While the importance of keeping your skin hydrated, cleansed and protected from the sun has been the mainstay of morning shows and women’s magazines for years, exfoliation has often been relegated to a necessary evil. Our experts weigh in on why at the heart of healthy skin lies a good exfoliation.
Slough off dead skin cells
“As we age, our skin’s natural ability to generate and shed skin cells slows down,” says Doug Danielson of the Skincents line. “You can overcome this challenge by exfoliating weekly.” Danielson and his colleague Freytag say that without exfoliating, dead skin cells and excess oil build up, causing pores to clog.
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Stimulate your dermal layers
Daron Hope, creator of the herbal skincare line Earthtonics, believes that exfoliation of the skin is key to achieving optimal tone and radiance. “When the face is gently exfoliated, it stimulates the outer dermal layers to regenerate more quickly,” says Hope. “Not to mention the instant gratification of a smoother, more even-toned complexion.”
One more word of advice Hope offers is to be gentle. It doesn’t take much to slough away that top layer of dead skin cells. The best practice is to use a light touch.
Create a closer shave and a better tan
“By exfoliating, you are removing those dead skin cells from the top layer, revealing the smoother skin below,” says Tracy Worthington, owner of Ooohlala of Beverly Hills. This not only makes your makeup go on better, and can give you a closer shave, but exfoliating the body before using self-tanners gives you a more even tan. Worthington recommends using a mild daily exfoliater for the face and a sugar or salt scrub two to three times a week for the body.
Get your shine on
Ellen Miller, Senior Beauty Editor for Shape magazine, says that as we age, the process of cell turnover slows down, and cells start to pile up on the skin’s surface — making our skin appear, dull, dry or rough. “When you exfoliate, you remove those dead cells and uncover the fresh new cells below.” Miller says that exfoliating properly also helps the anti-aging and hydrating ingredients in skincare products penetrate more deeply, making them more effective.
Know your exfoliants
“There are two kinds of exfoliation: manual and chemical,” says Miller. Manual exfoliation involves using an abrasive scrub or a skin brush to slough off dead cells, while chemical exfoliation occurs when you apply a product that contains ingredients that dissolve those dead skin cells without scrubbing.
Miller suggests that if you use a scrub, make sure that the granules are smooth and round (like jojoba beads) rather than jagged (like crushed walnut shells) to avoid injuring your skin.
If you’re going the chemical route, choose a peel or mask that contains alpha or beta hydroxy acids for deeper exfoliation. If you have sensitive skin, look for products that contain fruit-derived enzymes (like pineapple, papaya or pumpkin). Lastly, Miller says exfoliating once a week is plenty. Any more than that can leave your skin dry and irritated.