Whether you realize or not, your skin is in a constant process of shedding and renewal. The body naturally exfoliates, shedding surface-level dead skin cells to reveal fresh, glowy skin underneath. What the natural process lacks, however, is an appreciation for our patience. This natural exfoliation happens slowly and usually unevenly. As we age, skin cells just keep building up and the cell-turnover slows down. This inefficient process ends up highlighting wrinkles and fine lines, overall dullness, and makes clogged or enlarged pores even more noticeable. Not great.
This good news is we can do something about it. By taking the exfoliation process into our own hands, we can speed up cell-turnover to show off the healthy, more youthful skin just under the surface. Now, like anything
else, there are safe ways to accomplish this and harmful exfoliation techniques to avoid. For the safest ways to exfoliate dead skin cells, always schedule an appointment with your board-certified dermatologist.
Two of the safest ways to exfoliate, as performed or guided by a dermatologist, are chemical and mechanical exfoliation.
Chemical Exfoliation and What You Need to Know
If your derm recommends a chemical exfoliant, you might be treated with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), especially if you have oily skin. AHAs like mandelic or glycolic acid (most common) are great at helping speed up cell turnover and keeping the skin hydrated with their water-binding properties. Lactic acid works best for a gentle treatment as it doesn’t penetrate as deeply into the skin.
BHAs like salicylic acid, on the other hand, are the preferred choice for acne-prone or oily skin. They battle bad bacteria and help to clean our clogged pores. Because BHAs are lipid-soluble (unlike water-soluble AHAs) they can also break through oil and sebum better too. You know those small bumps under your skin just begging to some to the surface? BHAs are great for preventing comedones too.
Mechanical Exfoliation: Scrub for a Fresher Face
Instead of using chemical acids to slough away dead skin cells, exfoliation through the use of scrubs, rough washcloths, or cleansing brushes are how we gently remove the topmost layer of skin. While mechanical exfoliation is effective, there are safe choices that need to be made in order to avoid irritation. First of all, be gentle. You don’t need to scrub hard or often to get the desired results. Try to avoid exfoliants with microbeads or ground nut shells, which can scrape at the skin instead of just scrubbing it.
Avoid These At-Home Scrubbing Mistakes
While it might be tempting to exfoliate at home, you really need to know what you are doing in order to avoid causing damage to your skin. First of all, you want to get the pH right. Your skin’s pH is about 5.5. If you use something too acidic or too alkaline, you could really burn your skin or severely dry it out.
At-home products to be really, really careful with:
- Vinegar – can cause chemical burns
- Lemon juice – will damage skin if applied directly
- Baking soda – can cause rashes or redness
Don’t forget, everyone’s skin is different and will react uniquely to treatments. When it comes to the health of your skin, it’s best to call in the pros. To find out which exfoliant is best for you, schedule an appointment at The Derm Group online or by calling 973.571.2121.