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Exfoliation is a pivotal step in effective skin care, but is often an overlooked component of many people’s skin care routines.
There are so many different forms of exfoliating that it can be intimidating for someone who is just getting started. Due to the number of treatments available, even those who do exfoliate may end up performing it incorrectly a lot of the time.
How are you able to tell if you’re exfoliating the right way? Below are the 4 of the most common ways that you may be doing this wrong:
The most basic exfoliation error that is so common is that most people never exfoliate at all.
Our skin naturally has a buildup of dead skin cells over time. As we get older, the skin loses elasticity and this buildup of dead cells does not slough off the skin as well as it used to. Too much build up of these dead cells makes the skin look dull, and exaggerates the appearance of wrinkles. Properly removing this layer of dead skin requires intervention on our end in order to maintain healthy looking skin.
Regular exfoliation has many upsides, including:
There are many different kinds of exfoliation available – chemical peels, facials, scrubs and brushes, dermaplaning, microdermabrasion – the list goes on!
Exfoliation should be an integral part of every skin care routine; however, it is possible for there to be too much of a good thing.
As we know by now, the main goal of exfoliation is to remove the buildup of dead skin cells. In order to do this effectively, the treatment temporarily needs to remove the protective barrier around the skin as a direct result.
Depending on the type of exfoliation you are using, as well as the level of strength of your selected method, doing this too often or too harshly can cause microtears on the skin’s surface which strip the protective layer away too much. The overly damaged barrier leads to a loss of moisture which causes dried out, flaky skin. Irritation and itchiness are also a sign of excessive exfoliation. If this does happen, be sure to stop any further exfoliation for a bit and focus on skin hydration.
A good rule of thumb to follow is that the more aggressive the treatment is, the less often you need to do it.
Most importantly, in addition to not exfoliating too frequently, it is important to remain consistent with the selected treatment as well. Constantly jumping around from one kind of exfoliation to the other is not recommended. Consistency with a set exfoliation routine is key, and limits the damage to the protective layers on the outer levels on the skin.
Selecting an exfoliation method depends on many factors – your skin type, usage frequency, your existing skin care routine, and most importantly, what your goals are.
For those with sensitive skin or conditions such as rosacea, most physical exfoliation techniques may not be the best option.
Chemical exfoliation also requires consideration beforehand. Most chemical exfoliation methods can be classified as either alpha hydroxy acids or beta hydroxy acids, and which one to select depends on your skin type and needs. Alpha hydroxy acids are water soluble, which makes them great for those with normal, dry, sensitive, or redness prone skin. Those with oily and acne prone skin are usually good candidates for beta hydroxy acids, which are oil soluble.
One note to keep in mind is that many chemical exfoliants will increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun. However, as a frequent reader of our blog, you are aware of the importance of wearing sunscreen everyday, so this shouldn’t be news to you 🙂
When it comes to exfoliation, simply listen to your skin. If you notice that your skin starts to get irritated when you do a particular method 3 times a week, cut back to once a week and see what happens. If you are using a chemical method and aren’t seeing results, you can then begin to consider other versions that have a bit more strength.
There’s no shortage of exfoliation treatments available for use at home – and with proper research, you can find a good at home option that keeps the amount of dead skin cells manageable; however, this doesn’t mean that professional exfoliation treatments should be ignored.
At home exfoliation tools are designed to be gentle, which means that their effectiveness is lower compared to professional treatments. Physical exfoliation (also known as mechanical) especially has a lot of room for incorrect use. Additionally, at home physical tools used to treat certain concerns such as blackheads can be harsh on the skin, and because the room for error is much higher, it can cause even more damage if used incorrectly.
Chemical exfoliation has the same issue for at home use. They are intentionally designed to be more gentle on the skin, and so the results are not nearly as potent as the treatments designed to be used by a trained professional. The strength of professional chemical peels and facials, are made to be stronger and more effective than the OTC scrubs and masques you purchase at your local store.
The best exfoliation routines use a combination of at-home tools, as well as professional medical treatments. Professional treatments involve more time between sessions. Thus, at-home exfoliation should be used to maintain the results you receive from professional treatments, rather than being used as the end-all answer.