The Two Types of Exfoliation
There are two main types of exfoliation: mechanical and chemical.
Mechanical Exfoliation literally rubs the dead skin cells off with some kind of abrasive, including anything from jojoba beads to a diamond-tip microdermabrasion machine.
Chemical Exfoliation, on the other hand, uses acids including fruit enzymes and super-powerful facial peels to dissolve the glue-like substance that holds the cells together.
Mechanical Exfoliation include a body scrub that might use sugar or skin brushing or microdermabrasion. On the face, scrubs should use small, round, gentle abrasives like jojoba beads.
Additionally, you should stay away from something harsh like apricot scrubs, which can cause micro-tears in your skin. A more aggressive and effective approach to mechanical exfoliation is microdermabrasion, which uses small particles to rub against the skin, knocking dead cells lose faster without as much damage.
Enzymes, alphahydroxy acids (AHAs), or betahydroxy acids (BHAS) are used in chemical exfoliation treatments to loosen the glue-like substance that holds the cells together, allowing them to slough away. Facial peels are a form of chemical exfoliation, but chemical peels, can either be very gentle or very aggressive, depending on how the strong the peel is.
The Importance of Clearing Away Dead Skin
The skin is constantly generating new cells at the lower layer (the dermis) and sending them to the surface (the epidermis). As the cells rise to the surface they gradually die and become filled with keratin, which gives our skin its protective quality, but they are constantly sloughing off to make way for younger cells.
As we age the process of cell turnover slows down, and cells start to pile up unevenly on the skin's surface, giving it a dry, rough, dull appearance. Exfoliation is beneficial because it removes those cells that are clinging on, revealing the fresher, younger skin cells below.
If your facial skin has a dull, pasty look, as it often does in older people who don't exfoliate, a treatment routine that emphasizes gentle exfoliation will make you look younger.
The Dangers of Over-Exfoliations
If you exfoliate your face too much, your skin can become sensitized, making it prone to redness and irritation instead of smooth and even-toned like you might have originally desired. Essentially, instead of taking care of your skin, you can make it much worse.
You have to be careful about exposing yourself to the sun after you exfoliate, especially if you get an aggressive chemical facial peel at the spa, and you should talk to your esthetican about the products and the frequency of use that is best for your skin and goals, especially if you have sensitive or aging skin.
If you're getting a facial peel, you should wait a considerable amount of time before scheduling your next appointment as you are removing an entire layer of skin protecting the dermis. Additionally, you should never wax after you get a peel as you can easily scrape or break the skin, causing it to expose raw, living tissue that will have to scab over to heal.