The skin is composed of several layers and regenerates new skin cells in the bottom layer. By the time they reach the top layer of the skin, these plump healthy skin cells have become flat, pigmented and full of hardened protein. These dead cells are continually being shed, and continually being replaced.
This process takes about two to three weeks in youthful skin. Unfortunately, as our skin ages the regeneration process slows and dead skin cells build up upon the surface, bound together by proteins that act like glue. This build up leads to thick, scaly skin, dehydration, increased trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), acne formation and uneven skin texture.
Exfoliation can help all of these issues. It is essential for improving skin clarity, regeneration, and hydration. Together, these factors help maintain soft, healthy radiant skin.
Exfoliation also improves the action of treatment creams and serums. A build up of thick, dehydrated skin cells will hinder the penetration of active ingredients.
Such a build up can easily be mistaken for as a need for richer moisturisers, when in fact with adequate exfoliation the skin’s natural water balance will be restored. Applying ever richer products to thick, scaly skin can simply increased the build up on the surface and aggravate congestion.
There are two different methods of exfoliation, and a good skin care routine should include both.
- Mechanical exfoliation is the scrubbing away of the surface with abrasive tools or products such as face brushes, face cloths and face scrubs. New electric sonic face brushes developed for daily home mean it is possible to achieve fantastic results without visiting a salon. This method helps keep pores free of debris and keeps the skin feeling smooth and soft.
- Chemical exfoliation uses products containing exfoliating compounds such as alpha hydroxy acids or natural enzymes which dissolve the ‘glue’ that keeps dead skin cells attached to the surface. Importantly, alpha hydroxy acids also stimulate the skin at a deeper level and encourage the formation of healthy new skin cells. This can have significant long term benefits, including a reduction in fine lines, increased collagen, firm skin texture and a reduction of hyperpigmentation.
For more info on enzymes in skin care check out our article here.
There are a few articles on the blog discussing alpha hydroxy acids. This article is a good starting point.