Exfoliate, Exfoliate…Exfoliate!

Exfoliate, Exfoliate, Exfoliate!! The Scoop on Exfoliants and Why We Need Them

We all have experienced that dry, dull, flaky skin at some point or another in our daily lives. We apply cream, lotion and oils to our skin only to continue the dry skin cycle over and over again. Dry heels and calluses…….certainly can be the roughest and driest skin yet. What is dry skin? Why is there a “build up” and flakiness in some areas and not in others? Let’s start by looking deep into the layers of the skin. Here is the scoop on dry skin, exfoliants and how to have smoother, softer and hydrated skin from head to toe!

Our skin is such an amazing part of our bodies. It’s the largest organ in the body. Our skin does so much for us…..keeps up warm & cool, protects us from outside invaders that cause sickness and disease, stretches when our bodies go through pregnancy, helps us prevent infections, allows us to wear beautiful art through tattoos and much more. Dry skin can be caused by many different factors, including medications, medical conditions, water and environmental factors, or even just simply a lack of proper hydration by drinking enough water. Even certain soaps and products can cause dry skin.

Let’s talk about the skin. We have three main layers of skin, epidermis (the outer most layer), dermis (the deepest layer). Each layer contains several individual layers of specialized cells that make up the epidermis and dermis. We also have the a subcutaneous fat layer or the hypodermis (the fluff stuff that helps cushion our skin and keeps us warm) under the dermis layer. Within these layers there are blood vessels, nerves, pores, hair follicles, sebaceous glands or oil glands, lymph and melanocytes that produce melanin to protect our skin from the sun’s rays. Each layer has a very important job to help maintain well being and prevent disease. As our skin cells are formed in the dermis, they move upward towards the epidermis or top layer of skin. Through the regeneration of skin cells, we are able to heal wounds like scratches or cuts and helps keep us healthy. Our skin regenerates approximately every 27 to 30 days. Regeneration slows down as we age, so someone in their 60’s would be regenerating slower than someone in their 20’s. Surrounding each skin cell is a “cement” or “glue” like substance that holds each cell to the next, just like bricks and mortar do to a stone wall. This cellular glue works together with the cells to help keep everything together, protecting the body from harm. As we regenerate new skin cells, our older skin cells work their way to the outer layer of the epidermis called the stratum corneum, or rather, to the surface of the skin. Once they reach the surface, the cellular glue sometimes “sticks” the now dead, dry skin cells to the surface of the skin, thus causing our skin to be dry, flaky and dull. Through exfoliation of the skin, we can remove the outer layer of dead and dry skin cells and loosen the cellular glue that sticks the dead cells to the surface of the skin.

There are many types of exfoliation, including granular scrubs (including sugar scrubs, microdermabrasion, scrubs containing nut shells or pumice and salt scrubs), manual exfoliants, such as facial brushes, loofa sponges, bath gloves and dermal filing, chemical peels such as alpha hydroxy acids including retinol, Retin-A (vitamin A) and Glycolic acids and beta hydroxy acids like gommages or roll off exfoliants peels and salicylic acid, just to name a few. Each type of exfoliant has pros and cons and not every type of skin will benefit from every type of exfoliant. There are several types for exfoliants that are for professional use only, such as microdermabrasion and Glycolic peels.

Here are a few exfoliants that are safe for use at home to keep skin smooth and soft: Granular exfoliants like salt or sugar scrubs, pumice or nut seed based scrubs, loofa sponges, bath gloves and bath brushes. By exfoliating your skin, your skin benefits from increased circulation, cleansing of dirt & dry skin cells, improving tone and texture, relaxes muscles and releases natural pain endorphins or the “feel good” endorphins in the body.

How often should you exfoliate? What about sensitive skin? Typically, once a week exfoliation for the face and body for the average “normal” skin type is sufficient, if using a scrub or brush. For chemical peels such as AHA’s and retinol types of exfoliants for the face, once to twice a month is ok, as long as there is no irritation, redness and burning sensation of the skin. For sensitive skin, every other week or twice a month for facial and body exfoliation with scrubs and brushes. Chemical peels for the face are recommend only once a month because of the intensity of the peel. Heels, elbows and rough callused areas may be exfoliated weekly, unless irritation occurs. Always exfoliate carefully and be cautious not to over exfoliate the skin.

There are a few rules that apply to keep you skin healthy when exfoliating at home:

1) Always avoid any open skin or red, irritated skin when exfoliating, no matter the type of exfoliant you are using. This can scrub in bacteria and cause infection.

2) Products such as pedi-egg and other “cheese grater” type of callus files are to be used at home with extreme caution. These type of products can cause damage to the skin and infection if not used properly. Use caution when using pumice stones. Pumice stones are a one time use product and can not be reused. Dirt, skin and bacteria get trapped in the grooves on the stone and enter the skin when its reused. This can cause infection and other health issues. A good alternative is to purchase a professional style callus file that can be cleaned and sanitized after use.

3) Always exfoliate the skin using a gentle touch. There is NEVER a need to “scrub” your skin till it’s red or raw. Each type of exfoliant is specifically designed to work primarily on its own within the chemical makeup of the product. Scrubs, brushes, bath gloves and callus files do require a little gentle effort to apply more than other exfoliants.

4) Always use sunscreen after exfoliating your skin or having a facial. After exfoliation, your skin is more vulnerable to the sun’s rays and can lead to hypersensitivity and sun burn. Protect your skin with sunscreen at least 2-3 days after exfoliation.

5) Always ask your physician prior to exfoliating if you have a serious illness or medical condition. Heart conditions, skin conditions and even if you are undergoing cancer treatments can cause your body and skin to be more sensitive. Certain medical conditions may not be beneficial to have exfoliation with. Your physician knows your health risks better than anyone else, when in doubt, ask your physician.

Category : Blog Posted on August 9, 2014

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