We all know that exfoliation is an important part of our skin care routine, but do you exfoliate correctly?
Exfoliation is a common misconception in the beauty world, because most products you pick up recommend daily use. Some even suggest that you exfoliate twice daily.
Then we open up Instagram & see exfoliation pics as part of your daily routine that range from scrubs to AHA’s and retinols to mini daily peel pads.
We watch video tutorials on makeup and skin care, because we want to know how to correctly exfoliate and which one’s are best for our skin.
Even magazines are filled with so-called beauty expert advice that recommends daily exfoliation.
What is the correct way to exfoliate?
First off, daily exfoliation must stop! You’re damaging your skin’s delicate barrier and can end up causing many other problems, such as dehydrated skin, sensitive skin or acne.
Scrubs should also be avoided, because they over-exfoliate the skin and create micro-tears in the skin’s barrier that can break it down, cause moisture to escape and bacteria or harmful products can now enter the skin.
Before I explain how to exfoliate correctly and share with you which exfoliants I love; I’m going to explain how the skin functions and how it naturally exfoliates on a regular basis.
One thing that most people don’t know is that our skin NATURALLY replenishes new skin cells every 28 days and automatically removes old cells from the skin’s surface.
It all starts with the two main layers of the skin: The epidermis and The dermis.
The dermis is our bottom layer of the skin and is known as our live layer. The dermis is where our blood vessels, lymph, receptors, oil glands, sweat glands, collagen & elastin live.
The dermis is protected by the epidermis.
The epidermis is our top layer of the skin, the one we can touch. This layer is composed of 4 sub-layers, which I go into detail in my book. For exfoliation purposes, today we are focusing on the very top Epidermal layer, called the Stratum Corenum.
The stratum corneum is stacked like bricks & mortar and makes up our skin’s barrier. Every cell in the stratum corneum layer is dead skin. The dead skin cells are the bricks and we have intercellular glue that holds the cells in place.
The cells are born, divide and begin to rise up to the stratum corneum layer in a section of the skin, called the Epidermal Junction. This is where the epidermis and dermis layer meet.
As the cells make it to the stratum corneum layer, they push the old skin cells off, thus naturally exfoliating our skin.
However, cells do get stuck in that intercellular glue and if they are not removed properly, they can build up on the skin’s surface and cause dull-looking skin, rough patches, dry skin, or acne.
I love to use the analogy of leaves piling up on the sidewalk in the fall. If we don’t exfoliate, our unwanted dead skin cells pile up on the skin’s surface like leaves on a sidewalk.
The goal of your exfoliant is to brush away the leaves, revealing the sidewalk and leaving the skin’s barrier intact.
THIS is the reason why we exfoliate!
Our goal is to ASSIST the unwanted dead skin cells away from the skin’s barrier, NOT remove them completely. There is a big difference.
Which exfoliant should I use?
Like I mentioned earlier, scrubs are bad & should always be avoided!
Retinols can also be bad & irritating as well as Glycolic acids (AHA’s). These two ingredients break down the stratum corneum layer, creating micro-tears and leaving the barrier in a fight of flight mode.
This is what we think is good when we see pores minimized or our wrinkles disappearing. Unfortunately, what’s happening is that our skin is swelling to protect itself and hiding pores & wrinkles along with it.
If you were to stop using your retinol or AHA’s, your skin would go back to the way it looked before, probably even worse because you’ve been causing damage to the skin for quite awhile now.
Preferred methods of exfoliation
I personally love enzymes and gommage exfoliants. I recommend both of these products to all my clients. They are both easy to use and can be done twice a week.
I love both these, because you apply them to your skin and let them do the work for you. No need to scrub or damage the skin’s barrier.
Enzymes work by dissolving the glue that holds the dead skin cells in place. Let’s go back to the leaves on the sidewalk story I told you earlier…
Enzymes act like a brush, they brush away the unwanted dead skin cell build up and leave behind the skin’s barrier, clean and intact.
Gommages work similar to enzymes, but have a very slight bit of exfoliant in them. This doesn’t mean you scrub the skin! Gommage is French for “to erase” and can be used with or without water.
The slight exfoliant means that you CAN remove it dry and it flakes off the skin easily and only removes the dead skin cell buildup. It’s much easier to remove with water and a gommage will still remove the unwanted cell build up.
How to Correctly Exfoliate
I’m sure by now you’re wondering how to correctly exfoliate, now that you understand why we exfoliate and know the types of exfoliants that are good to use on your skin.
Since you are no longer exfoliating daily, I recommend switching to twice a week!
I have many clients that pick 2 days of the week as their exfoliation days, such as Monday & Thursday. Find what works for you and you will notice significant change in your skin within the next 4 weeks.
Personally, I leave my exfoliant in my shower, because it takes 5-10 minutes for the enzyme or gommage to work. I’m already in there & don’t have time to go back & forth to the sink at night.
First of all, wash your face & rinse off your cleanser, apply a pea-sized amount of enzyme or gommage to your skin & let it sit for 5-10 minutes. This is when I take my shower.
At the very end of my shower, I gently rinse off the exfoliant & it’s done! Super simple and my skin feels clean but not tight, dry or irritated like most scrubs or exfoliants do.
Skin care MUST be simple and it MUST offer you results in order for your skin to look good and feel good.
Everyone deserves to have clear, beautiful skin you’re proud of.
If you have any questions, please comment in the comment section below! I’m happy to help you find an exfoliant that works for you & your skin.
P.S. To find more information about me or buy a copy of my book; “Skin Deep: Demystifying Skin Care Solutions to Achieve Healthy, Glowing Skin” please visit my website.