Exfoliation 101: Make Your Skin Glow , 3 Comments

While it’s true that everyone’s skin requires a different regime of product and diet to look its best, there is one thing that every skin type can benefit from; no matter if you have oily, dry, or combination skin, regular facial exfoliation plays an important role in your skin’s health and appearance.  

Why Is Exfoliation Important?

Our skin naturally sheds its outermost later every 28-days, making room for a new, fresh layer underneath. When we were young, these dead skin cells shed away quickly and easily, but as we age this natural removal process slows down. When dead skin cells build up on our skin, they can give us a dull or muddy complexion. And beyond their appearance, they tend to clog our pores and interfere with our skin’s natural oil production, which can lead to enlarged pores, blemishes, acne, and even wrinkles. 

For a lot of us, when we notice a dull complexion, we tend to layer on products to help bring out our glow. However, a build-up of dead skin cells will block the beneficial skincare ingredients from reaching your skin and doing their intended job. Proper exfoliation helps to aid in the removal of these dead cells and promotes cell re-growth and renewal. This also helps return the skin to its usual elasticity. And as we know, elasticity of the skin helps to minimize fine lines and wrinkles.

How to Exfoliate?

There are a number of ways to exfoliate the skin, but when it comes to facial exfoliation, gentle is the name of the game.  Unlike the calluses and rough spots on your feet that require tough treatments like pumice stones, scrubs or even harsher methods to shed their layers, your face is rather sensitive. Even products that contain “natural” ingredients, like sugar, salt, ground apricot pits and other plant-based ingredients can be too rough and cause torn capillaries on the face.  Other body parts can handle these types of scrubs better.

Everyone’s skin is different, so what works for someone suffering from acne may not be necessary for someone with skin that’s considered “normal.” Here are a few different exfoliation options:

  • Use a toner with alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), which is a naturally occurring carboxylic acid found in foods, like citrus fruits. AHAs stimulate exfoliation and do a superb job sloughing off dead skin cells. AHAs are very effective and can affect everyone’s skin differently.  Some might be okay with once a day application, when others may only want to use it once or twice weekly.
  • Use a mud mask made with French Green Clay.  French Green Clay is a versatile mud mask ingredient because it naturally absorbs excess oil, dirt, and toxins. At the same time it exfoliates and improves skin circulation – everything you want for proper facial exfoliation!
  • Get a facial. Facials involve using some sort of gentle abrasive to help slough off skin cells, stimulate cells, improve circulation, and brighten skin in relaxing way. Again, it's important to be conscious of the ingredients of the products you choose.
  • Get a chemical peel. Even if you are regularly exfoliating your skin with a toner, mud mask or other product, an occasional chemical peel from your dermatologist or “green minded” aesthetician might be necessary to keep your skin in tip-top shape. A chemical peel speeds up the exfoliation process, helping to quickly shed the dead skin cells and stimulating the re-growth of healthy skin cells.  However, it should be noted that not all chemical peels are created equal. Just like with most skincare treatments on the market, there are some treatments that do more harm than good. Avoid chemical peels that use hydroquinone which has been classified as a cancer-causing agent by other countries.  It should be noted that since the US is more lenient in its designation of hazardous ingredients used in our personal care products, sometimes we must look at countries that have taken more conscious precautions in this area. For example, Health Canada's Chemicals Management Plan list Hydroquinone as a chemical of "high concern.

We are often asked about the use of retinol, a form of Vitamin A, as a method of exfoliation. Retinol, also known as Retin A and Retinyl Palmitate, is a widely used and very effective exfoliator, however, the research is limited that would determine it’s long term health ramifications.  What we do know is that the The Environmental Working Group labels retinol as an ingredient of question, rating it an 8, for its concerns over developmental and reproductive toxicity. We struggle with this because some of our trusted circle of experts not only use a form of retinol but don’t see a problem.  For us there is not enough information to make a case for or against retinol, but we always err on the side of caution and until there is more research done, do not include it in any of our product formulations.

If your products don’t seem to be working as they usually do – whether they aren’t absorbing properly into your skin or even “flaking” off – exfoliation could be the answer