The process of exfoliation in the skin, is a bit like the process of peeling an orange. The process deals with the removal of the top dead layer of the skin to reveal newer skin cells.
The skin is made of a layer of cells, packed on top of each other. At the bottom of the first layer of the skin called the Epidermis, you have specialised skin cells which continually produce new skin cells.
“The layer of cells that make up the skin are in constant upward motion, so new cells produced via the process of cell division in the basal layer of the epidermis are constantly being pushed up the skin, displacing older skin cells on top, creating a continuous cycle where new cells are being formed and older ones being loosened and shed gradually from the skin surface.”
This process is so effective and seamless when we are younger, but unfortunately, as we get older, this process not only slows down, even the shedding process can be incomplete. Rather than the older skin cells shedding to make way for newer ones migrating to the surface, they end to stick to the skin surface, forming a rough, dull blanket over the skin surface and keeping the newer, fresher skin cells covered underneath.
“Humans lose around 500 million skin cells everyday, therefore dead skin can build up really quickly, thats why you need to exfoliate. This process however slows down as we get older, especially from early 20s upwards.”
These unshed dead skin cells are responsible for:
- Rough skin: the skin can become rough as a result of accumulation of dead and aged skin cells, which should have been shed naturally from the skin
- Dry skin: Apart from looking rough, this accumulation of dead skin cells can compromise the skin’s natural function of regulating the skin’s moisture levels. This is because theses layers of fead skin cells easily form wrinkles, and fine lines which can cause excessive loss of water from the skin surface causing skin dryness
- Dull Skin: The skin looks dull because old and aged skin cells which should naturally give way for newer, smoother and brighter skin cells stick to the skin’s surface instead and hence the skin looks dull and lacklustre .
- Pimples and clogged pores: The accumulation of dead skin cells can trap hair follicle, dirt and clog pores which could all lead to acne and skin issues.
Enter the HEROs..
All the challenges iterated above are the reason for SKIN EXFOLIATION.
This process of exfoliation, is the solution to the problem of accumulation of dead skin cells in the body and the KEY to a brighter, glowy skin.
There are 3 methods of exfoliating the skin
Physical Exfoliation: In this method of exfoliation, use is made of rough and abrasive powders (scrubs) or too ( e.g Loofas, brushes etc) to gently and physically remove the dead skin cells from the skin surface.
The important thing to note is that the instruments for physical exfoliation must be symmetrically rounded and not have rough edges in order to avoid bruising the skin)
Another important point to note is the amount of pressure applied during the process. For the same reason as above, it is important to apply a light gentle pressure in circular motions while physically exfoliating the skin.
Chemical Exfoliation: This method makes use of chemical exfoliants usually in the form of mild skin friendly acids, to chemically loosen the bonds that hold the compacted skin cells together, therefore making it easier to dislodge and remove them from the surface of the newer skin cells beneath.
With chemical exfoliants the type of acid used and the concentration will play a major role on how effective or otherwise the process is.
Most common acids used for skin exfoliation include Alpha Hydroxy acids ( Lactic acid, glycolic acid), Beta Hydroxy Acids ( salicylic acid,) others include Mandellic acid, PHA etc.
Enzymatic Exfoliation: This type involve the use of ingredients with abilities to digest and soften the skin using certain enzymes present in the products. These enzymes literally feed off the dead skin cells on the skin surface.
Some types of enzymes used for exfoliation are Papain (Pawpaw extract) and Bromelain (Pine apple Extract)
The major difference between chemical and enzymatic exfoliation
- Enzymatic exfoliation is much milder as it does not involve the aggressive breaking of bonds that hold skin cells together, but rather a slow and gradual degradation of dead skin cells by the enzymes
- Enzymatic exfoliants can be used by sensitive skin types who can not stand chemical exfolinats
- Enzymatic exfoliation are generally slower than Chemical exfoliants but non the less as effective
- Enzymes are large proteins that work on the surface of the skin, while the chemical exfoliants penetrate much deeper into the skin
“Enzymatic exfoliation might be better for people with sensitive skin. Most skin types can tolerate a combination of either Chemical/ Physical exfoliation, Physical/Enzymatic Exfoliation or Enzymatic /Chemical Exfoliation. However acne prone skin types may not tolerate physical exfoliants, but may do better with either or a combination of the other two types”
Want to know how best to exfoliate your skin? Watch out for the next blog post.
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