If someone had to ask me what the secret to great skin was, I’d say it had more to do with taking off than putting on. I’m talking about exfoliating. It does so much for your skin, and yet, so many women overlook this step in their skincare routines.
I used to be one of those women until a couple of years back, when I started breaking out after a relatively acne-free life. They would start as tiny bumps on my face and then turn into pimples. I’d get a clean up but they would eventually come back. I visited a dermatologist, but that only helped temporarily. So I started to do my own research. This is what I found.
As you grow older, the skin’s natural ability to slough off dead skin slows down. This is further exacerbated by sun damage, having dry or oily skin types and skin disorders. As the natural process of shedding is compromised, the dead skin sits on the surface longer. This gives your skin a rough texture. This rough texture is also the reason light bounces of unevenly and that’s why you feel your skin looks dull.
The accumulated dead skin settles in pores and over time it mixes with sebum which can block pores and lead to breakouts. Moreover, all these dead skin cells forms a layer and impedes your serums and moisturizers from being absorbed and they just end up being a huge waste of money.
You can tackle all of the above by just adding one more step to your skincare routine. Exfoliating helps get rid of all this dead skin and helps speed up the process of generating new cells, keeping your skin healthy. With this layer of dead skin out of the way, your skin will be more even and look brighter, you’ll experience fewer breakouts, your pores appear smaller and your skincare is able to penetrate your skin better.
Since I’ve started exfoliating regularly, my skin has never looked better. The trick is finding the right exfoliator. I have dry, ageing skin so I find that gentle, but daily exfoliation with chemical exfoliators like Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) or Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA) work best for me. I swear by Philosophy’s The Microdelivery At Home Peel (used weekly) and the Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner (used daily). When using chemical exfoliators however, you need to pay close attention to the ingredients in your serums and moisturizers. If they contain retinol or acids as well, it could irritate your skin, so you want to balance it out with something gentler.
Since chemical exfoliants penetrate the skin deeper, they also help with fine lines and ageing skin. Ageing skins will benefit from Philosophy’s newest The Microdelivery Overnight Anti-aging Peel that combines both AHAs and BHAs along with an overnight mask. The result is two-fold as the acids tackle signs of ageing while the mask provides the intense hydration required by mature skin. Chemical exfoliators are also great on acne prone skin since they don’t irritate lesions. Salicylic, glycolic and lactic acid help reduce oil, unclog pores and even help minimize acne scars.
As effective as AHAs are, they can sometimes be too harsh for some skin types. The new generation of AHAs – PHAs or Poly Hydroxy Acids – promises the effectiveness of their predecessors with a dose of hydration. Goodbye inflammation and flaking! The CNP Laboratory Invisible Peeling Booster, that contains PHAs is a leave on peel. Used after cleansing but before your toner it helps to do away with dead skin and prep the skin for the benefits from your other skincare products.
Some women aren’t satisfied till they feel like they have exfoliated and prefer to use physical exfoliators that contain beads or grains or nuts or salt. These can actually be harmful to the skin because they are very abrasive and can cause tiny fissures in the delicate skin on your face. If you must use a physical exfoliator, pick a gentle one like the Crème Simon Double Exfoliation Facial Scrub - A rich, creamy scrub that contains two types of extremely gentle beads – wheat and jojoba. Even though it is a physical exfoliator, I find it doesn’t dry out my skin and always leaves it looking brighter once washed off.
Another way to exfoliate physically is to use a cleansing device like the Clarisonic Mia or Clinique Sonic System Purifying Cleansing Brush. These allow you to control the settings and even choose different brush heads depending on your needs and are ideal for those with oily skin. You can even go old-school with your exfoliation and use a muslin cloth which helps gently slough off dead skin. Even though it’s a form of physical exfoliation, it’s so gentle you can do it everyday. And while there’s something therapeutic about the whole process, I don’t think it does anything for mature skin.
Once women realize the benefits of exfoliating, they tend to get a bit over zealous with it – which can be just as bad as not exfoliating. Overdoing it can leave your skin raw and sensitized, meaning it could react to products that normally suit it just fine. When using a physical exfoliant, never apply too much pressure on the skin. Go longer if necessary, but never harder. If you’re using a chemical exfoliant, I would suggest using it only at night as they can increase photosensitivity. Once washed off, make sure you follow up with a rich moisturiser or mask as your skin is primed to receive the benefits from your skincare. Needless to say, you absolutely must use a broad-spectrum sunscreen the next morning. This is not one of the time the SPF in your moisturiser or makeup will suffice.
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