Friday, August 20, 2010

Exfoliation- is it a must?

I've been a long and firm believer that there are only three essential steps in caring for your skin: cleanser, toner and then moisturizer.Only for the past few years that I heard this word 'exfoliation' and its crucial function to our skin because all healthy skin has its own turnover rate and shed dead skin cells (stratum corneum) every 21-28 days. But as we aged, the turnover rate is slowing down and you have build up of the dead skin layer and renewal of the skin is also delayed. Not only that, exfoliation has so many great benefits to the skin. For oily skin, it helps unclogged pores, reduce sebum production and helps to clear acne. And for dry skin, it helps to remove all the dead skin cells and help better penetration of moisturizer to the skin.

There are two ways you can exfoliate your skin:
1. Physical exfoliation which as the name implied requiring a physical contact using abrasive materials such as granules, brush or washcloths. The best example will be the scrub that we used or microdermabrasion 

2. Chemical exfoliation is basically using acid to 'unglue' the outer layer of the skins, increase cell turnover and removing the built-up top layers of the skin. Most commonly used acids are AHAs (glycolic, lactic, malic, citric, and tartaric acids) and BHAs (such as salicylic acid)

These two methods helps to accelerate skin turnover rate so that new healthy young skins can come to the surface. I basically have used both and personally I preferred chemical exfoliation than physical exfoliation. Its difficult to overexfoliate with chemical exfoliant because it only removed the dead skin layer and leave the healthy skin alone and produce better result. I started to use scrubs such as St. Ives Apricot Scrub which I personally hate it. Its easy to overexfoliate because the granules are so big and so harsh on facial skin and ended up with red face. Not cool. And this granules are so harsh that it damage the pores and cause them to enlarge. I know there are a lot of women out there that are afraid to use chemical exfoliant because all that are acid and you don't want to put acid on your face. Even though these are acid but they are weak acids compared to hydrochloric or sulfuric acid which can make hole on our skin. These are strong acids with pH of 1 which is damaging to skin. The weak acids on the other hands have pH of  3-4 which is not that bad.

My verdict:
1. I think exfoliation is a MUST and is as essential as cleansing  or putting moisturizer on your face.If you like to use physical exfoliant, do not rub it more than 2 minutes and avoid using scrub everyday. Just use gentle circular motion every 2-3 days is enough. Avoid using scrub with big granules. For those with oily-acne prone skin, avoid scrubbing on your acne because it will just irritate it even more and try to use scrub with BHAs  because while you scrubbing the dead skin cells, the salicylic can penetrate the oil in the pores and help with the blemishes/whiteheads.

2. For those who like to use chemical exfoliant, use a thin layer of the mask and gradually thickened it up if you like. Preferably used at night and don't leave it more than 15-20 mins. Always avoid the eye area and put a little bit more on the congested areas such as your nose or chin and you can also combine with physical exfoliant on these congested area by using toothbrush or washclothes. For those chemical exfoliant virgin, give it a try and it might sting and itchy like hell for the first time but be patience as the result worth the pain. Chemical exfoliant can be a bit drying and its best to follow with moisturizing mask or serum after that. For those who used chemical exfoliant regularly, you will noticed that your skin might not have much improvement after a while. This means that your skin has getting used to it and you probably need a stronger chemical exfoliant. But this means with time your skin  will required higher and higher acid concentration which is probably not a good idea. My advice is to stop using it for 2 weeks and then restart again or try to change to different brand and then come back using the brand that you like. 

3. For those with sensitive skin, exfoliate cautiously and always do a patch test first in case it might not suit your skin. Best to avoid physical exfoliant and use chemical exfoliant instead maybe like once a week or once in forth night.

4. And last but not least, always remember to use sunscreen at least SPF 15 as exfoliation can increase your skin sensitivity to sun exposure and you want to protect the renewed skin as much as possible.

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