Saturday, May 25

What benefits can exfoliation-promoting skin care products offer your skin?

Have you recently exfoliated?

What benefits can exfoliation-promoting skin care products offer your skin?

Social media has a way of making the banal seem exciting and original. One example would be exfoliation, which is the removal of dead skin cells from the epidermis. Anyone who was browsing TikTok recently may be convinced that this traditional method of skin treatment can rejuvenate even the most aged skin, such as our aging epidermis.

However, a dermatologist from Harvard says that's asking too much.

"I don't think exfoliation is going to fix anybody's wrinkles," says Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center interim dermatology chair Rachel Reynolds, MD. Exfoliation has certain advantages, but if you don't perform it carefully or use instruments or chemicals that your skin can't handle, it can also irritate and inflame the skin.

How do you exfoliate?
Exfoliation can be done mechanically or chemically. Every person has unique benefits.

Mechanical exfoliation, also known as physical exfoliation, involves physically removing dead skin cells from the skin with a brush, loofah sponge, or scrub that contains abrasive particles. "Mechanical exfoliation can improve skin luster by taking off a dead layer of skin that can make it look dull," explains Dr. Reynolds.  "And it can help unclog pores a bit, which can reduce some types of acne."

Chemical exfoliation liquefies dead skin cells by using chemicals, most often salicylic acid or alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids.  "Chemical exfoliant's work on a micro-level to help dissolve excess skin cells and reduce uneven pigmentation sitting on the surface of the skin," she continues.  "They also restore skin glow, improve acne, and give the skin a little more shine."

Why is exfoliation encouraged by skin care products so frequently?
According to Dr. Reynolds, there are probably hundreds of commercially available skin care products that are marketed as exfoliating, including face masks, cleansers, and body washes. She questions, though, why so many different products highlight this aspect so strongly.

"It's advantageous for a cosmetics company to sell consumers more products in a skin care line," she says. "But it's buyer beware, because this is a completely unregulated market, and cosmetic companies can make claims that don't have to be substantiated in actual clinical trials."

Does our skin need to be exfoliated?
No. "Nothing happens if you don't exfoliate—you just walk around with bumpy or slightly dry skin, which is inconsequential except for cosmetic reasons," explains Dr. Reynolds.

"No one has to exfoliate, but it can be helpful to exfoliate the arms and legs," she continues. "As we age, these areas get drier than other parts of the body, and people notice they build up a lot more flaking skin and an almost fish-scale appearance."

This behavior could indicate keratosis pilaris, a common but benign skin condition that causes rough, bumpy "chicken skin" on the thighs and upper arms. However, it might not. Physical exfoliators are an excellent starting point because, according to her, keratosis pilaris affects sections of skin that are harder than the face. Alternatively, you can use a cleanser or lotion that has a chemical exfoliator in it. Both kinds can enhance the appearance and texture of the skin.

Does exfoliating cause skin damage?
Yes. Depending on a number of variables, exfoliation methods that are chemical or physical may cause more harm than benefit. Any exfoliator has a higher potential to irritate or inflame sensitive skin. Furthermore, going beyond that might result in irritating contact dermatitis, which can appear red, angry, and chapped. This can happen by rubbing too vigorously or using a solution with higher acid concentrations.

"Physical exfoliation that's done too harshly can also aggravate inflammatory acne, making it worse," adds Dr. Reynolds. "Also, exfoliating can make you more prone to sunburn."

Which methods of exfoliation are the safest?
Chemical exfoliants are preferred by Dr. Reynolds over their physical counterparts. "Sometimes the abrasives in those apricot scrubs, for example, can go too far, aggravating the skin and creating inflammation," she explains.

She also provides the following extra advice on safe exfoliation:

If this is your first time exfoliating, see how well your skin reacts to light physical exfoliation with a simple washcloth.

Next, experiment with milder chemical exfoliants, like salicylic acid or hydroxy acid, in reduced quantities. If necessary, work your way up to stronger concentrations.

Consider getting a chemical peel at a dermatologist's clinic if you want to get rid of difficult skin issues like comedonal acne, which is small, flesh-colored lumps that are frequently on the chin or forehead, or melasma, which are brown facial patches.

Avoid exfoliation on a daily basis. Dr. Reynolds advises doing it no more than twice or three times per week. "Your skin needs to repair itself in between exfoliation episodes."

Photo by Karolina Grabowska


  1. Io faccio l'esfoliazione manuale con i sali integrali del mar morto e la trovo tonificante e soprattutto riattiva la micro circolazione.
    La faccio ogni 15 giorni

  2. Very interesting post.
    Best regards :)

  3. Thank you for this informative post, Melody! xxx


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