What are the Benefits of Exfoliating?
Although your skin regenerates itself through a process called skin cell turnover, you might still want to lend your face and body a helping hand with exfoliation.
Exfoliating can help unclog pores, even out your skin tone, stimulate collagen production, and even increase your body’s natural detoxification process. But before diving into its many benefits, let’s first define what exfoliation is and which methods of exfoliation are best for you.
What is Exfoliation?
Exfoliation is simply the removal of dead skin cells that make up the top layer of your skin in order to reveal a smoother, softer complexion. It can be either physical or chemical.
Physical exfoliation may be what you are most familiar with. It involves removing dead skin cells mechanically, usually with some type of abrasive tool.
The most well-known methods of physical exfoliation are salt and sugar scrubs, loofahs, and dry brushes. These are all low-cost treatments that can be done at home.
If you decide to go to a professional for physical exfoliation, your best option might be microdermabrasion, which uses a hand-held device to gently “sand” the skin.
Dermaplaning has also become popular recently, and although it is used as a hair removal procedure, the added bonus is that it exfoliates the skin, as well.
However, you might be physically exfoliating your skin without even knowing it! Hair removal methods such as waxing and shaving have been shown to also remove dead skin cells from the face and body.
On the other hand, chemical exfoliation involves the use of acids to dissolve dead skin cells. Some well-known chemical acids include glycolic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid.
The Benefits of Exfoliating
The medical term for a clogged pore is “comedo.”
An open comedo is called a blackhead, which takes on its color due to the hormone melanin and not dirt, which is a common misconception. A closed comedo is called a whitehead.
Both types of comedones arise when the cells lining pores multiply faster than the process of skin cell turnover. These dead skin cells sit on top of the skin, causing a buildup of oil in the pore.
In some cases, bacteria can feed on the oil, leading to redness and swelling in the form of blemishes. When you exfoliate, you get rid of the excess dead skin cells that get stuck on top of the skin.
Without the buildup of dead skin cells, the oil that your body naturally produces can escape to the surface and do its job of keeping the skin moist instead of accumulating in the pore. For this reason, exfoliation is an excellent way to improve clogged pores.
Evens Skin Tone
Uneven skin tone is also known as hyperpigmentation. This happens when patches of skin become darker than their surroundings and, although the condition is harmless, can lead to inconsistencies in skin tone.
The darkening of the patches happens due to an increase in melanin production in the skin in response to increased sunlight. Our genes largely influence how our skin responds to the sun. In either case, wearing SPF is essential, as is using products that help to repair sun damage.
Hyperpigmentation can also occur due to blemishes. While many think that the marks left by blemishes are scars, they are, in fact, known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Although it seems like they are stuck on your face forever, they will naturally fade over time.
However, if you want to speed up the process of fading hyperpigmentation, then exfoliation is your go-to. Whether you choose to go the physical or chemical route, exfoliating can help to break up the buildup of pigmented skin cells, which can allow them to fade faster.
Stimulates Collagen Production
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body and is what gives your skin a smooth, supple appearance. Unfortunately, with age, sun exposure, and certain lifestyle habits, collagen production can decline. This can lead to wrinkles, sagging, and even slow down the healing of wounds.
One surefire way to increase collagen production is to cause micro-trauma to the skin, which can increase its thickness. Did you notice, for example, that you form thicker skin on the bottoms of your feet when you walk in uncomfortable shoes? This is the process of collagen production at work.
It happens when the skin gets injured, which triggers an inflammatory response in the skin cells. Blood containing oxygen, nutrients, and white blood cells rush to the site of injury to begin the repair process. After this, the skin’s fibroblast cells begin to ramp up collagen production in order to repair the damage caused to the skin.
Although this process won’t be triggered by using a sugar scrub, there are clinically proven methods of exfoliation that can ramp up collagen production. For example, glycolic acid has been shown to increase the production of collagen within the first two months of use.
Your body naturally detoxifies itself due to the lymphatic system. Although this organ system isn’t as well-known, it is incredibly important for our immunity.
The lymphatic system is essentially a network of organs and tissues that help the body get rid of waste. It works by transporting lymph, a fluid that contains infection-fighting blood cells, throughout the body.
Your lymph nodes, which are located in hundreds of places throughout the body, filter the lymph that passes through them.
Some forms of exfoliation, such as dry-brushing, have been shown to speed up the functions of the lymphatic system. This can increase circulation, reduce bloating, and, in some cases, even improve the appearance of cellulite.
How to Exfoliate Safely
Knowing the many benefits of exfoliation, it’s possible to get too much of this good thing, leading to more harm than good when it comes to your skin’s health. For this reason, it’s important to take some precautions when exfoliating.
Exfoliating too frequently or too vigorously can break down the protective barrier of your skin. This can lead to your skin feeling more sensitive, irritated, and dehydrated. This could also make you more vulnerable to sun damage and irritation from certain skin care products.
When it comes to chemical exfoliation, it is especially important to be careful.
Most at-home treatments that contain chemical ingredients should be mild and not pose a significant risk of damage to your skin. However, high-strength acids can immediately cause burning, pain, and blistering.
Down the line, high-strength acids can even increase hyperpigmentation and delay the healing of the skin. So try to be super-careful when working with these ingredients and try to go to a professional if you’re considering a chemical peel.
There are also certain skin types that can be more sensitive to the effects of physical and chemical exfoliating. If you have sensitive, dry, or blemish-prone skin, the wrong types of exfoliators can make skin issues worse.
So it is always best to talk to your provider about the best type of exfoliation for you.
Exfoliating has many benefits for the skin on your face and body. With the variety of physical and chemical exfoliators that are available, exfoliation should be accessible to almost anyone.
However, because each one of us has unique skin, it is important to choose the right method of exfoliation for you and to make sure that it is an important part of your skin care routine.