Exfoliation is the shedding of dead skin cells from the upper layer of skin. It occurs naturally in healthy skin and the skin of babies and children, but like all body processes, slows down with age.
Similarly, natural exfoliation also slows down if your skin cells don’t receive enough of the proper nutrition to function effectively.
On average, the skin naturally exfoliates every 28 days. For older adults, this timescale extends to around 50 days. Some people believe that accelerating this process through mechanical and chemical exfoliation is completely unnecessary.
They’d also point to some of the drawbacks of artificial exfoliation such as irritation of the skin and the risk of micro-cuts.
However, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that manual exfoliation is relatively risk-free and a highly-effective process of shedding dead skin cells. It speeds up the cycle of exfoliation, helping to reveal fresh and smooth new skin underneath.
This skin will help you look younger and provide a more radiant tone.
It’s important, however, not to try and accelerate the exfoliation cycle too much. Over-exfoliating your skin will remove the only protective barrier that your skin has, leaving it exposed to environmental toxins, as well as the sun.
Therefore, the best thing is to use exfoliating products which encourage natural cell turnover and keep the skin well hydrated.
Most of the common signs of over-exfoliation are pretty obvious. For example, irritation and any visible flaking or redness of the skin is a warning sign that your manual exfoliation isn’t working.
Signs such as these suggest skin damage, which if neglected, could lead to more serious infections and long-lasting conditions such as eczema. Small tears in the skin and broken capillaries are other symptoms that may stem from excessive exfoliation.
How often should I exfoliate combination skin?
Combination skin requires a mixture of chemical and mechanical exfoliation. Therefore, you can switch between scrubs, acids and enzymes, just make sure you never use different types of exfoliation on the same day as this can irritate your skin.
If your skin feels particularly dry after exfoliation, it’s recommended to use a moisturizer to restore some moisture to the skin’s surface.
In terms of frequency, combination skin should be exfoliated two or three times each week, if your skin allows. This is a similar amount to most skin types. It’s worth looking out for special ingredients in your exfoliants such as mandelic acid.
Ingredients such as these are efficient at removing excess oil from the skin but also mild enough to be used in drier areas of the skin too.
Should I exfoliate dry peeling skin?
Exfoliating dry and peeling skin is vitally important. It’s recommended to avoid mechanical exfoliation on dry skin because the process is drying and can result in microtears. Instead, it’s much more effective to use AHAs.
These are alpha hydroxy acids, and offer chemical exfoliation as an alternative to manual exfoliation for smoother skin texture.
Some of the most common types of AHAs include glycolic, lactic, and citric acids. These work by targeting the dull and dead skin cells on your skin’s surface and breaking apart the bonds which hold them.
This process will naturally cause your skin to shed its dead particles.
For dry skin, glycolic acid helps to remove dead cells sitting on the skin’s surface to facilitate fast-acting, healthy skin turnover. After using glycolic acid, it’s worth following up with a Sun Protection Factor and moisturizer as the chemical exfoliant can make the skin more prone to sun damage.
What happens if you never exfoliate?
Children get away with not exfoliating as their skin renews itself continuously. This is why their skin is typically smooth and glowing. However, as you get older, skin cells renew at a much slower rate, which leads to skin looking dull, dry and blotchy.
For adults, skin that isn’t regularly exfoliated is more prone to acne and more rapid visible aging. It’s rarely vibrant and easily becomes clogged with dirt, oil and dead skin cells. Blackheads are also more likely to occur across the face.
To make matters worse, if you don’t exfoliate, other skin products such as moisturizers and serums will work much less effectively. This is because they’re unable to penetrate neglected skin that’s in desperate need of exfoliation.
Therefore, make sure you exfoliate regularly to facilitate deeper penetration and better absorption of skincare products that you apply to your face and other parts of your body.
How often should I exfoliate oily or acne-prone skin?
If you have either of these skin types, you should aim to exfoliate either two or three times a week, if your skin can tolerate it. You should look to prioritize products that contain salicylic acid as it’s oil-soluble.
These exfoliating products will mostly be of the chemical variety. Research also shows that this BHA (beta hydroxy acid) can assist in unclogging pores without affecting oil production, as well as treating breakouts.
People with oily skin can also turn to physical exfoliation to remove any extra build of dead skin cells.
Everyone’s skin is different, meaning no amount of information and advice will instantly solve your exfoliation problems. It’s totally normal to have to try a few options before finding a product and routine that works for you.
Just make sure that you start slowly to determine which exfoliants your skin can handle. Once you’ve found a suitable product, you can establish a good routine and enjoy your smoother, softer skin.