Exfoliation is often considered a ‘buzz’ word when it comes to beauty routines. However, it is a crucial process involved in supporting your overall skin health.
Our skin is designed to exfoliate naturally. Fun fact: As healthy young adults we create an entirely new skin surface every thirty days, but as we age this process slows, leaving the skin’s surface rough, uneven, and dull. This is why it is important to understand exfoliation and how it can be effectively incorporated into your skincare routine.
So, what exactly is exfoliation?
Exfoliation is the removal of the dead surface skin cells that cling to the outermost layer of the skin’s surface and become trapped in pores. If our skin’s natural process of exfoliation is disrupted – whether it’s too slow (ageing) or too fast (acne sufferers) – it’s time to incorporate exfoliants into your skincare routine to improve the overall health of our skin, our biggest functioning organ.
Exfoliation is its own little message service. By removing the dead surface skin cells, it sends a feedback message to the cells deeper down to produce fresh new cells that then migrate up to the surface. How cool!
There are three types of exfoliants you can introduce into your skincare routine:
- Chemical exfoliants
- Physical exfoliants
- Micro-exfoliants (or microfoliation)
Chemical Exfoliants are usually formulated in serums and occasionally cleansing products. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs, such as lactic, malic or mandelic acid) assist in removing dead skin cells from the skin’s surface, and they improve moisture levels as an added bonus. Whilst beta hydroxy acids (BHAs, such as salicylic acid) work to unclog pores and reduce skin inflammation. Chemical exfoliants are excellent at removing surface sun damage and uneven skin tone, as well as helping to clean congested skin and blocked pores.
Now for some nerd out time… You should never mix low pH acidic serums containing acids such as lactic, L-ascorbic, and salicylic acids with the active cosmeceutical ingredients retinol (Vitamin A) and niacinamide (Vitamin B3), as acidic products below pH 3, will decrease the effectiveness of these ingredients. I always recommend using retinol and Vitamin B in the evening, and exfoliating acids and L-ascorbic acid serums in the morning under your sun-protective moisturiser and mineral makeup.
Physical exfoliants are the well-known scrubbing agents, using ingredients such as aluminium oxide crystals, coffee grounds or nut husks, to physically remove surface roughness, blackheads, and dead skin build-up, particularly around the T-zone.
Microfoliation, ‘micro’ meaning microscopic and ‘foliation’ referring to exfoliation, uses microfine particles, such a rice bran powder, to gently remove loose surface skin cells. This process is considered the gentlest type of physical exfoliation and is great for sensitive or irritated skin. The action of microfoliation also increases circulation and promotes regeneration of new cells, leaving skin feeling smoother and prepared for the application of serums and moisturisers. Microfoliants (such as Synergie Skin MicroPolish Powder) can also offer added cleansing properties as a convenient 2-in-1 product.
Depending on your skin type, the frequency of exfoliation will change. As a rule, physical exfoliants should only be used twice a week at most, as the particles may cause sensitivity if overused. Microfoliants can be used daily to support cell renewal, including those with sensitive skin. If you have no skin concerns, a chemical exfoliant can be used once or twice a week.
Exfoliation is an essential part of our natural skin processes, but sometimes we need to give nature a gentle nudge with high quality homecare exfoliants. With ingredients best suited to your skin concerns, it is possible to improve skin tone and texture, slough away surface sun damage and reduce skin congestion with high-quality home exfoliation products.