Everything You Need to Know About Exfoliation Done Right

Good ol’ exfoliation is the way to make your skin glow.

Ever wondered what the real secret to celebs’ enviable glow on the red carpet is? No, it’s not Botox (this doesn’t make your skin glow). The answer is good ol’ exfoliation, and celebrities swear by it.

When done correctly, exfoliation can effectively scrub away dead cells from the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin) and improve blood circulation, without irritating the skin. The result is a radiant, younger-looking and smooth skin, enabling foundation to blend perfectly.

So exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate! But, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, be sure to evaluate before you exfoliate. This means that first and foremost, you need to understand your skin type and then choose the exfoliation method that best suits your skin type needs. If you have a certain skin condition, such as rosacea or inflammatory acne, then exfoliation is not typically recommended.

Exfoliation Methods

There are two main methods of exfoliating your skin – mechanical (using exfoliating scrubs, brushes, sponges or gloves) and chemical (primarily using AHAs and BHAs).

  • Mechanical Exfoliation
  1. Exfoliating Scrub – Using a circular, gentle motion apply the scrub directly to the skin, leave it for 1-2 minutes, and then rinse off with lukewarm water to completely remove the scrub.
  2. Exfoliating Brush – Some of these bristle brushes can be used with a facial cleanser or body wash, while others are specifically designed for dry brushing. Use in short, light strokes to avoid irritation.
  3. Exfoliating Scrubs – A much more gentle way to mechanically exfoliate your skin, sponges are generally recommended for sensitive skin which is prone to redness, and dry skin.
  4. Exfoliating Gloves – These are especially suitable for large body areas, such as your legs and abdomen. Simply lather them with body wash or soap in the shower.
  • Chemical Exfoliation
  1. Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) – This group of active compounds includes glycolic acid (derived from cane sugar), lactic acid, citric acid and tartaric acid. These acids have the ability to penetrate skin easily and deeply, thus enabling your skin to shed the dead keratocytes quickly and naturally.
  2. Beta-Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) – This group includes mainly salicylic acid and beta hydroxyl, BHAs are especially recommended for oily skin that is prone to acne and pimples.

Exfoliation by Skin Type

  • Dry Skin

You are advised to avoid mechanical exfoliation if you have dry or flaky skin, in order to minimize the risk of microtears in your skin. AHAs are especially effective for exfoliating dry skin. They can safely dissolve dead cells from the epidermis and stimulate healthy skin turnover. Make sure you apply a moisturizer with SPF for dry skin after chemical exfoliation with AHAs, as these acids can make dry skin more prone to sun damage.

  • Oily Skin

Oily skin is known for having an extra layer of skin debris on the surface, and can effectively benefit from having this manually removed with the use of an exfoliating scrub or brush – in a circular motion for best results.

  • Normal Skin

Both mechanical and chemical exfoliation are safe to use on normal skin. You can try both of these methods to see which one best works for you. Apply a moisturizer for normal skin after the treatment.

  • Combination Skin
Different types of skin – different methods of exfoliation

This skin type may require using both methods but never on the same day, in order to prevent potential skin irritation. If your skin feels somewhat dry after chemically or mechanically exfoliating it, then be sure to apply a moisturizer suitable for your skin type immediately after.

  • Sensitive Skin

If you have sensitive skin, it is advisable to avoid mechanical exfoliation altogether, because these methods can further irritate your sensitive skin, leading to redness. It’s best to use a mild chemical peel (e.g. glycolic acid) to minimize skin irritation. If your skin is also prone to acne, then you can try an in-office salicylic acid peel.

How Often Should You Exfoliate?

This depends on your skin type and the chosen exfoliation method. For dry skin, using a chemical peel once or twice a week is typically recommended. Oily skin generally requires more frequent exfoliation (3-4 times a week).

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