Salut! In case you are new here, I’m Sharon. I create content around my passion for the science of beauty, wellness and self development. Make sure you join my mailing list so that I keep you in the loop on all these great topics.

Today I’ll focus on exfoliation of the skin .

What is exfoliation? 

This is the removal or breakdown of dead skin cells in order to reveal a new, fresh, layer of healthy skin cells. 

Why is exfoliation important

Lack of exfoliation leads to buildup of dead skin cells on the skin’s surface. This may lead to: 

  • Dull skin 
  • Clogged pores which ultimately causes acne
  • Wrinkles 
  • Increased dryness 

Types of exfoliation 

Manual/mechanical/physical exfoliation 

This is the manual buffing off of skin cells. This is done in two ways:

  •  The most common is the use of scrubs. Scrubs are products that contain granules, beads or particles that introduce friction to slough off the dead skin cells manually. 
  • The second way is using tools to produce a similar sloughing effect. Such tools include: spin brushes or facial gloves or sponges. 

Benefits of physical exfoliation 

  1. It occurs only at the surface of the skin. This means that it doesn’t affect the more deeper and more sensitive layers of the skin. 
  2. It helps with dry and flaky skin. As mentioned above, a build up of dead skin can lead to dryness and flaking. Physical exfoliation works well on other parts of the body like the arms, legs and feet .
  3.  It gives noticeable results in a short amount of time. If you have dry skin on any part of your body, then you probably know what a good scrub can do ! The difference is almost instant.

Disadvantages of physical exfoliation 

  1. Physical exfoliation , when done by professionals, cause micro tears intentionally on the skin so that products used afterwards can better penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin. In the hands of someone who is inexperienced, this doubles as a disadvantage because these micro tears can allow harmful bacteria, dirt and oil penetrate deeper into the sensitive layers of the skin and wreak havoc.
  2. A harsh physical exfoliant may aggravating an existing skin condition like hyper-pigmentation, acne, rosacea and eczema.
  3. It may not produce even results . This is because you might focus on some parts of your skin and neglecting others e.g. over exfoliating the cheeks and forgetting the chin or forehead. 

Chemical exfoliation 

This is the use of acids derived from fruits and plants. These acids is break down the dead skin cells or they break down the glue that holds the dead skin cells together. This makes it easier get rid of the dead cells and promote cell turnover. 

Types of chemical exfoliants. 

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA’s) 

  • These are water soluble so they get activated when they come into contact with water. 

They break down dead cells, boost collagen production and they lock in moisture i.e. they help in moisture retention. 

Examples include lactic acid, glycolic acid, tartaric acid, malic acid and mandelic acid.  

Each of these acids have their own unique benefits and strengths. 

Who should use AHAs?

 They target :

  • sensitive skin
  • aging skin
  • wrinkles
  • mild hyper-pigmentation
  • skin affected by the sun
  • dry skin. 

Beta hydroxy acids (BHA’s) 

These are liquid soluble, fat soluble or oil soluble. 

BHA’s are able to penetrate the skin at a deeper level compared to AHA’s . They break down deep-seated dirt and excess sebum (the oil our skin naturally produces) which is linked to acne.  

The main example of BHA’s is salicylic acid derived from the willow plant. 

Who should use BHA’s?

They work for:

  • oily skin
  • acne-prone skin
  • skin with inflammation since BHA’s are anti-inflammatory. 

Uncategorized exfoliants

There are other acidic exfoliators like azelaic acid and alpha lipoic acid that don’t fall under AHA’s and BHA’s.  

Chemical peels also act as exfoliators and may contain some of the acids already mentioned. 

Advantages of chemical exfoliation

  1. It is generally gentler on the skin when compared to manual exfoliation.
  2. Chemical exfoliants have more benefits other than exfoliating the skin. These include reducing hyper-pigmentation and wrinkles.
  3. The root of the problem is resolved at a deeper level producing long-lasting results. Physical exfoliation is a temporary fix but chemical exfoliation has a more permanent effect.

Disadvantages of chemical exfoliation 

  1. They increase photo-sensitivity; sensitivity to sunlight. Daily use of sunscreen is therefore non-negotiable (as it should be regardless)
  2. If the ingredients are too strong , it can be very harsh and even burn the skin.

My two cents on exfoliation 

 I switched from physical to chemical exfoliation over a year ago and I haven’t looked back. I have reviewed some chemical exfoliants so you can check those posts out.

If you are still uncertain about the righ exfoliants to use, consult an aesthetician or a dermatologist for professional advice.

Bottom line is that exfoliation is an important part of any good skincare routine so choose wisely .

Let me know what exfoliating product or tool you use and why . Leave your answer in the comment section below .

Thank you so much for reading this post !

“Always remember that your hair is your crown and your body is a temple; embrace it, love it and take care of it”. 

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