What does exfoliation mean? The word can conjure up images of scrub-gloves, microbeads, and techniques like microdermabrasion. The fact is that our skin does need exfoliation – but perhaps the technique might need a bit of finessing.
What Does Exfoliation Mean?
Exfoliation is the name given to the process of removal of old skin cells from the surface of the skin. It’s achieved by mechanical means (a scrub, or glove), or chemical (an exfoliating acid).
Desquamation is the skin’s own process of exfoliation, by which it sloughs off dead skin cells. A skin cycle lasts approximately 28 days, but as we age, our skin loses the ability to exfoliate itself as effectively as it did when we were younger.
As the rate of exfoliation slows, this can lead to rougher, drier skin – which can be flaky or patchy, or dull in appearance.
This slower rate of exfoliation can also lead to skin issues like breakouts. Breakouts can occur when pores become blocked with dead skin, excess sebum, SPF, or makeup. When the skin’s natural processes of desquamation slow down, it means that skin is not shedding rapidly enough to get rid of dead skin cells. These can build up to block pores. The same is true of makeup or SPF. If it’s not effectively removed, it can also block pores and lead to breakouts.
What is Mechanical Exfoliation?
Mechanical exfoliation is done by physically sloughing off the dead skin cells by using an exfoliating glove, or a scrub. This will only remove skin cells on the very top surface.
Scrubs usually have a gritty texture. They might contain jojoba beads, coffee grounds, sugar granules, oats – all ingredients which have a rough enough texture to effectively remove skin cells. The issue with mechanical scrubs lies in the fact that the rough texture can irritate skin due to the hard edges of the beads, or granulated parts of the scrub.
Mechanical scrubs are often seemingly cost-effective, but the damage that they can cause to your skin (and the environment) is often not worth it. Previously, products could contain exfoliating polyethylene microbeads, which could pass through sewer systems to be released into oceans and lakes. Laws are tightening on this one, however, which is good news.
Mechanical exfoliation is short-term effective, and can feel very satisfying, but it’s not the method that we would most happily recommend.
What Is Chemical Exfoliation?
The term ‘chemical’ or ‘acid’ exfoliation can raise eyebrows, but it’s nothing to be frightened of. We are living in a chemical world, and we are chemical hoomans. Each one of us is essentially one big encapsulated bath of chemicals, held in by a chemical membrane. Exfoliating acids are often the gentler, more effective option for prompting your skin to exfoliate! And our skin is acidic too – just saying.
Chemical exfoliants consist of polyhydroxy acids (PHAs), alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), like glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, retinol, salicylic acid… the list goes on and on.
AHAs like lactic acid or glycolic acid are water soluble acids which help to exfoliate the upper layer of your skin. They are all different in terms of molecular size, speed, function, and what they target.
BHAs like salicylic acid are oil soluble which means that they cut through oil. They can penetrate more deeply into the pores of your skin and can help to dissolve debris.
There are lots of quiet exfoliators in the Skingredients range, helping your skin to turnover at an acceptable rate, and doing it all so silently and gently that you don’t have to bother your head about it, and with no need for scrubs or additional exfoliating products!
This hydrating, gentle daily cleanser and makeup remover not only brings pre and probiotic goodness to the table to keep your skin’s microbiome balanced, but it also effectively removes makeup and keeps your skin hydrated.
Now, when we say gentle, we mean gentle! It contains the active ingredient gluconolactone, which is a PHA. This is so gentle that it exfoliates without any irritation. This ingredient is commonly recommended to anyone with very sensitive skin which might be able to handle tougher exfoliants.
Skin Veg, your hydrating, highlighting and brightening daily serum, also works to help your skin absorb serums. It contains PHA, which can help your skin to be more receptive to the serums which are about to apply! PHA is a penetrant enhancer, which is a bonus for Skin Veg! 10 points to you, Skin Veg!
This cleanser contains 2% salicylic acid, the EU legal limit for cosmetic products. Salicylic acid is an oil-soluble exfoliating acid. This means that it dives deep into your pores to dissolve anything which might be blocking it, including excess oil, pollution, makeup, and old SPF. If these aren’t exfoliated away, they might block pores, and cause breakouts or congestion.
It’s particularly useful for the more oily-skinned hoomans, those prone to congestion, and the teens among us, too.
This exfoliator should be used every third night, or as advised by your skincare specialist. You can use it as a micro-mask or as a spot-zapper if you’re in dire need of some effective relief from congestion or breakouts. Salicylic acid is super effective – so make sure you use it only as directed!
This cleanser is a lactic acid based cleanser, which seeks to smooth and brighten your complexion. It’s suitable for daily use, but it’s currently undergoing a reformulation. It’ll be rejoining the Skingredients gang before we know it!
Desquamation is something our skin is doing constantly, but helping it along with exfoliation when needed is no bad thing. The application of vitamins like vitamin A can actually help to prompt our skin to speed up the process and continue to exfoliate and proliferate healthily, but it’s also something that we should take into our skincare routines on a regular basis. Neither under nor over-exfoliation are ideal – everything in moderation!