It’s pretty easy to experiment with certain skincare routines and feel overwhelmed by products and recommendations, not knowing whether you’re doing more harm than good. One of the main sources of confusion is exfoliation, and with all the different ways and applications, it can get complicated. If you are not already routinely exfoliating or may have heard someone recommend it and you are wondering what it is or how to get started, there are some tips and insights that can help you.
Let’s take a look…
What is exfoliation and why should we do it?
Exfoliation is a process that removes dead skin cells and stubborn contaminates from the surface of your skin. Every 30 days or so, our skin will renew itself but sometimes the dead cells hang on and do not slough off like they are supposed to. This can lead to rough, flaky skin or even clogged pores, which results in blemishes. When you exfoliate, it can be very beneficial to your complexion, making it smooth and bright, while evening the skin tone and allowing the healthy products you apply afterward to reach further beneath the surface layers of your skin.
Sounds good, but how do we go about it? Are there right and wrong ways to do it?
Definitely! You do not want to damage your skin or cause further issues so there are different methods that will work for different skin types. Let’s break it down…
How do we effectively exfoliate without damaging our skins barrier function?
A good place to start is with what skin type you have. Skin can range anywhere from dry or combination to sensitive and oily with any variation in between, it can even change over time!
If you don't know what you have, now is a good time to figure it out, for more than just exfoliation. Using targeted products can help you manage any issues you have been struggling with.
- Normal: Normal skin may be the easiest skin type to deal with because it needs the least amount of maintenance. The skin is hydrated and relaxed with small pores. There are little to no sensitivities and less care is needed when applying products.
- Combination: This is probably the most common skin type. Many people have dry to normal areas and also have oily areas. Most commonly the T-zone is oily while other places could be dry. This means different areas need different care, but once you know what products to use you can establish a routine to maintain the best skin possible.
- Dry: Dry skin can feel tight or rough. Red patches and flakiness might be a real struggle. Your complexion might have fine lines and look dull. Hydrating your skin will be the main focus so getting dead skin cells out of the way will help moisturizing agents penetrate deeper beneath the layers.
- Oily: If your skin has overactive sebum production it can look shiny or dull, depending on buildup, and can have enlarged pores that are easily clogged. This can show up in the form of acne and blackheads. Exfoliation can clear the pores and help balance oil production.
- Sensitive or Aged: There can be several types of sensitivity. Redness, burning, itchiness, or thin skin all need to be cared for very gently and carefully. A patch test before exfoliating will help you in these situations so you don’t injure the surface of your skin further. If you have wounds or any kind of broken skin you might want to wait to exfoliate until after those areas have healed.
Mechanical or Chemical Exfoliation?
What’s the difference between the different methods of exfoliation? From exfoliating tools to chemicals that help remove dead skin cells there is a plethora of choices. While this can seem complex and hard to decide between, most of the time the type of skin you have can help you narrow down your selection process. Once you know, it’s a little easier to choose.
- Chemical Exfoliation: This can sound a little scary at first since most of the time we’re told to stay away from chemicals as much as possible. Chemical doesn’t always mean harsh or harmful. Many chemical exfoliators are plant-based and proven to be the gentlest method of exfoliation.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) such as Citric Acid, Lactic Acid, and Glycolic Acid, are derived from plants and help dissolve dead skin cells. These are best for dry to normal skin.
Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) like Salicylic Acid reach deep into your pores to clean out dead skin cells and reduce breakouts. This is good for oily or combination skin and skin that has scarring or sun damage. Always read and follow the manufacturers’ recommendations.
Enzyme Peels are usually made from fruits. This option is the most gentle which makes it ideal for sensitive or damaged skin. This product loosens the hold dead skin cells have on the surface of your skin, helping them shed off, making your skin smoother and brighter.
- Mechanical Exfoliation: This process is physically removing dead skin cells from the surface of your skin. While effective it is usually pretty abrasive and less gentle. Since this process could potentially injure your complexion it’s best done very carefully and works best for normal to oily skin. If you have sensitive or dry skin, it is not recommended to use any process that could strip the surface of your skin of the corneum cells or barrier lipids that form a protective barrier against dehydration and contaminants.
Dry Brushing is a mechanical technique that uses a brush with soft bristles to brush away dead skin cells. This method works best for undamaged skin.
A Washcloth works best when you have normal skin. Working the washcloth in small circles over your skin will help remove dead skin cells.
Exfoliating Powders are super fine powder substances that, when mixed with water, gently remove impurities. These are less abrasive than most scrubs and can contain soothing and healing properties.
What should be avoided?
Anything that has ultra course ingredients. Some scrubs and cleansers can even contain nut shells, beads, and sugar or salt. These can be very harsh and might even cause micro tears and scratches that will eventually make your face feel more painful and rougher, which is the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
Always use sun protection, especially when you have the fresh, new surface layer exposed. After exfoliating, choose the appropriate moisturizing agent for your skin type. Sacred Mama’s Superfood Beauty Oil is a healthy treat for the skin right after sloughing off those unwanted layers! Now that you know what type of skin you have it will be a lot easier to find the correct skincare routine! All-in-all exfoliating is very beneficial when done correctly and should be included in your regimen.
Always Pure, Always Natural.