We’ve all heard that it’s important to exfoliate. But why is it so important and what exactly does exfoliating do?
What is exfoliation? The epidermis is your outermost layer, and your dermis is the inner layer. Exfoliation is the technique of removing the top layer of dead skin cells from of the epidermis. This encourages the live cells down in your skin’s dermis to turnover (AKA rise to the top) and refresh your skin’s appearance.
Why do I need to exfoliate? Your skin has a lot of layers that are constantly renewing. Dermatologists refer to this renewal process as ‘cellular turnover’: generating new cells at the lower level (the dermis) and sending them up to replace dead skin cells on the upper layer (epidermis).
As we age, the cell turnover process slows down. Cells begin to gather unevenly on the skin’s surface which can lead to dry patches and a lackluster appearance. Through exfoliating, we can mimic skin’s youthful turnover process by encouraging the removal of dead skin cells to reveal the fresher, younger cells below while restoring skin’s natural clarity and brightness.
Who needs to exfoliate? Everyone! Exfoliating smooths your skin and increases circulation. However, some people can tolerate more aggressive exfoliation than others. Test exfoliating on a small patch of skin on your inner arm to gauge your tolerance.
How often should I exfoliate? Ultimately, you can exfoliate as often as your skin will tolerate it. However, older skin can be thinner and more sensitive. So, make sure to monitor how your skin reacts to exfoliating and adjust accordingly. It is actually possible to over-exfoliate which can lead to moisture loss, sensitivity, dryness and irritation.
What is the best exfoliator? The one that’s right for you! There are two basic approaches to exfoliation: manual and chemical exfoliation. Manual exfoliation is typically with a scrub, washcloth or brush. Chemical exfoliation using an active ingredient like an alpha hydroxy acid or an enzyme helps break the bonds that hold the uppermost layers of dead cells to the surface of your skin.