Your skin is a pretty smart organ that is constantly adapting and renewing itself. As skin cells age they push upward towards the surface of the skin until they naturally shed and fall away. However, sometimes due to environmental and lifestyle impacts, our skin can do with a helping hand to remove these old cells.
Exfoliation is the removal of lifeless cells from the skin’s surface. This process should instantly reveal smoother, fresher and healthier looking skin, while also helping to make other products more effective.
Exfoliation is important for both our face and our body, but if it’s not done properly it can do more harm than good. If we go overboard this can irritate, dry and thin the skin.
So where do you start and what’s the best approach for you?
Well firstly, it’s good to understand the two types of exfoliation – chemical and physical.
When I say chemical, I’m not talking about any of those harmful, toxic chemicals that can leave you fluorescent red. Chemical exfoliation can be performed with natural ingredients, and refers to the process where Alpha Hydroxy or Beta Hydroxy acids and enzymes exfoliate the skin without the use of an abrasive bead or fibre. Allow me to break this down little more.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA)
Some examples of naturally occurring fruit and botanical AHA’s include glycolic and lactic acid. These are water soluble and stimulate exfoliation from the inside out by penetrating the skin and dissolving the bond, or glue, that holds these lifeless cells together. They also stimulate the production of healthy skin cells to rejuvenate aged, dehydrated and dull looking skin.
Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA)
These naturally occurring acids include mandelic acid (derived from almonds) and salicylic acid (which is from willow tree bark). BHAs are oil soluble and work really well on oily skin with breakout concerns. They work within the pore to help with dissolving blocked oils, therefore helping to treat congestion, blackheads and breakouts. BHA’s also refine and balance excess oils on the skin’s surface to improve the feel and texture of the skin.
The upper layer of your skin is made mostly of dead skin cells containing keratin protein. Enzymes are gentle, yet effective, exfoliators that work by breaking down the keratin protein, resulting in smooth, soft skin. Look for fruit or vegetable enzymes like papain (papaya), pineapple or pumpkin.
This is a mechanical type of exfoliation that uses some type of abrasive. Beads and grains help the skin release their cells by physically ‘rubbing’ them away from the skin’s surface.
Natural abrasives include jojoba beads and botanical grains. Some products will instead contain plastic micro beads - these should never be used, as they are extremely harmful to the environment, polluting our waterways with toxins and harming wildlife.
My three pieces of advice for physical exfoliation are:
- The beads should be small and perfectly round, with no jagged edges. Fruit kernel and nut grains should never be used on the face as they can tear the skin which can create sensitivity and leave the skin’s texture rough and bumpy.
- The consistency of the product is very important, as you want the beads to be evenly suspended in a creamy formula so that it will be gentle and won’t drag or pull the skin. You also don’t want to lose all the beads if the product is very thin or watery.
- How aggressive you are will change the outcome of your exfoliating experience. It’s best to use a scrub on a damp face as this will reduce the drag on the skin. Use only your fingertips and gently, very gently, use circular movements to exfoliate.
Best exfoliant for your skin type:
Physical exfoliators can be useful for very oily, thickened, strong skin types but should always be used sparingly and very carefully.
The Skin Juice Revival refining face scrub contains jojoba beads (rounder, smoother beads) and kaolin clay to lift and remove excess oils and dead skin cells.
Chemical exfoliation is suitable for all skin types and is particularly beneficial for sensitive and reactive skin types. Personally, I prefer chemical exfoliation for myself and my clients. The Skin Juice Facial in a Jar and Serum Factory Party Peel are chemical exfoliant products.
Facial In A Jar contains fruit acids, mandelic acid and fruit and pumpkin enzymes. This is applied like a mask to clean skin and left on for about 5 minutes. The acidic nature of this product means you may feel a gentle tingling or prickle sensation. This exfoliating mask also contains clinically proven actives that will feed the skin post exfoliation to stimulate the production of healthy, new and vibrant skin.
The Serum Factory Party Peel supercharged serum is another great example of a product that uses a combination of fruit enzymes and plant acids to exfoliate dead cells and blocked oils trapped within the pores to expose healthier, clearer and younger looking skin. This serum is applied like a mask and left on the skin for 2-5 minutes before wiping away.
How often should you exfoliate:
If you are using a chemical exfoliant, then you can exfoliate 2-3 times a week.
If you are using a physical exfoliant, you should limit your use to once a week. Yes, it may feel amazing your very first time and you might then vow to use it everyday. Please don’t do this as it will certainly irritate, thin and dry out your skin. Over scrubbing will also stimulate extra oil production and may result in blackheads and blocked pores.
Of course, exfoliation isn’t only for your face; our body, hands and feet also benefit from regular exfoliation. But remember, if it’s for your body or feet then it’s NOT suitable for your face.
Skin Juice's Berry Buff refining body scrub deeply exfoliates the body using potent, natural fruit acids and crushed walnuts, while preparing the skin for intense hydration. Dead, dry skin cells are polished away leaving the skin smoother with a bright and glowing complexion.
Finding the right exfoliation approach for you will help give your skin that little extra helping hand to maintain its beautiful glow.