Do you feel that your skin lacks the much-coveted radiance? Adding exfoliation to your skin care routine could help! Besides adding a healthy glow to your skin, exfoliation can also help with a number of other skin-related issues.
But before you explore this important step in your skincare regimen, you must know how to do it right. Here’s all you need to know about exfoliation, and how to go about it. Let’s get started.
What is Exfoliation?
Exfoliation is the removal of dead cells from the outermost surface of your skin by physical or chemical methods.
Skin cells experience a lot of wear and tear due to environmental exposure. The dead cells of your skin are shed off naturally, and are constantly replaced by new skin cells growing underneath. This is known as cellular turnover, and normally takes 28 to 45 days in an average adult.
However, dead cells shed by your skin can get deposited on the skin surface. This can lead to an uneven skin tone or even acne breakouts. Including a well chosen exfoliator for your skin removes the build up of dead cells, speeds up cell turnover and brightens your complexion.
How To Exfoliate Your Face?
Exfoliation helps to remove dead cells from the outermost surface of your skin, giving you a healthy glow. It also helps you address some skin problems as well. With physical and chemical exfoliation being the two ways in which you can exfoliate your skin, here is how you can do it right.
What You Need
1. Face scrub or serum-based chemical exfoliator
The exfoliation steps may take up to 20-25 minutes.
Step 1: Choose The Right Products
It is important to choose the right kind of exfoliator as per your skin type. Your choice of product should also be based on what part of your body you intend to exfoliate. A product meant for your delicate facial skin may not be effective on the rough skin of your elbows, and vice versa.
Step 2: Apply Exfoliator In The Right Way
If you are using a physical exfoliator like a face scrub, apply it on a clean and dry face. If using a serum-based chemical exfoliator, apply a few drops before moisturizing your skin. Avoid the area around your eyes.
Step 3: Get The Exfoliator To Work
When using a face scrub, massage it gently on your skin with wet fingers. When using a serum-based chemical exfoliator, use dry fingers to gently massage the product evenly on your face.
Step 4: Wash Off The Exfoliator
If you are using a face scrub, wash it off with lukewarm water. This will help you get rid of all the granules over it. Then pat dry your face with a cotton towel. You will have fresh-looking, clear and soft skin.
Step 5: Moisturize After Exfoliation
Finally, it is very important to moisturize your skin, immediately after exfoliation. This will prevent damage on your skin and keep it hydrated.
Physical Exfoliation Vs Chemical Exfoliation
Depending on how exfoliators work, they can broadly be categorized into physical or chemical exfoliators.
1. Physical exfoliation
Here, simple, mechanical motions like rubbing or scrubbing are used to slough off the dead skin cells. This method usually gives immediate results, as it not only removes the dead cell debris but also enhances blood circulation of the skin.
Loofah, body brushes, bath salts, muslin washcloths, etc. are good exfoliators for your body. Face scrubs have tiny abrasive particles such as grains or ground-up nuts for exfoliation. You can also opt for microdermabrasion by a professional beautician for an even toned skin.
All said, it is important to remember that physical exfoliation is a stronger form of exfoliation and can cause irritation or dryness if not done correctly. Also, you should check that your store-bought scrub does not contain large particles which can cause microtears (small cuts) on your skin.
2. Chemical exfoliation
Chemical exfoliation, on the other hand, uses chemicals like mild acids or enzymes, to dissolve away the dead cells and other deposits on your skin surface. Most dermatologically tested chemical exfoliators are safe to use. But it is good to do a patch test first, to confirm that the product does not cause any adverse reaction.
Chemical exfoliators are gentler and give slower, but longer lasting results. Your chemical exfoliator may contain mild acids such as AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) or BHAs (beta hydroxy acids). Some commonly used AHAs include lactic acid, citric acid, glycolic acid, etc, while salicylic acid is a BHA commonly used for exfoliation.
Chemical exfoliators may come in the form of serums or peel off masks.
Ways to Exfoliate Naturally
The mildest way of exfoliating your skin from the comfort of your home is to use natural ingredients which are readily available. Listed below are a few natural exfoliators and how they work.
This can be used by itself or in combination with other ingredients like olive oil, green tea etc. Sugar contains hydroxy acids like glycolic acid, that removes tan and slows aging.
It is best to avoid using sugar directly on your facial skin, but it can be used safely on your body. Sugar scrubs not only remove dirt and germs from the skin, but can also remove small, unwanted hair.
How to use
Apply the sugar scrub with gentle motions. Leave it for 10 minutes before washing off with lukewarm water.
Honey not only hydrates your skin, it can detoxify, remove germs and also soothe inflammation. Raw honey or manuka honey is the product of choice when it comes to exfoliation.
How to use
Apply honey on a clean face, leave on for a few minutes before washing off with warm water. Baking soda can be added to honey if you want to get rid of acne.
Papaya has the potent enzyme papain, which can degrade the dead skin cells along with bacterial cells on your skin. It is rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants, which reduces the signs of skin aging and heals the skin.
How to use
Blend 1 tbsp of papaya fruit with 2 tbsp of its crushed seeds and 1 tbsp of olive oil. Scrub your face gently and wash off. Do not leave the scrub on your face for more than a minute, as the potent fruit enzyme can cause irritation if used longer.
This mild dairy product with the goodness of lactic acid, vitamin D and probiotics (friendly bacteria) has multiple benefits for your skin. It brightens and evens out your skin tone, helps fight acne causing bacteria, and soothes the skin.
How to use
You can apply yoghurt directly or add it to your face pack with other ingredients for gentle exfoliation.
5. Lemon juice
Lemons are rich in citric acid, a natural exfoliator. It also has vitamin C that reduces pigmentation and niacin which relieves dry skin and wrinkles.
How to use
Lemon and sugar is the most popular scrub preferred by people with normal skin. However, lemon is a strong exfoliating agent. So use it with caution. It is better to refrain from using it directly on sensitive skin. Also do not leave lemon juice on your skin, for more than a couple of minutes.
Oats are rich in antioxidants and also remove excess oil from the surface of your skin.
How to use
Ground up oats can be used by themselves as great exfoliators. You can also add sugar, honey or a little coconut oil.
Refreshing scrubs containing ground coffee beans are popularly used for the face and body. Coffee is rich in caffeic acid, which has excellent antioxidant properties that boosts collagen and prevents premature skin aging. 
How to use
Mix ground coffee with equal parts of olive oil or coconut oil. You can also add lemon juice and sugar instead of oil.
Which Exfoliator Is Best For Your Skin Type?
Different skin types require different kinds of exfoliation. Also, as the time taken for total cell turnover of the skin reduces with age,  frequency of exfoliation needs to be adjusted accordingly. Always consult an expert in case you’re doubtful about which exfoliator to use and how often.
To know more about your skin and which products will suit it best, you can take SkinKraft’s AI driven questionnaire, here. Once you know your skin type, you can choose your exfoliation routine accordingly.
1. Oily skin
If your skin secretes a lot of oil and sebum or feels greasy, a strong exfoliator like a physical scrub or electronic scrubbing device can be a good choice. Exfoliating two to three times a week is enough to keep away the excess oil. Use scrubs with smaller grains or devices at low speeds for a shorter duration.
2. Dry skin
If your skin does not have enough hydration, it can become rough and flaky. Mild chemical exfoliators with AHA or PHA (polyhydroxy acids), or scrubs in a creamy base should be used for dry skin, to minimise loss of moisture.
3. Combination skin
If you have oily and dry skin in patches, both need to be addressed. You need to use a combination of mild physical and chemical exfoliators alternatively.
You can also use a versatile exfoliator like salicylic acid which gently removes the excess oil along with dead cell deposits from the deep pores of your skin.
4. Sensitive skin
If your skin tends to react negatively to most products, you may have a sensitive skin. In such cases, it is better to consult your doctor before including any new procedure in your skin care routine. Using a muslin washcloth or fine rice powder can be a good choice of exfoliation for you.
5. Acne prone skin
Gentle chemical exfoliators with retinoids, glycolic or salicylic acid can help reduce breakouts. If you have skin that has inflamed acne breakouts, it is best to avoid exfoliating altogether.
6. Normal skin
People with normal skin type can opt for any exfoliating agent according to their comfort. Exfoliating twice a week should be enough to keep your skin glowing.
Benefits Of Exfoliation
Some of the amazing benefits of a regular and controlled exfoliation routine are listed below.
1. Unclogs the pores
Exfoliation removes excess oil, dirt and cell debris from your pores thus opening them up. This facilitates removal of blackheads and also reduces breakouts.
2. Enables deeper penetration of other skin care products
Removal of dead cells and opening of pores enables skincare products like serums, growth factors, moisturisers to penetrate deeper into the skin. This facilitates the intended action of these products and gives better results.
3. Prevents acne
Moderate exfoliation removes the germs as well as the dead cells they feed on. This helps in preventing acne breakouts.
4. Evens out skin tone
Exfoliation removes dark patches of hyperpigmentation. It also smoothes out patches of flaky skin, fine lines and light scars, thus resulting in a bright and even skin tone.
5. Boosts blood circulation and lymphatic drainage
Massaging the exfoliant increases blood flow to your skin. This in turn, removes toxins and nourishes the skin cells. It also encourages lymphatic drainage which improves cell health leading to a fresh and glowing skin.
6. Increases cell turnover
Removal of dead cells and other impurities from the surface, increases the cell turnover of your skin. The appearance of new cells on the surface makes your skin look fresh and healthy.
7. Stimulates collagen synthesis
Regular exfoliation stimulates the production of collagen, an important structural protein in your skin. Collagen not only helps to maintain the texture and tightness of your skin, but also helps reduce lines and wrinkles, thus preventing premature aging.
Signs You’re Over-Exfoliating
If you exfoliate your skin more frequently than your cell turnover, chances are that you will damage the fresh new cells on the skin’s surface. The signs of over exfoliation include the following
1. Redness or irritation
Too harsh or too frequent exfoliation may result in redness, irritation, inflammation or burning sensation on the skin. Your skin may become very sensitive and react to any product that you use subsequently.
You need to be extra careful when your skin is wet and avoid rubbing your skin, as much as possible. Opting for milder products, and using rich emollients can help.
2. Dry flaky skin
Excessive exfoliation rips your skin off the natural oils that keep it hydrated. This removes the skin’s moisture, making it dry. You may also observe the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles due to excessive drying.
Using a good moisturizer or serum may help alleviate this condition.
3. Increased breakouts
Over exfoliation damages the protective barrier of the skin, making it prone to bacterial infections. This leads to an increase in new acne breakouts.
In such a situation, stop exfoliating and switch to milder products. You can also check with your dermatologist if your skin’s condition doesn’t improve.
FAQs on Exfoliation
1. Is exfoliation good for skin?
If done correctly, exfoliation definitely does good to your skin. An optimum exfoliation regimen suited for your skin type, not only gives you a fresh and glowing look, but also relieves skin problems like acne and excessive oiliness.
2. How often should I exfoliate?
Your skin type and choice of exfoliator will determine how frequently you should exfoliate. As a rule of thumb, you need to let the new cells on your skin settle, before doing another exfoliation.
3. Why do I get pimples after exfoliation?
Pimples are a sign of over exfoliation. These indicate that the protective skin barrier has been damaged. This may also lead to inflammation.
An optimum exfoliation regimen adds to your glow, giving you healthy, youthful skin. You should consider carefully before choosing from the range of options available to exfoliate your skin. Also take care not to overdo it, as over exfoliation will result in the very conditions that you were aiming to treat.
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