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The New Face of Exfoliation Pt 1

We know exfoliation is important to healthy skin, but just how important is it? In a nutshell it’s essential. While it is a natural process of the skin, this process can slow and may need encouragement via mechanical or chemical exfoliators.

Of course, over exfoliation can have adverse effects too. So, how to do you choose the appropriate exfoliation method for your client? How much is too much? What are the different exfoliators available? In this three part series I’ll discuss everything exfoliation.

The Nature of Exfoliation

It’s estimated we shed, on average, almost one million skin cells every day! That’s a lot of skin left behind. In healthy skin conditions the desquamation, cell turnover, process typically occurs in a 28-day cycle.

During this cycle new cells are created in the stratum basale (the deepest layer of the epidermis). These cells divide and push fully formed cells to the next layer. Eventually they reach the stratum corneum (the top layer) where they shed.

Turnover cycles can vary widely from 22 to 50 days depending on health challenges and medical conditions, lifestyle, age, over exposure to the sun, and immune dysfunctions. When the skin is unable to shed dead cells sufficiently, a host of issues may occur, including skin disease, dull complexion, asphyxiation, acne, uneven tone and texture, and aging.

It’s important we talk to clients about exfoliation and how they can continue the care in between treatments.

Mechanical vs. Chemical

Proper exfoliation stimulates the skin and cell turnover, lifts dead cells, and begins the regenerating process. There are two primary exfoliating methods – mechanical and chemical – both of which work in very different ways.

Mechanical or physical exfoliators scrub away dead skin cells, by abrading corneocytes from the skin. While specific results will vary depending on the chemical exfoliator (enzymes and acids) used, these in essence, work by digesting the stratum corneum cells and breaking down surface cells.

Mechanical exfoliators include scrubs (jojoba beads, diatomaceous earth, bamboo, pearl powder, and pumice), as well as microdermabrasion, dermaplaning, and skin resurfacing, to name a few. Chemical exfoliators include enzymes, AHAs, retinols, salicylic acid, TCA, and Jessner, among others.

There are also a number of combination therapies and determining what is best for your clients skin requires a skin assessment, goal outline, and ingredient knowledge. In the next post I will go more in depth on the types of mechanical exfoliators available.