With dry skin season upon us (yes, that’s how I think about weather), many people have started to wonder about exfoliation. I have been getting numerous emails about it – how much, how little, how often, what types – so I thought I would write today’s post on the subject. Because, my pretties, peeling our skin is not something we can take lightly we must make sure we are doing it properly and cautiously – and when we are, the reward is a renewed complexion which battles our most pore-congested and dehydrated days. Below are some of the most popular FAQ, and their answers reveal the art of exfoliation.
What types of exfoliation are there?
The two main categories of exfoliation are manual scrubs and chemical peels. Manuals scrubs have granular element to them which abrade the skin, sloughing off dead skin cells. It is a polishing of the skin which buffs away dryness and increases circulation for a more radiant, glowing complexion. Chemical peels are not necessarily chemicals, but use a chemical reaction to peel the skin. I usually call them “non-physical peels” to avoid confusion. These can be sugar-cane derived glycolics, fruit enzyme AHAs, or corn-based lactic acids – what they have in common is that they are applied to the skin, in the form of a mask, a serum or a liquid, and they digest dead skin cells. Chemical peels come in a variety of concentrations and PHs so some are very strong and can treat skin ailments such as pigmented spots and sun damage, while others are ideal for sensitive skin types because they are very gentle. The most intense chemical peels are those which are done by a skincare professional such as an esthetician or dermatologist . These are usually done in a series and are aimed to treat specific skin ailments such as acne scars, fine lines and enlarged pores.
If we choose to do a professional peel, how do we choose?
First we must make sure we are a good candidate to peel. If we can see permanent redness on the skin or ever feel burning, stinging or discomfort – I would not recommend doing a professional peel. If this is not the case, there are a variety of peels – each with their unique properties.
Sugar-cane glycolic peels – Glycolic acid is the smallest form of AHA, allowing it to penetrate deeply and work its vivifying magic. This type of glycolic helps treat fine lines, pigmentation, scarring and flaky skin. Though, it is important to be careful as this peel can be irritating for sensitive skin types. Glycolic acid can also be found and extracted from the sugar in a variety of fruit.
Lactic Acid Peels – Lactic acid can be derived from corn or dairy products. Lactic acid if found in the human body making it a more natural peel (which is also way more palatable, non?). Lactic acid tends to be more gentle, but also safer. I like this one in treatment as well as for homecare for this reason. Lactic acid is also more environmentally beneficial, and is a known anti-bacterial.
AFA peels – AFA peels are amino acid peels. Peels derived from these proteins are also anti-oxidants and excellent for anti-aging. AFA peels also contain a UV-inhibitor within them so the skin does not become more photosensitive. AFA clay peels effectively treat acne and dry up wet blemishes. AFA peels also tend to be less painful than glycolic acid at the same concentration – this makes them great for pigmented spots as clients can endure higher concentrations without as much discomfort. This is ideal for ‘fraidy cats like me.
What other care do we need when peeling?
We definitely need to wear sunblock. Obviously, I am partial to mineral sunblocks because they are all-day physical blocks rather than a chemical sunscreens which contain UV-neutralizers that go inactive every few hours.
Also, I would ensure we really moisturize and replenish after peeling. When we strip the skin of a layer of dead skin cells, new skin cells are pushed to the surface and they very easily become dehydrated without a barrier of moisture. After I perform microdermabrasion or peeling, I insist all clients (including the acne-prone) wear a heavy cream. Without this, peeling is counter-productive.
How often should we exfoliate at home?
This depends on the type of peel being used, and our skin type. For sensitive skin types, I would recommend using a scrub no more than twice a week. Sometimes, when the skin is very sensitive, I recommend just putting the manual scrub on and rinsing it off without actually doing and circles/ scrubbing motions. If done in this way, sensitive skin types can actually exfoliate everyday because this is so gentle. Keep in mind, I am only referring to natural skincare – usually these scrubs will be made of of ground nuts and almonds, oats and tahini and/or wax jojoba beads, so the ingredients themselves are highly beneficial for the skin. This daily treatment will help heal the skin and pull out surface impurities. Note: all sensitive skin should stay away from scrubs using sugar or salt as their exfoliating agent. These are too harsh despite being natural ingredients.
If the skin is not sensitive, we can exfoliate 3 times a week to everyday depending on how dull and depleted the skin is. If we aren’t using a manual scrub and are using a low percentage chemical peel (such as 5% lactic acid), this skin type can peel every night. I usually say that a client should start off with every other day, then increase to everyday if the skin feels good after a couple of weeks. Sensitive skin types should probably limit this type of usage to 3 times per week to every other day. Though keep in mind, if we do peel more than three times per week with a chemical peel, this should be done temporarily and only because we are trying to treat a beauty ailment such as pigmented lesions. I do not advocate over-peeling. But alas, only deeper peeling will truly fade darkened spots – so once enough lightening has occurred, exfoliation should be lessened.