Exfoliating is the process of removing dead cells from the outer layer of your skin using a chemical or mechanical (physical) exfoliant. Regular exfoliation helps prevent dull skin, clogged pores, skin discolouration, and improves overall cellular turnover, revealing smoother, healthier and brighter skin beneath. This process stimulates collagen and elastin production, which are crucial to anti-ageing and youthful-looking skin, they work together to strengthen the skin’s structure and improve its overall appearance. In addition to getting rid of dead skin cells and aiding in the body’s natural regeneration process, proper exfoliation helps to enhance the absorption of topical skincare products.
Abrasive scrubs, a very common method of exfoliation, are not recommended for mature skin and anti-ageing, as the rough-edged particles in these scrubs can injure and cause micro-tears in the skin, damaging your skin’s protective barrier which may result in signs of premature ageing. As we age, it becomes more important to exfoliate to combat the effects of dry skin, slow cell turnover, fine lines and wrinkles. Rather than microbeads or rough exfoliators, there are gentler methods of exfoliation that rely on alpha-hydroxy acids, polyhydroxy acids and beta-hydroxy acids to renew the skin. Instead of sloughing off the skin, these methods encourage the shedding of dead skin cells as they stimulate collagen and elastin production.
Mechanical, or also referred to as physical exfoliation involves using tools, like brushes, sponges, or scrubs that contain granules like microbeads or sugar, to create enough friction to loosen and slough away dead skin cells, debris, and oils. People with dry and flaky skin can highly benefit from using a physical exfoliator, as it is extremely effective in sloughing away dead skin cells and making your skin appear far smoother. Always seek scrubs containing small, smooth exfoliating agents and avoid facial brushes with firm bristles, abrasive sponges and towels. Exfoliating your face should only be done about two to three times a week with such harsh products, as exfoliating too often or too hard may cause micro-tears on your skin’s surface and strip your skin’s protective layer. Over-exfoliation can be counterproductive, by slowing cell turnover, causing inflammation, and stripping the skin of its necessary natural oils.
Chemical exfoliators are acids derived from fruit and plant extracts. When applied to the skin it helps break down the excess build-up of dead skin cells on the surface to unclog pores and help keep the skin healthy and less textured. This method of exfoliation is suitable for those with oily and acne-prone skin, as the dead skin sebum and bacteria that is trapped in your pores is what leads to breakouts and acne. Since these do not have any harsh scrubbing particles, they are a lot gentler on your skin, making them perfect for those with sensitive skin. It is suitable for those with any skin type, however, it depends on its formulation to determine which is the best fit for you:
Alpha-hydroxy Acid (AHAs)
AHAs are water-soluble acids that penetrate only in the epidermis layer of the skin. They help peel away the surface of your skin so that new, more evenly pigmented skin cells may generate and take their place. They can also increase the thickness of deeper layers of skin, by promoting plumpness and firmness.
These acids are most commonly used for skin conditions such as dry skin, ageing skin, or acne. Acid exfoliants, such as AHAs, can remove rough or flaky skin without irritating the skin. As a result, they can reduce the appearance of dry skin, blemishes, age spots and sun damage to the skin. Lactic and glycolic acid are some of the most well-known AHAs.
Beta-hydroxy Acid (BHAs)
BHAs are oil-soluble which enables them to penetrate deeper through the sebaceous follicles and directly influence sebum production. These exfoliants are primarily used on the skin to combat acne and sun damage. BHA products go deep into your hair follicles to dry out excess oils and dead skin cells to unclog your pores.
Because of these effects, BHAs are most suitable for combination to oily skin. The most commonly used BHA is salicylic acid, which can be found on its own or in combination with AHAs in different skincare products, including moisturizers, toners, and serums.
Polyhydroxy Acids (PHAs)
Polyhydroxy acid falls under the AHA family and produces very similar benefits, without the irritation that may come with high concentrations of AHA. It works by exfoliating dead skin cells on the surface, resulting in a more even skin tone and texture, and also helps skin-care ingredients to penetrate deeper into the layers of your skin, thus boosting their efficacy.
The molecules of PHAs are much larger and therefore cannot penetrate as deeply as AHAs and BHAs, they work exclusively on the surface of the skin, without disturbing the deeper delicate layers. The most common PHAs are gluconolactone, galactose, and lactobionic acid, and is ideal for those with sensitive skin.
For any questions you may have about chemical or mechanical exfoliants, book an online treatment planning session with Azallis Cosmedics Clinic and one of our skincare specialists will be in touch. Our services also include a tailored routine to treat your skin conditions and concerns. These products can be delivered straight to your door. Click here and fill out the form to book your digital consultation with us now.