and it is recommended they be used once or twice a week, or three times at the most, depending on your skin sensitivity. In fact, some dermatologists believe that chemical exfoliation is more effective and gentler than physical exfoliation.
When it comes to physical exfoliation, it’s best to avoid harsh scrubs that contain ingredients like crushed walnuts (any fruit pit like from apricots or nuts should generally be avoided). These ingredients are likely to cause micro-tears in the skin, tiny wounds that can make skin more susceptible to infection and irritation.
Microbeads are a better choice in a scrub, BUT you should be sure the type of microbead (such as the widely publicised polyethylene) in your scrub is not harming the environment. If you buy a physical scrub these days, you are not likely to encounter the type of microbead that was banned a few years ago for harming wildlife by running into streams, rivers and other waterways. Newer scrubs will use legal non-plastic microbeads that still do their job without causing problems.
Common alternatives to plastic microbeads you may find include jojoba beads, whole oats, salt, ground coffee and sugar. These are all physical, or manual, exfoliants that can remove dead skin cells and give you instantly smooth and glowing skin. If you are using a salt scrub, however, it’s best not to use it on your face but your body or rough areas like feet and elbows instead. Salt can be too harsh on sensitive skin. A sugar scrub will be best when mixed in with either olive, jojoba, coconut or grapeseed oil to make it smoother and easier to use. Always massage a physical exfoliant (like a sugar scrub) onto your face gently and do not exfoliate manually more than twice a week.
You can make your own exfoliating scrub with sugar and some type of oil (or even honey!). A lot of people will use olive or coconut oil for this, and granulated sugar, either white or brown. A typical recipe involves one cup of oil and two cups of sugar for a large batch.
Whether you decide to try chemical, physical or a combination of both, start with just once a week and work up from there. As always, consider the environment and listen to your skin. It will glow up and you’ll never look back.
Naturally Yours, The LUXE Botanics Team