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Exfoliating the skin is an essential skincare step and one that needs to be handled with care. We all love a soft, plump and glowing skin and exfoliation is a key step to get the skin of your dreams. However, this is also a step that can do quite a bit of damage to your skin, if done aggressively or more times than necessary.
Exfoliation is the second step in the skincare routine, right after cleansing the face. (know all about cleansing here) As mentioned earlier, this is also a tricky step. To uncomplicate this step and to make things simple and easier for you, today we're going to talk about all things exfoliation- what is it, how to do it and much more. Sit back, relax and let's get to know everything that you need to know about exfoliating the skin.
What Is Exfoliation?
Exfoliation is the process of removal of dead skin cells from your skin to refresh and rejuvenate your skin on a regular interval. You might wonder what is it that makes this step important. Well, the answer to this question lies in the way our skin functions. Our skin sheds skin cells every 25-30 days so to regenerate and make new skin cells. The cells shed are popularly known as the dead skin cells (you might have heard a lot about it!).
These dead skin cells, if not taken proper care of, can clog your skin pores to give way to various skin issues and also make your skin dry, dull and patchy (and we don't that, right?). And that is where exfoliating helps by getting rid of these dead skin cells.
Ways To Exfoliate
The first thing that you need to know is that there are many ways to exfoliate the skin - physical exfoliation and chemical exfoliation. And the second thing that you need to know is that you need an exfoliant to perform the process. Let's now decode the ways to exfoliate the skin.
1. Chemical exfoliation
Chemical exfoliation, commonly known as chemical peeling is a process that uses chemicals to do the task. It is a process which is better done by a trained professional so as to reduce the risks involved. Chemical exfoliation not only adds that natural glow to your skin but also helps to tackle age spots, fine lines, wrinkles and acne scars.
What are the chemicals involved?
The chemical exfoliation uses exfoliants such as glycolic acid, lactic acid and malic acid. These are also known as AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids). These are the best when it comes to dry skin as they don't penetrate much deeper into the skin.
Another chemical used to perform chemical exfoliation is salicylic acid, which is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA). BHAs are a little more aggressive and are ideal for an oily and/or acne-prone skin.
Another acid that is gentle enough to use on sensitive skin is mandelic acid. However, these can be used in conjunction to perform the process.
Another ingredient that you can look for in your chemical exfoliant is fruit enzymes. These are also effective in exfoliating your skin. But we'd suggest you to consult with a professional before going through with it.
2. Physical exfoliation
Physical exfoliation is the most common way to exfoliate the skin and one that you might be using to exfoliate the skin. Scrubs and loofahs that we use on a daily basis are the tools or exfoliant for physical exfoliation where you rub a granular product in a circular motion to exfoliate and revitalise your skin.
The process of physical exfoliation is quite an easy one. It requires you to dampen your face, scrubbing your face using the exfoliant for at least 30 seconds and then rinsing it off with lukewarm water before patting it dry gently using a soft towel.
A word of caution!
Physical exfoliation is harsher than chemical exfoliation and can damage your skin. It is a popular method because of its ease of use, but at the same time, you should remember not to over-exfoliate your skin. Twice a week is enough.
Also, you need to avoid using exfoliants with ingredients that aren't gentle on your skin. Some examples of these ingredients are apricot kernels, fruit pits and nut shells. These can lead to micro-tears in your skin which are otherwise not visible to the naked eye but are really harmful to the skin.
Ingredients To Look For In An Exfoliant Based On Skin Type
Oily skin is characterised by excess sebum production, frequent breakouts, excess shine and enlarged pores
Ingredients to look for
- Salicylic acid
- Physical exfoliants
- Sorbic acid
- Acetic acid
Dry skin is characterised by scaling, patchy, itchy and dull skin. You need highly moisturising ingredients to deal with dry skin.
Ingredients to look for
- Glycolic acid
- Lactic acid
- Coconut oil
- Shea butter
Sensitive skin is quite prone to allergies. It is characterised by redness, patchiness, inflammation and itchiness.
Ingredients to look for
- Jojoba beads
- Coconut oil
- Aloe vera
- Hyaluronic acid
How To Gently Exfoliate The Skin
As exfoliating can be an aggressive process, you need to be gentle with your skin. The first thing that you need to do is be mindful of the ingredients that you are using to exfoliate the skin. Don't use ingredients that are harsh on the skin, as mentioned above. What you also need to keep in check is how much pressure you are putting while exfoliating the skin. Use your fingertips lightly to exfoliate your skin in circular motions.
Also, don't exfoliate for more than 30 seconds. And do not use hot water to rinse it off. Use lukewarm or normal water.
How Often Should You Exfoliate
You shouldn't frequently exfoliate your skin. Twice a week is more than enough. If you do it every day, you will do irreplaceable damage to your skin.
-  Grajqevci-Kotori, M., & Kocinaj, A. (2015). Exfoliative Skin-peeling, Benefits from This Procedure and Our Experience.Medical archives (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina),69(6), 414–416. doi:10.5455/medarh.2015.69.414-416
-  Rodan, K., Fields, K., Majewski, G., & Falla, T. (2016). Skincare Bootcamp: The Evolving Role of Skincare.Plastic and reconstructive surgery. Global open,4(12 Suppl Anatomy and Safety in Cosmetic Medicine: Cosmetic Bootcamp), e1152. doi:10.1097/GOX.0000000000001152