Beauty and skin care experts tend to agree that exfoliation is one of the most critical parts of keeping skin beautiful. There is, however, a lot to learn and understand about exfoliation. With all the different types of exfoliation available one cannot help but wonder – is there such as thing as too much? And what is the best type? What about for those who just had ‘work done?’
If you are a dermatologist you can probably rattle off the answers to these questions in your sleep. For everyone else, this is going to hopefully help you connect a little bit with your patients and clients who are looking to be as beautiful as they can.
An Exfoliator For Every Skin Type
There are so many different types of exfoliation, falling into the categories of either mechanical or chemical. As noted by the DermStore, mechanical exfoliation is exfoliation in which the dead skin cells are physically removed with an abrasive agent using either a tool or an ingredient. Some examples of mechanical exfoliation include skin brushing or a salt glow or body scrub that uses coffee grounds or sugar. Typically, this form of exfoliation can cause a lot of inflammation within the skin, but precautions can be taken to achieve results without increased side effects. On the face, scrubs should include ingredients that are gentle and round such as spherical jojoba beads. Advise your clients to stay away from harsh products like apricot scrubs that can cause microscopic tears and inflammation in the skin. A more aggressive but effective approach to mechanical exfoliation is microdermabrasion. This is where a small, vacuum-like tip shoots a jet of little abrasive crystals (usually aluminum or magnesium oxide) onto the skin and then vacuums them off. Crystal-free or diamond tip versions are available. Depending on the setting and pressure, you can achieve different depths of exfoliation. Microdermabrasion can help refine pores, improve the appearance of acne scars, and help even out blotchy, thickened and sun-damaged skin.
Chemical exfoliation is a procedure in which a substance applied to the skin is the exfoliating agent. For those with sensitive skin, or skin prone to bleeding, mechanical exfoliation may not be the best choice. For these patients there are chemicals.
Chemical Exfoliation Options
Instead of scrubbing the surface skin off there is a way to just peel, or melt it away, that is typically much more gentle (depending on the treatment). SELF is one of those resources that not only has a magazine, but also runs a lifestyle website. They outline some of the most effective, and popular, chemical exfoliation methods. They Include Salicylic Acid, Glycolic Acid, or Alpha-Hydroxy Acids, and And Beta-Hydroxy Acids. Bustle.com adds to this with some sage input:
Adding acids to your routine really isn’t as intense as it sounds once you understand how they work. As long as you’re using the best chemical exfoliant for your skin type, the chance of encountering irritation on your quest for clearer, brighter skin is little to none. To break things down, it’s important to know that most chemical exfoliants contain acids that come in two forms: Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). There are several acids that fall under the AHA umbrella, of which the most well known are glycolic and lactic, while BHAs largely refer to salicylic acid. Both AHAs and BHAs improve the skin’s tone and texture by gently breaking down the intercellular glue that holds the top layers of dead skin cells together, thus encouraging the skin’s natural shedding process.
AHAs tend to be preferred by dry and sun-damaged skin types, as they work on the skin’s surface to help fade hyperpigmentation and improve the efficacy of your moisturizers and other treatments. Meanwhile, BHAs are better for oily and acne-prone skin types because they’re oil-soluble, so they work on the skin’s surface and inside the pores. They also have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, so BHAs can cut through oil that clogs pores while also helping to kill acne-causing bacteria.
Exfoliation of any kind also makes you more vulnerable to sun damage, so you’ll want to make sure to be extra diligent about using SPF (even on cloudy days) to keep your skin protected.
That is one of the downfalls of exfoliation. It makes the skin much more sensitive to the sun, as well as other environmental factors.
Who Does Exfoliation Hurt More Than Help
Exfoliation is a key part of a healthy skin care routine, along with cleansing and moisturizing and sun protection. The issue that we face, collectively, at TSLMS, and throughout the entire beauty, cosmetic and aesthetic industry, is that some people have sensitive skin. Some have really sensitive skin.
The American Academy of Dermatology has this advice: Since every type of exfoliation may not work for every skin type, it’s important to consider your skin type before choosing an exfoliation method:
- Sensitive skin may sting or burn after product use
- Normal skin is clear and not sensitive
- Dry skin is flaky, itchy or rough
- Oily skin is shiny and greasy
- Combination skin is dry in some areas and oily in others
Each of these skin types will require a different technique. As a professional you can guide your clients and patients on what the best approach for their skin type is.