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  • Writer's picturetayyouraesthy

Why Exfoliate?

Have you ever wondered why exfoliation is so important for your skin? "What does exfoliation even do? Is a Chemical Exfoliant better than a Physical Exfoliant? When is an exfoliant used?" Exfoliation is necessary for many reasons, but the primary purpose is to resurface cells which prohibit healthy cells from receiving the support needed.

The practice of exfoliating our skin has been traced back to Ancient Egypt. A French method of exfoliation known as "gommage" translates to "erasing" or "exfoliation." Resurfacing skin cells which have become dead, dull, or damaged allows for products to reach healthy cells quicker, stimulates new cells to 'rise' to the surface and shed (also known as the process of desquamation,) removes foreign residue and traces of excess oils, and smooths the overall texture of the skin. The process of exfoliation can be achieved primarily through physical or chemical resurfacing.

Physical Exfoliants resurface skin cells mechanically through the manipulation of scrubbing agents which breakdown unnecessary matter on the skin's surface. Physical exfoliation is beneficial for removing flaky skin and instantly removing cells which have begun to 'slough off' or remove themselves from the skin's surface naturally. Chemical Exfoliants resurface skin cells synthetically through enzymes and/or acids which dissolve unnecessary matter on the skin's surface. Chemical exfoliation is beneficial for treating the skin evenly and dissolving cells gently and over a period of time.

Exfolation should always be done in the evening after cleansing and before any other steps are followed. This is to ensure the cells which receive the following products are in optimal conditions. Clean, polished skin cells absorb ingredients with greater efficiency and will retain ingredients for longer. Dead, dry cells block these superior cells from receiving any products which are placed ontop. Think of a dead cell as a paper towel and a healthy cell as a sponge. If you place the paper towel over the sponge and put serums on the paper towel, the sponge will hardly soak any of the product up, wasting it. By "resurfacing" the paper towel, the sponge can now absorb everything it needs to!

Physical exfoliants are usually characterized by materials which have a "grit" like sugar or

salt. Though a greater grit may seem like it would provide better results, it is important to remember our skin is actually quite sensitive and retains memory. Exfoliators which are too rough for the skin can actually create micro-tears in the skin, likely exacerbating existing skin conditions like acne or undesired pigmentation. Plastic-beads are so 2005 and anything that comes from the pantry should never go on your skin...*insert apricot scrubs, lemon and baking soda*

Chemical exfoliants are usually characterized on a molecular structure through enzymes and acids. Alpha Hydroxy Acids, or AHA's, are excellent for resurfacing skin cells by signaling cells to expedite desquamation. My personal favorites are Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid, natural derivatives which have been created synthetically for beneficial use in the skin. Glycolic Acid, derived from sugar cane, is

pregnancy-safe and has a smaller molecular weight, making it easier to work its way into cell structure. Lactic Acid, derived from milk, mimics our skin's natural lactic acid production. Lactic Acid is a part of our skin's moisturizing complex, making synthetic lactic acids work best for resurfacing while boosting moisture retention. Enzymes, like pumpkin, pineapple (bromelain,) papaya (papain,) etc., perform differently from acids while chemically exfolating. While acids resurface from deeper layers of the skin and up, enzymes break down a protein in between dead cells called "keratin" so dead cells can be properly and effectively removed. I love using papain and pumpkin the most. Papain is excellent for treating acne-prone skin and has also been proven to stimulate collagen production to plump the skin. Pumpkin produces the best aroma, in my opinion, but it also contains vitamins A and C, making it an excellent resurfacing agent which is boosted with antioxidants.

Conditions and factors of the skin like hydration, age, and health will provide different results to chemical and physical exfoliants. Skin with rosacea, for example, should limit physical and chemical exfoliation in order to prevent continual hyperkeratosis, or the excessive accumulation of skin cells. Oily skin typically responds better to chemical exfoliation, especially through the use of a Beta Hydroxy Acid known as Salicylic Acid because it is an oil-soluble acid; it is a chemical fact that oil dissolves oil. Younger skin cells will produce new cells more frequently; babies gain new cells every two weeks while teenagers receive new cells about every 23-28 days. More mature skin cells decline in their rate of producing new cells once adults reach the age of 20 and continue to decline each year. Adults between the ages of 25 and 40 will receive new cells about every 28-45 days. As our cells decline in total production, surface cells require more frequent exfoliation. The average adult should exfoliate between one and three times per week to stimulate cell turnover.

Exfoliation is a reliable method of keeping the cells moving and grooving. In many cases, too much of a good thing can be harmful so you should ALWAYS use your products accordingly. There are many reasons to exfoliate, but it is also safest to consult with a licensed skin-professional when deciding on an exfoliator for your skin type and goals. Have a happy cell turnover!



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