The skin is made of several layers of cells, and these layers are continuously shedding  older, dull cells on the skin surface to reveal  newer  fresh cells underneath.

When we are younger, the skin carries on this process known as “desquamation” seamlessly with older cells sloughing off for newer cells happening at lease every month or less, however as we begin to age, this process becomes slower and not as effective as before. As a result, we have a situation where older skin cells rather than loosen out and make way for the newer cells stay put and remain glued to the skin surface obstructing the skin’s natural process of regenerating and rejuvenating itself and making the skin look dull, ashen, dry , wrinkly and lack lustre.

It therefore becomes imperative to utilise other means to help the skin to achieve this natural all important function.

The process or means of achieving this is known as “Exfoliation

Exfoliation therefore is the process of removing dead top layer of skin from the epidermis.

There are 3 common means of achieving this aim currently:

  1. Chemical Exfoliation
  2. Enzyme Exfoliation
  3. Mechanical/Physical exfoliation

We will now discuss them one at a time…

Chemical Exfoliation: This involves the use of fruit acids to de glue and dis lodge dead skin skins from the skin surface. The acids help to loosen the bond between the cells making it easier for them to be dislodged and detached or fall away to reveal brighter, fresher skin underneath.

There are different kinds of acids that can be used for this, the most common ones are lactic acid, glycolic acid and salicylic acid. Others include tartaric acid and mandelic acid.

At home chemical exfoliants are generally mild and can be in the form of either toners, (see our Glow face toner here,) cleansers or masks. To get maximum effects of chemical exfoliation, its better to use on leave on products like toners, serums or masks as cleansers can be washed away too quickly to achieve any exfoliating effects.

Most times, when using toners for the first time, you might experience some light tingling sensation, but with continuous use, the effect can be considerably reduced, depending on the integrity of your skin…this does not mean that the products is no longer working..

Chemical Exfoliants when used properly are very effective for smoothening the skin, brightening , softening and dealing with dry  skin conditions. Over time they also help to improve the lipid barrier structure of the skin, strengthening the skin integrity and making it appear healthy and glowy.


Enzymatic Exfoliation: Apart from using acids for exfoliation, enzymes can also be used to help perform the same function albeit in a gentler milder way than fruit acids. Enzymes are a better alternative to people who find acid exfoliants too harsh or strong for them.

Enzymes exfoliants are commonly found in papaya (papain) …(see our Face wash with papaya extract here, Pineapple (bromelain), pumpkin enzyme  etc.

The major difference between the way enzymes work and the way acids work is that enzymes attack the protein  structure of the skin, weakening and breaking them down so that they can be easily removed.

So if you have tried acids and found them irritating, then considering an enzyme exfoliant  can be considered.

Physical and Mechanical Scrubs: These are the grains, ground shells,  gritty powders, salt, sugar and all the other things like buffs, brushes, loofahs etc that we use to manually “scrub” our skins.

These products are highly beneficial and can be a good complement to acid peel, when used properly otherwise they can actually cause more damage than good.

The most important things to consider when using scrubs and physical exfoliants is the amount of pressure that is applied while performing the scrubbing action as well as the geometry or shape of the scrubbing particles. Naturals scrubbing particles are generally more preferable than plastic or synthetic ones and well rounded or symmetrically shaped particles are better than ones with jagged or sharp edges.

These type of particles can cause micro tears in the skin and induce low grade inflammation in the skin which is bad for long term health of the skin.




Which of these methods of exfoliation do you prefer and why?

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