Do you have dull and rough skin? Want to put the glow back on your face? Well, you need exfoliation in your skin care arsenal ASAP.
You can load up your arsenal with ultra-hydrating toners, fancy serums with unique ingredients, and creamy moisturizers. But without exfoliation, your infinity stones are barely complete.
In a perfect skin care world, exfoliation should happen ideally one to two times a week, depending on the skin type. Yes, it's so important that we need to really allot time for this skin care step.
Life can get so hectic that we tend to skip some steps in favor of that, oh so sweet time curled up in our beds. But exfoliating shouldn't be one of those steps!
Read on to know why this step is so important. Hopefully, this can motivate you to give exfoliation that time it deserves, and your skin the glow it's so righteously entitled to.
Why Do We Exfoliate?
The dead haunts our skin — er, dead skin cells, I mean. Our skin undergoes cell turnover at a natural rate.
This turnover sheds dead skin cells, located in our epidermis, and replaces them with fresh ones. With the new cells, our skin can retain its youthful glow and smoothness.
Generally, the belief is that turnover takes 30 days, but it's more complicated than that. And the more you age, the slower the skin cell turnover becomes.
We have different types of skin cells, and those that generally shed naturally can get stuck.This is bad news for acne.
When dead cells don't shed, they can build up and clog our pores. Not only that, but they can also make our skin look dull and feel rough.
Want some more bad news? (I know you don't, but I still need to tell you this).
The build-up of dead skin cells can result in excess oil production. Add clogged pores to that and you'll soon be dealing with an onslaught of acne blemishes. Not nice!
With all these, it's comforting to know that we can do something about it. This is where exfoliation comes in. You need to exfoliate regularly and adequately to help your skin get rid of dead skin cells.
Exfoliation uncovers fresh new cells and prevents the dead cells from building up.
And when there's no buildup, you'll have cleaner, less noticeable pores and even lesser chance of a surprise acne breakout.
Plus, this skin care step also opens the way for moisturizing products to sink deeply into the skin and work their magic.
In other words, a regular exfoliating routine will leave your skin looking smooth, healthy, and oh, so glowy!
What Types Of Exfoliants Are There?
Before we go jumping into incorporating exfoliation into our routine, we must know what exfoliants we should use.
There are two well-known types of exfoliants — physical/mechanical and chemical. We will also discuss below a lesser-known type but worth looking into — the enzyme exfoliants.
You are physically exfoliating when you use a textured product or tool to rub on your face. By doing so, you remove dead skin cells by sloughing them off with the help of the textured product or tool.
The most common physical exfoliant product are scrubs. From sugars, salts, and fruit seeds to coffee and rice-based enzyme powder — there are tons of options for face scrubs in the market.
For tools, physical exfoliating options are face brushes, cloths, and konjac sponges.
Though these products and tools may seem harmless, I generally recommend avoiding them, especially if you have acne-prone skin.
While cleansing cloths and konjac sponges surely can do a great job in cleansing, they can also be breeding grounds for acne-causing bacteria.
Even if you try to keep them clean, dry them off, change them often enough, bacteria will always thrive on them. And the last thing your acne-prone skin needs is more bad bacteria to deal with.
Scrubs on the other hand are bad for your skin and the environment.
Facial scrubs and body scrubs conventionally tend to use microbeads. These are manufactured solid plastic >1mm in their largest dimension.
Microbeads can cause water pollution and pose a severe threat to the environment of aquatic animals in freshwater and ocean water. So, it is best to skip products containing these.
What about scrubs using sugar, coffee grains, and the link?
Scrubs, both plastic and "natural" beads, have irregularly-shaped particles that are far too harsh for the facial skin.
Rubbing these products, even gently on skin, causes micro tears that gradually weaken the skin's protective barrier. This brings your skin far from being healthy and glowy.
When it comes to exfoliation (and any step of your routine in general), the magic word is “gentle”.
Your goal with your exfoliation is to gently remove old skin cells in order to expose healthy, new skin.
And scrubbing, as the word suggests is an action far from gentle.
Instead of using physical exfoliants, I recommend opting for chemical exfoliants.
While facial scrubs remove dead skin cells from your skin's surface, chemical exfoliants, on the other hand, go deeper.
The way these exfoliants work is by: normalizing cell turnover, which slows down as we age; and, by unsticking the cellular glue that holds our dead skin cells together, which causes build-up.
Take note, though, that just because they are called "chemical" does not mean they are harmful to the skin. In fact, these acids are principally derived from plants, fruits, and nuts.
For chemical exfoliants, there are a couple types to look out for — AHAs and BHAs.
AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) are derived from natural substances. They are water-soluble and only able to clean the skin on the surface.
They can't penetrate very deep into the pores, which makes them a good fit for dry skin types. These are also useful for addressing rough texture more effectively.
BHAs (beta hydroxy acids), on the other hand, are oil-soluble molecules. It means they can reach deeper into the skin and clean the pores thoroughly.
These acids also have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties—a more in-depth exfoliation in general. BHA-based exfoliators are recommended for folks with acne-prone and oily skin (that's me!).
Apart from the two types of exfoliants, enzyme-based exfoliants are the "not as well-known" but worth looking out for.
The enzyme used in exfoliants is called proteolytic, a nerdy word that means "able to breakdown proteins," through the process of proteolysis.
And guess what keeps this rough, dull layer of your skin stuck on your face? A protein — keratin protein, to be exact.
The most common enzymes used in enzyme exfoliants are the following;
- Bromelain: it's found in pineapple.
- Papain: this one's derived from papaya. Soothing and refreshing!
- Pumpkin enzyme: as the name says, it comes from pumpkin and is also lovely!
On top of this all, enzyme exfoliants are very gentle, often recommended for people with rosacea. They can be a good starting point if you have sensitive skin.
If you feel like your skin needs something more, you can then proceed with using chemical exfoliants.
Do take note that if you're prone to allergies, you'll need to be extra careful. Allergy risk is higher with enzyme exfoliants than AHAs and BHAs.
Which Exfoliant Should You Use?
Hands down, chemical exfoliants are the way to go for proper exfoliation. This is true whether you're new or a veteran when it comes to skin care.
Exfoliating serums with chemical exfoliants come in a variety of concentrations. So, if you're new to using them or have sensitive skin, you're very likely to find one that suits your needs!
To Wrap It Up
Exfoliation is definitely a must for you to have healthy and glowing skin. Now that you know the basics about this uber important skin care step, you may now slot in the final infinity stone.
To truly harness its power, however, make sure to regularly exfoliate and not just try it, then skip it.
Remember to limit your exfoliation routine to once a week (twice for the folks with oily, acne-prone skin), as over-exfoliating can leave your skin dry and irritated.
Have you ever tried any exfoliants? Share your experience in the comments below.
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Stay tuned and take skin care