Basic Skincare, Part Two: Exfoliation
*Written by Rachel Smith. Edited by Casey Martin.
Now that you know how to properly cleanse your skin, you’ll want to establish an exfoliation routine fit for your specific skin type. This brings us to the common question, “What is exfoliation, and why do we need it?”. Exfoliation is the removal of dead skin cells through either chemical or mechanical manipulation. “Off with the old, in with the new”... in layman’s terms. Promoting skin cell turnover and forcing your body to do it quicker, like it used to in your youth, is the key to anti-aging, smooth skin, and blackhead-free pores. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, choosing the right exfoliator is where this solution can quickly become the problem.
Like we said in our last post, it is very important to have a good understanding of your skin type as well as any conditions or areas of concern (blackheads, dullness, etc). There are two main types of exfoliators: mechanical and chemical. Think of mechanical like physical.. and something you must “physically” make happen with effort and motion. This can be something as simple as a daily facial scrub or even a wash cloth to shaving or microdermabrasion. Chemical exfoliation, on the other hand, is using a product to destroy the bonds holding the outer layer of dead skin cells together. When the bond is destroyed, so is the water network that runs through it. The cells will dehydrate and flake off. Chemical exfoliation can be as simple as an acne cleanser with salicylic acid or a trending lemon wedge rub down, but also includes professional enzyme treatments, chemical peels, vitamin C and retinol serums, and almost anything that might “tingle” when applied.
Now that you understand what exfoliation is, how often should you do it? Well, it really depends on how aggressive the method is and how sensitive your skin is. And no, we don’t actually recommend wash cloths, which promote elastin damage and skin sagging. Physical exfoliation in the form of a mild at-home product should take place no more than three times per week. Sensitive skin is best at once a week, normal to combination skin can be safely exfoliated twice a week and thicker oily skin can handle a good scrub three times a week. A gentle chemical exfoliator can be incorporated to make a more advanced regimen, as long as it is in moderation three to four times a week and applied at night. For sensitive skin, you may opt to ditch the physical exfoliation altogether and just use an appropriate leave-on product, such as Vitamin C serum, two to three times a week. And if your chosen method is from a professional, stay away from any other method, including waxing, for at least a week. Unless facial scabs are your thing.
Now, these next few words are IMPERATIVE: it is very important not to over exfoliate, as it can cause severe and sometimes irreversible damage. If you feel or see ANY signs of irritation, even in the slightest, discontinue use until it’s completely gone. This is what we call “cycling”, or learning how many days it took you to get to that point and how many days you need to be off to regenerate. So say you used tretinol, the number one product in the skin care industry with vitamin C serum being number two, three nights in a row and on the fourth day you noticed a little tingle around your eye when cleansing...STOP. And then do not touch the tretinol again until it’s safe to repeat said three day routine. Three days of use and four days of rest would be your cycle, subject to change as your skin tells you. It’s important to make sure that your exfoliator is of good quality- “cheaper” is definitely not “better”, and that any scrub or polish you use has spherical beads instead of jagged or rough edges (ahem.. apricot scrub..?), which put microscopic tears in the skin. That constant inflammation results in a perma-redness we can spot a mile away. And when it comes to your chemical exfoliant, be sure you are purchasing from a trusted source, because you truly do get what you pay for and time is money. Do not use products with fragrance or colorants. After all, these additives are notorious for being the top two skin care irritants, so you want them in your exfoliating facial products...why, exactly? Food for thought: was the mission of that skin care line actually product efficacy or was it simply marketing? More food for thought: the FDA regulates SPF claims and it’s accuracy. Yet they don’t regulate the false claims anyone can put on their label. Again, quality is very important and taking care of your skin should be looked at as an investment in your future health, as our skin is our largest organ!
Come back next week to discover exactly how to find your skin type! Comment under our “tip” posts on our Instagram page (@pinupspa_boutique) if you want details about other skin care questions or if you have suggestions for future posts!