What is exfoliation and why is it good for the skin?
Skin exfoliation is a naturally-occurring physiological process whereby dead surface skin cells organically slough off. This is often referred to as cellular turnover and involves removing the top most layer of dead skin cells. While our skin has a natural cellular turnover system, it is helpful to help this process along. Furthermore, as is the case with most naturally-occurring physiological processes, this one slows as we age.
The benefits of exfoliation are numerous and enhancing the softness and smoothness of the skin; helping to give the skin a more uniform texture; brightening the overall complexion; and deep-cleansing the pores and helping to minimize breakouts, blackheads, whiteheads. And, a good exfoliator will make all of your other products work better (because they can penetrate better).
In addition, exfoliation will make all other skin care products work better, as they can more easily penetrate to where they need to go without the dead skin barrier. Indeed, our founder Dr. Luigi L. Polla loves to say “using good skin care products without exfoliating is like showering with your raincoat on!” Yes, you are in the shower, but there is a barrier to the shower doing its job, just like the skin’s dead cells act as a barrier that prevent products from penetrating and having optimal benefits.
What are the types of exfoliation?
There are two types of exfoliation: mechanical (also known as physical), and chemical (also known as enzymatic).
Mechanical exfoliation is the process of using fine solid particles to remove dead skin cells by physical abrasion, providing a deep cleansing experience and creating smoother skin. This type of exfoliation can be performed in a professional skincare setting (for example microdermabrasion), and at home with the use of topical products or at-home devices.
When choosing a product that provides mechanical exfoliation, it is important that the particles be fine, smooth, and without sharp edges so as not to create any micro-wounds in the skin. Another form of mechanical exfoliation is the use of at-home devices, ranging from at-home microdermabrasion machines to sonic cleansing brushes. The key with any at-home device or sonic brush is to ensure its cleanliness (frequent replacement of brush heads to avoid the growth of bacteria is a must).
A conversation about mechanical exfoliation is not complete without the mention of microbeads, which are defined as any solid plastic particle less than 5mm in size and used to exfoliate or cleanse. These have been banned in beauty products in the US, as they were entering natural waterways as they were not being effectively being treated by wastewater treatment plants.
The second type of exfoliation is chemical exfoliation, which happens with the use of ingredients that break the bond between the dead skin cell and healthy skin breaks. There are various levels of chemical exfoliation: light, medium, and deep. Typically, at home beauty products provide a light chemical exfoliation. Medium and deep exfoliation treatments happen in a professional skin care setting and can be associated with side effects such as redness, inflammation, flaking and peeling.
Ingredients typically used in chemical exfolaitors include enzymes (for example papaya enzyme), alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as glycolic, malic, or lactic acids, and salicylic acid, which is a Beta hydroxy acid (BHA).
The beauty of our exfoliator, Gentle Refining Scrub, is that this product provides a combination of both types of exfoliation. Indeed, we use pearls of jojoba and cranberries that loosen up the dead skin cells (physical exfoliation), as well as papaya enzyme (chemical exfoliation) that dissolve those dead skin cells. This dual exfoliation technology enhances the efficacy of your at-home exfoliation treatments and enable an immediate, visible result: brighter skin and a more even complexion. Don’t forget that this product is to be used on clean, but dry skin. That will enable you to really massage the product in your skin for a minute to 90 seconds for optimal results.
Watch this video to learn more about our Gentle refining scrub.
Finally, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you add exfoliation to your skin care regimen.
- Exfoliation is a beneficial skin care step for all skin types and all skin tones.
- Exfoliation is particularly beneficial to more mature skin, as the natural cellular turnover system has slowed down.
- For most skin types, exfoliating once to twice weekly is enough.
- Mechanical exfoliators tend to be ideal for clogged pores and uneven complexions.
- Chemical exfoliators tend to be ideal for inflamed, acne-prone skin.
- Mechanical and chemical products can be combined but should not be used together (meaning not on the same day).
- Watch our CEO Ada Polla speak about exfoliation in this video.