Our skin is our best protector. It keeps all of our internal organs, bones, vessels and muscles from being exposed to the outside world. Externally, our skin absorbs and blocks harmful irritants, pollutants, and UV rays to keep them from penetrating our bodies.
You can clean, moisturize, and slather on the sunscreen, but if you don’t exfoliate your skin, it will not be as healthy and glowy as it could be.
What Is Exfoliation?
Exfoliation is a necessary step in your skincare routine because it allows the removal of the dead skin cells on the skin’s surface, allowing the fresh skin to breathe and function without any unwanted barriers. Regular exfoliation helps to stimulate collagen synthesis to improve the skin's texture, integrity, and keep the skin looking plump, tight, and young. Dead skin cells can also reduce the penetration and absorption of your skincare routine products like moisturizers, serums and sunscreen. The cleaner the skin, the easier for your products to penetrate deeper.
Exfoliation will also help to unclogs pores, prevent acne, increase the circulation and lymphatic drainage of your skin as well as increase the cell turnover.
Nowadays we can carry out the process of skin exfoliation in two different ways: physical exfoliation (the most traditional so far) and chemical exfoliation, which has been on the cutting edge in recent years.
What to Expect from Physical Exfoliation
Any exfoliating product or method that requires manual scrubbing is known as a physical exfoliant.
You may already be using a physical exfoliant — cleansing scrubs, body brushes, and loofahs are all common methods. If you’re looking for an all natural scrub, GABI+SKIN Exfoliating Coffee Scrub is an excellent choice!
The biggest advantage of physical exfoliation is that almost everyone has natural products at home with which to create a natural base. Brown sugar, coffee grounds, honey, muslin washcloth… and you can make a do-it-yourself scrub. These types of scrubs will show immediate results on the most superficial layer of your skin.
If performed incorrectly, physical exfoliation can sometimes irritate your skin and may result in transepidermal water loss. Following up with a humectant oil or serum can help minimize irritation and lock in moisture.
What to Expect from Chemical Exfoliation
Chemical exfoliation uses chemicals – usually acids to dissolve dry skin cells. This isn't as bad as it sounds: the top layer is already dead and this process should never be painful. Once the exfoliating chemicals are removed, your skin should feel brighter and smoother.
Any exfoliating product or method that requires manual scrubbing is known as a physical exfoliant. The two most popular chemical exfoliants are Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA’s) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA’s).
AHA’s are typically derived from natural substances like citrus (citric), milk (lactic), apples (malic), grapes (tartaric), and sugarcane (glycolic). These ingredients are all water-soluble acids which support the skin’s moisture levels. They work by melting the intercellular glue that holds skin cells together and this helps the skin’s natural exfoliation.
BHA’s are naturally derived from willow bark and are also known as salicylic acid. This is an oil-soluble acid and can be preferred by people with oilier skin, because they help thin and strip oil from the skin. They penetrate deeper into the pores and help thin the oil and draw out the excess (think of it like a Roto-Rooter for the pores).
There are also other popular chemical exfoliators like retinoids ( derived from vitamin A) that protect your skin from free radicals and promote the collagen production of your skin.
Don’t Forget to Listen Your Skin’s Needs
As for how often you should be exfoliating, listen to the specific needs of your skin. Some people prefer chemical exfoliants over physical ones and vice versa, but it's up to your specific needs.
Remember, as we age, these new skin cells take longer to reach the surface of the skin (up to 90 days). Without this quicker cell turnover, skin starts to look dull or wrinkled, and feel rough, or flakey to the touch.
When skin is exfoliated on the surface, it allows the newer, fresher cells to show. This increases the look of evenness, softness in texture, and an overall radiant look. And that is why exfoliating is important!