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Exfoliation: What You Need to Know

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Sometimes your skin just doesn’t look its best. Lack of sleep, too much caffeine – not enough water, sleeping in your makeup (nooooo!), busy with life, stress, stress, stress. There are lots of reasons why we tend to neglect our complexions until we look in the mirror and say “Whoa. What’s happening here?!”.

Exfoliation: Everything you need to know, including why, when, and what to use

Why should you exfoliate?

The basic idea of exfoliation is to help your body with sloughing off the dead skin cells on the skin’s surface – which in turn encourage cell turnover. The buildup of dead skin on the skin’s surface is what causes lackluster “tired” skin. These dead skin cells make wrinkles look more pronounced, pores look larger, and they are certainly no help for those of us who are prone to breakouts. Know that expensive cream you slather on your face every night before bed? Imagine how much more effective it would be if you didn’t have several layers of dead nasty skin for it to try to penetrate!

Exfoliation also has an instant awesome factor – smooth soft skin. It’s extremely effective for those who have keratosis pilaris (those rough patches and little red bumps on the back of your upper arms and can show up on your thighs as well). Grab a little sugar scrub, go to town on your arms and legs- feel the circulation and, depending how crazy you are when you scrub, maybe even get your heart rate up. Multitasking, y’all.

What should I exfoliate with and how often?

There are 2 forms of exfoliation: Physical and Chemical

Physical exfoliation is achieved by the use of a brush or a scrub with an abrasive in it. Abrasives can be anything from a super finely milled rice powder to various types of sugars and salts. FYI, I know we all used apricot scrub in the 90’s to “help” with breakouts. I’m here to tell you that it belongs in the incinerator. Any type of crushed seed will have rough edges that cause microtears in your skin. This leads to inflamed, irritated, sensitized, angry skin. Please. For the LOVE. Stop using this!

Physical exfoliant recommendations:

Kiehls Epidermal Re-Texturizing Microdermabrasian

Acure Organics Brightening Facial Scrub

The other form of exfoliation is chemical. It sounds scary. I wish we could change the name of it to something sweet like “fresh skin reveal-er”, but scientists worldwide would balk at this. However, do not be afraid! There are ways to incorporate low doses of chemical exfoliation even into your DAILY routine. Chemical exfoliants are categorized as acids or enzymes. They gently dissolve dead skin and are able to penetrate deeper into the skin than your typical physical scrub, thus encouraging cell turnover = fresh new skin at the surface. Many moisturizers and creams have Retinol or Acids – AHAs, BHAs in them which makes it easy to get your exfoliation in since you will probably moisturize anyway!

Chemical exfoliant recommendations:

Alpha Hydrox 12% AHA Souffle (my personal favorite)

Alpha Hydrox Retinol ResQ (another favorite!)

Paulas Choice Resist Daily Pore-Refining Treatment 2% BHA

After you pick out the exfoliator that is right for you, make sure you follow up with a broad spectrum SPF – these block UVA and UVB rays. UVA are rays that penetrate deeply and cause aging. UVB rays don’t go as deep but will burn the surface of your skin. Follow with a moisturizer and an eye cream. With consistent use, you will notice a difference within a couple weeks!

Originally published on November 10, 2015

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Sarah Jean Althouse

Friday 4th of November 2016

I exfoliate my skin with a scrub about once a week, and chemical peel every couple of months. I love the chemical peels! They just tend to be expensive so I space them out.

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