Exfoliation can be confusing- probably more than any other segment of our skin care routines. Basically every time you wipe your face with a towel you are exfoliating your skin.
Why does this topic even matter? To understand exfoliation, you have to first grasp how your skin works, then you have to decide what form of exfoliation works for your type of skin (and your type of personality). The latter is just as important because, like so many consumers, it is easy to purchase the latest and greatest "hope in a jar" without really understanding what we are trying to accomplish in the first place.
Here Is How Your Skin Works
Your skin is the largest organ of your body. Here is a good explanation of how it grows.
It sheds skin cells on a regular basis. Why is this a good thing? Think of it as an opportunity for new and improved growth- the skin is miraculous and we take its power for granted by not always giving it the chance it deserves to just be skin.
We poke and prod and add lots of trauma to the surface hoping to egg it on to be better and yet we seldom understand what it is we are trying to accomplish.
As we age, our skin shedding its dead cells slows down. When we are in our 20’s our skin turnover is about every twenty eight days. Remember when you were in your twenties if you went to the beach, got a tan and by the following season there were no tan lines anymore? This is because your skin did its job in full throttle repair, turning over rapidly, making new cells (so you could damage them again the following summer).
As you approach your thirties and forties your skin cell turnover slows down to about every forty days. This matters because this is when you look in the mirror and you start seeing those little lines around your eyes starting to form or a brown spot shows up randomly somewhere.
This is generally when you may start to freak out and reach for the first of many “anti aging” lotions and potions. Your skin has a powerhouse foundation of collagen and this gives it strength and stability. As we age, your amazing support system of elastin and collagen that made your skin oh so tight and firm begins to tire and your skin may not bounce back as quickly- it also holds on to your tan longer which may be fun for you sun worshippers out there, but it really isn’t a good thing.
When we start to reach fifties and sixties, our cells digress further, slowing down to every fifty and sixty days respectively. Now we are starting to see more lines, more age spots and this is when I see many start to panic. I mean panic is a bit extreme - I will try to keep this in perspective here- it’s not like we are going hungry or don’t have shelter as we begin our spiral into the world of anti aging products. We are lucky if this is the thing we find ourselves obsessing about.
So as we age, everything we do on the outside, the epidermis, is signaling the inside, to turnover, to produce oil, to slow down, to react, to retreat. On the flip side, what you are doing for your insides matters too, but this is written about in another blog.
Now that I am giving you yet another thing to worry about- what anyone who wants improvement in their skin needs to figure out is what can you do to get your skin in balance?
What Are You Trying to Accomplish with Your Skin?
If you are the type of person who throws all cares to the wind and thinks who cares, I will just do injections when all of this happens, then you have your objective ( but in my humble opinion you should always have a good routine). If injections aren’t going to be your gig, then read on. No matter your age, it is never too late. You can start young and prevention can be your focus, or start later and make the best of your skin now.
What Are Exfoliants?
Exfoliants either slough off or dissolve dead skin.
As we age and our cells slow down to a snail’s pace of turnover, those dead skin cells have a tendency to build up leaving your skin with a lackluster appearance. So, exfoliant to the rescue!
A good exfoliant removes those cells to stimulate new ones to rise and refresh.
There are so many forms of exfoliants—manual grit-the type you have to move around your face to manually exfoliate the dead skin off, collapsible and non collapsible- think bran vs ground walnut shells. There are enzymes, like papaya, pumpkin or pineapple and acids such as salicylic, lactic and glycolic to name a few. Acids are a chemical exfoliant— dissolving, conquering and ultimately forcing the cells to make new ones at a rapid rate to give your skin a new glow and a smoother finish. Then there are those appliances with brushes we use with a vengeance thinking that they will do the trick.
Basic cleansers exfoliate just simply by rubbing your skin and towel drying it.
Add to this mix constant rubbing, poking, squeezing, being to vigorous with scrubs thinking they “work better” and mixing all of the above and the end result is anything but smooth happy skin.
First thing you must do is be sure that:
- your cleanser is doing its job
- you are not using a toner that has exfoliating type ingredients
- your skin isn’t over sensitive
Once you have all of this in check you can begin adding exfoliation to your routine and your results will be a wonderful addition.
What Exfoliant Should I Use?
If your skin is super sensitive, try this delightful clear gel enzyme- Glo Phyto Calm Enzyme Mask. Put it on your skin for about 5 minutes and rinse it. The enzymes work like little Pacmen by clearing away the dead skin and encouraging your skin to stay balanced in the meantime. This is a great starter exfoliant.
Another easy and gentle but effective exfoliant is the Glo Hydrabright Pro 5. With a variety of gentle dissolving ingredients, this powerhouse is gentle enough to use every evening after cleansing but also can be mixed with a mask or your cleanser to take those products up a notch. In liquid form this product is applied with your fingers or for an added benefit, you can use a gauze pad to apply. This does not rinse so it is easy to use and works wonders in smoothing and brightening.
Another gentle and thorough almost daily granular exfoliant is Daily Polishing Cleanser. A combo of cleansing and exfoliating, what I love about this exfoliant is its ability to dissolve if you rub and scrub too hard. This is all about brightening the skin and a great addition to any routine that needs more regular exfoliation without the intense grit that some other exfoliants offer.
My favorite scrub especially during fall and winter is Glo Pumpkin Enzyme Scrub. What is the big deal about pumpkin besides the familiar and delicious smell? Exfoliants can also have enzyme power. Enzymes are a wonder ingredient helping to march and conquer the surface debris without the grit, but coupled with grit it is a double whammy. The beauty of this scrub is the grains are collapsible so you are protecting your skin from you and your heavy hand.
Glycolic Toner is another exfoliant that is a liquid, very potent and is a great way to introduce your skin to the dissolving and renewal power of Glycolic Acid. Not for the faint hearted or sensitive skin. If for some reason you purchase this and your skin gets all fiery, splash with cold water a few times and that will counteract the acid. Water is alkaline and Glycolic is acid, so water will cut the fire pronto.
A little trick: If you have your heart set on trying some glycolic but are hesitant to jump in, then a nice entry level product is Glo Glycolic Cleanser. This product washes off and is in the treatment category, but because of its glycolic ingredient, but will also serve as an exfoliant.