None of us like the appearance of dead, flaky skin! While it is not a serious condition, it may be a matter of concern for some of you. The key to get rid of dry and patchy skin is regular exfoliation. Scroll down to find out more.
1. What Is Exfoliation?
Around every 30 days, the upper layer (epidermis) of your skin sheds off naturally. This process uncovers new, healthy and rejuvenated skin beneath. However, at times, the dead skin cells don’t shed off completely, resulting in dry patches and flaky looking skin.
Exfoliation removes the oldest dead skin cells from the skin's outermost layer. This process brings new and healthy cells on your skin’s surface.
Exfoliators come in the form of scrubs, over the counter creams and various other substances and tools. The process can be done at home or in-office by your dermatologist.
2. Determine Your Skin Type
Before you choose an exfoliator, it is important to determine your skin type. You don’t want to rip off your skin's natural oils or eradicate your skin's barrier.
A. Dry Skin
This skin type tends to appear dull and flaky. Dry skin is nothing but dehydrated skin. It may have a lot of dry patches and can feel itchy.
B. Oily Skin
This skin type is characterized by a greasy, shiny appearance. Our skin is full of tiny pores under which lie the sebaceous glands. The sebum (oil) produced by these glands plays a vital role in keeping your skin healthy.
However, too much sebum production can clog your pores, resulting in greasiness and development of acne.
C. Normal Skin
Normal skin is neither too oily nor too dry. The pH levels of this skin type is well-balanced (4-7).
D. Sensitive Skin
If your skin adversely reacts to almost any skincare product on the market, you most likely have sensitive skin. It may also flush with changes in temperature or after eating spicy food.
3. Chemical Exfoliation
Chemical exfoliation agents deeply penetrate through your skin and increase the cell-turnover ratio. This method of exfoliation is good for your skin, as it has a prolonged and progressive effect.
Some chemical exfoliators also help to strengthen your skin barrier (1). However, they can irritate your skin. Conduct a patch test before applying a chemical exfoliator to your face and use it only two to three times a week.
You should keep in mind that freshly exfoliated skin can burn easily. So use sunscreen every time you step-out in the day!
A. Chemical Peels
Chemoexfoliation or chemical peeling targets specific layers of your skin to ultimately improve its appearance. It is a non-invasive procedure, typically used to exfoliate or remove the top layer of your skin.
Widely used by dermatologists all over the world (2), chemical peels are used to treat acne, acne scars, wrinkles, fine lines and hyperpigmentation. These peels also improve overall skin tone and texture.
Chemical peels are classified depending on the depth of penetration. Superficial peels target the topmost layer of your skin. (3) Medium peels go beyond the top layer and are used to treat skin disorders like melasma and superficial acne scars. Deep peels target the lowest layer and are used to treat more serious disorders.
Your dermatologist may recommend a chemical peel based on your medical history. For the removal of dead skin cells, superficial or medium depth peels are usually recommended.
B. Hydroxy Acids (AHAs & BHAs)
Hydroxy acids are popular in the skincare industry and have been in dermatological use for many years now. They are used to speed-up cell turnover and smoothen the texture of your skin (4). The acids are derived from plants and animals and can be found throughout nature.
They come in the form of serums, creams and lotions, and are of two types - alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and beta hydroxy acid (BHA). While the former is water-soluble, the latter is oil-soluble, making BHAs ideal for oily skin.
The efficacy of AHAs depends on their concentration levels and exposure time (5). At a concentration of 10 percent or less, they are usually safe to use on the skin. However, alpha hydroxy acids can have side effects like irritation, redness and burning.
Commonly Used AHAs Include:
- Glycolic acid - derived from sugarcane
- Lactic acid - derived from sour milk
- Citric and malic acid - derived from fruits
- Hydroxycaprylic acid - derived from animals
Beta-hydroxy acids help in removing dead skin cells from deeper layers of your skin. They also help in reducing acne breakouts and scars. These acids are also used in many skincare products to fight hyperpigmentation.
Commonly Used BHAs Include:
- Salicylic acid - derived from plants
Enzymes are usually used on sensitive skin types. Derived from fruits, they remove dead skin cells from your face and are extremely beneficial in improving surface properties (6). However, they do not expose a new layer of skin or affect the cell turnover. This makes them a safe option for sensitive skin.
4. Manual/Physical Exfoliation
You probably already own one of these. This type of exfoliation involves using beads, a brush or other tools to physically remove dead skin cells from your face, besides dirt and grime. Here are a few ways:
A. Exfoliating Powders
These have become popular in the recent past. Exfoliating powders absorb oil and remove dead skin cells. These powders also speed-up cell turnover, making it a convenient and easy-to-use option to get rid of dead and flaky skin.
Take a few drops of water and mix it well with one spoon of the powder to form a paste. Gently spread the paste across your face. It is recommended to make a thick paste for better results.
B. Dry Brushing
This method involves using a brush with tiny, soft bristles to get rid of the stubborn, dead skin cells on your face.
Before using a dry brush, make sure your skin is slightly damp for easy removal of dead skin cells. Gently brush away the flaky skin in small circles for about 30 seconds. If you have any tiny wounds or cuts on your skin, avoid using this technique.
If you generally have normal skin, a clean washcloth can do the trick for you. Make sure to dampen your skin and gently rub the washcloth over the affected area in circles.
Microdermabrasion was first introduced in the 1980s and has been a popular method for skin rejuvenation ever since.
It is a minimally invasive procedure that can be done in-office or within the comfort of your home. The process uses a small hand-held device to gently remove the top layer of your skin. (7)
If you have sensitive skin, microdermabrasion may not be the best option for you. This dead skin removal technique can pose a risk to your skin, causing it to turn red and irritated (8). It can also result in hyperpigmentation. Consult your dermatologist for better guidance.
E. Hair Removal
Waxing is a major part of a beauty enthusiast’s life. If you’re a woman, you know how important waxing is to all of us. But did you know that waxing is a great way of exfoliating your skin as well?
Waxing is primarily done with the intention of plucking out hair follicles. But it can also work as a mechanical exfoliant. It helps remove dead skin cells and dirt particles stuck to your skin. Doing it every 2 to 8 weeks is ideal.
Now you know why your skin appears so fresh and radiant after every waxing session!
5. Exfoliants That Are Too Harsh For Your Skin
Regardless of your skin type, you have to be cautious of using exfoliators that can damage your skin. Harsh exfoliators with big particles can rip your skin off its essential oils and damage your barrier.
Do Not Use Exfoliators That Contain:
- Baking Soda
- Coarse salt
Using any of these can damage your skin, making it prone to inflammation and infection.
6. Precautions To Take Before Exfoliating Your Skin
- It is always recommended to consult a dermatologist before using a substance or tool to exfoliate your skin. Your skin type also determines the efficacy of the tool you’re using.
- If you choose to go for a scrub or acidic substance, conduct a patch test first. If your skin doesn’t adversely react to it, you can start exfoliating two or three times a week.
- Go slow. Your skin is delicate and scrubbing it harshly or too fast can cause micro-tears and damage it.
- If you choose to go for chemical exfoliators, make sure you’re using them in concentrations recommended by your doctor.
7. Why Is It Important To Exfoliate Your Skin?
Dead skin build-up on your face can make it look dry and dull. Dead skin cells can also clog your pores and prevent moisturizers from penetrating deep into your skin.
Exfoliating one or two times a week is recommended to keep your skin looking fresh and healthy. The process exposes the healthy cells, allowing moisturizers to deeply penetrate through your skin.
Exfoliating your skin every day may not be a good option for your skin. Doing it too often can lead to micro-tears in the skin and eradicate your skin barrier. This can result in a lot of other skin conditions like dry patches and acne. So, follow every skincare advice with caution!
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