Monday, November 3, 2014

All About Exfoliation

What is exfoliation? 
As we age, the regeneration process slows down. This process includes the making and shedding of skin cells. When we’re young, our skin is functioning just about perfectly. Skin cells are “born,” then they rise to the surface, where they are shed at a very rapid pace. As regeneration starts to slow down (around age 25), the new cells being formed travel to the surface more slowly and tend to pile up on the outside of the skin. The removal of these dead cells is called exfoliation. It allows the younger, newer cells to come up to the surface, making the skin feel softer and look brighter. Exfoliating on a regular basis is one of the most important things you can do for your skin.

Why exfoliate? 
Dead skin and oil cause plugs to form inside your pores. Keeping the buildup of dead cells to a minimum is important in keeping the pores free from congestion. Not only will exfoliating help maintain clean pores, it will also help your outer skin feel soft and smooth. In addition, exfoliating helps stimulate blood circulation, leaving your cells well nourished and healthy. Whenever you exfoliate, you can lift a dull complexion off your face and replace it with smooth skin that reflects light. In other words, exfoliation gives you a healthy glow.

What to use?
Scrubs are the most commonly known products for exfoliation. They are a blend of an emollient-based cream or gel with some type of abrasive granules mixed in. These abrasive particles can be organic matter like apricot seeds or tiny polyurethane beads that are synthetic. Because these balls are perfectly round (unlike the irregular shape of seeds), manufactures tout their superiority over seeds. They say the organic seeds may scratch the skin’s surface; the rounded balls will not. Be aware that these synthetic beads are so round and tiny that they can easily become lodged in your pores and may be difficult to get out if you’re not careful.

My experience with these perfectly shaped beads has not been positive. One evening I was experimenting with a new scrub containing the synthetic particles. After rinsing the scrub off my face, I looked in the mirror and discovered one perfect little bead had found a home in a pore on my nose. This foreign object wasn’t easy to remove and had I not seen it, it surely would have caused problems. Unless it eventually came out on its own, this little bead could have stretched that particular pore, if not caused something worse down the road.

So if you do end up using a scrub with synthetic particles, just be extra careful. Don’t press hard while scrubbing, and closely examine your skin afterwards to make sure you have removed everything from your face. The seed-type scrubs do not usually cause the aforementioned problem, but make sure not to grind the scrub (or anything) into your skin. Although the outer skin is resilient, you still don’t want to mash anything into it. As long as you are not sensitive and you use one with care, it is doubtful you can harm your skin (by scratching the surface) with a scrub.

Scrubs should not be used on problem skin or red, irritated skin. If you have acne, scrubs are definitely out. The abrasive particles in a scrub can easily open up any infected areas, allowing bacteria to spread, not to mention the irritation a scrub will cause on these sensitive places. A simple rule of thumb is if your skin is red (for whatever reason), don’t use a scrub.

Scrubs are excellent for stimulating blood circulation, and this heightened blood flow helps to nourish skin cells. However, scrubs do a minimal job of exfoliating. They just don’t get rid of a lot of dead skin. Additionally, after you rinse the scrub off and pat your skin dry with a towel, you may experience a feeling of dryness. This is actually dehydration. You have not only removed some dead cells, but all the oil and water from your skin as well. Unfortunately, this can leave your skin feeling depleted. This is one reason I prefer a gel-type gommage for exfoliating, which is discussed later. These products add moisture to the skin through the gel substance instead of removing it like a scrub can.

Papaya enzyme peels are another way to exfoliate. They are a little more effective than a scrub in terms of exfoliation. You generally won’t have any problems with irritation since these enzyme peels don’t contain granules. The enzymes help to decompose skin cells as well as increase circulation. Typically you apply the peel to your entire face like a mask. As it dries, the product is rubbed off (gently), helping to remove any dead cell buildup on the surface of your skin.

The best and most effective thing to use when exfoliating is a gommage, which is a nonabrasive, gel-type peel. These are harder to find, but they do exist. Rather than using abrasive particles like a scrub, a gommage has a hydrating gel base that gives it a deep moisturizing effect. By massaging this soft peel into your skin (increasing circulation), the gel adheres to your outer dead cells. As the product dries, eraser-like flakes start to appear. These flakes signal the gommage is lifting off surface cells. (In French, gommer means to erase.) This will leave your skin feeling very smooth and refined without any irritation from seeds or granules like those found in scrubs.

A gel exfoliator is perfect for problem or acne skin because it lessens the potential for opening any lesions or irritating already sensitive skin. Gel exfoliators can also be used around the eyes. This skin needs exfoliation just like the rest of your face. Due to the delicate nature of the undereye tissue, you never want to use an abrasive scrub there. When using a gommage or anything around or under your eyes, never rub or get aggressive with your skin.

How to exfoliate. 
Each individual exfoliating product will have its own set of instructions, so basically you'll just follow the directions given for the product you are using. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
  • You want to exfoliate your face as well as your neck. I always exfoliate the tops of my hands as well. 
  • When you’re applying either a scrub or gommage, you want to use light, circular movements—never pulling or digging into the skin. 
  • Scrubs always need to be used on wet skin. Gommage or enzyme peels are usually applied to dry skin. 
  • Whether using a scrub or a gel peel, never use too much pressure—just enough to get the job done. Your skin is resilient, but it is delicate at the same time. Constant rubbing and pulling can affect the elasticity in the long term.
Be careful when using a scrub around your ears not to get any product into the actual ear canal. You can gently scrub behind and in front of your ears, but don’t intentionally put scrub inside your ears.

When to exfoliate?
Depending on what you’re using, you should exfoliate at least once a week. The more you exfoliate, the smoother and healthier your skin will look and feel. This, of course, is assuming you have found an exfoliator that works well for your particular skin. Use a scrub or gommage after cleansing and before moisturizing. (If you plan to use a clay mask, exfoliate prior to masking.) If you look in the mirror and wish you could have a facial (or feel you need one), it’s a good time to exfoliate. After exfoliating, use Step 2: Toner, then Step 3: Moisturizer (and eye cream), and you’re finished.

I hope after reading this post youll feel like exfoliating!

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