What is exfoliation?
Skin exfoliation refers to the process of getting rid of dead skin cells from the top layer of your skin, thus getting a clearer and brighter complexion. However, if not done properly, it can do more harm than good, which is why it’s important to do it properly so that your skin doesn’t get damaged or break out more.
Typically, the skin takes around 30 days to complete its cell turnover process, where the dead skin is shed naturally to uncover fresh new skin. With proper exfoliation, you can remove this barrier of dead skin cells and bring forth fresh and healthy skin from underneath.
The method of exfoliation you choose depends on your skin type mainly and can make all the difference between smooth, glowing skin and broken out, inflamed skin. So, read on to find out everything you need to know about exfoliating your face the right way.
The different types of exfoliation
There are two main types of exfoliation that you can choose from based on your skin type and tendency to break out:
- Physical exfoliation - This process refers to manual exfoliation, in which you use an exfoliation tool like a scrub, brush, etc to physically remove the dead skin buildup from your skin.
Chemical exfoliation - You can perform a chemical exfoliation by using chemical ingredients in the form of serums or facial peel pads (usually containing acids) to dissolve the dead skin and dirt buildup from the skin, revealing the healthy skin underneath.
Including exfoliation in your skincare regime has its own set of benefits like:
- Helps get smooth, glowing skin - Exfoliation works by getting rid of the gunk from congested pores and doing away with the dead skin buildup on the skin. By getting rid of this layer, exfoliation brings out smooth, glowing skin from within and imparts a healthy radiance to it.
- Makes skincare work more efficiently - If there is a layer of dirt and dead skin on your face, it is difficult for skincare products to penetrate that layer and work on your skin. As exfoliation removes this barrier layer, your skin absorbs any product applied to it better.
- Makeup looks better on the skin - As exfoliation creates a smooth skin texture, makeup sits visibly better on your skin.
- Has anti-ageing benefits - If you use exfoliators with anti-ageing ingredients like retinol, you can get a boost in your skin’s collagen production. Collagen is responsible for maintaining the suppleness and elasticity of the skin, and thus, you may get anti-ageing benefits from exfoliators. Plus, rejuvenated skin looks younger in comparison to dull, dead-looking skin.
Improves circulation and cell turnover - If you use physical exfoliators, the massaging can help boost blood circulation to your skin, making it look healthier and more radiant. Cell turnover gets a boost no matter what type of exfoliator you use.
How often should you be exfoliating your face?
How often you should be exfoliating your face largely depends on your skin type and the kind of products you are using. But, as a general rule of thumb, less is more and here’s a guide to the exfoliation frequency:
- Sensitive skin - Extremely mild physical exfoliants (with no harsh beads), or, chemical exfoliants with a lower percentage of active ingredients are best for this skin type. As for how many times you should exfoliate, stick a maximum of once or twice a week.
- Oily skin - With a thick coat of oil, your skin is generally more resistant to physical exfoliators. You can go up to five times a week with a cleaning tool during the day and a peel or serum at night.
Normal to combination skin - You can do it up to three times a week and use either exfoliating method.
Physical vs chemical exfoliation tools
The different exfoliation tools depend on the type of exfoliation you’re going for:
Physical exfoliation tools
- Sponge - Using a mild, but deep-cleaning cleanser like the Carmesi Foaming Face Wash, you can exfoliate your face gently with a soft sponge soaked in warm water.
- Glove - You can use a glove with gentle bristles and lather it up with a cleanser or body wash of your choice to exfoliate larger areas of your body.
- Scrub - Scrubs usually have mild to hard beads in them to help get rid of the debris on your skin. You can apply it directly to your skin and massage it in circular motions before washing it off with lukewarm water.
- Brush - Get either a dry brush or one to be used with a cleanser or mild scrub to remove dead skin and dirt from your skin.
Chemical exfoliation tools
- Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) - You can use acids with AHA like glycolic, lactic, citric or tartaric acids to break apart the bond between dead skin cells and your skin’s surface. When the bond breaks, the dead skin is automatically shed off.
- Beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) - Salicylic and beta hydroxyl acids are great BHAs that help with removing excess oil and debris from the skin, while also fighting acne-causing bacteria.
How to exfoliate your face?
The exfoliation technique varies with the type of exfoliant you’re using and the brand you are choosing, but this is how the general guidance go:
Physical exfoliation method
- Pick a tool - Before you begin exfoliating, pick a tool of your choice like a brush or scrub and begin to move in small, circular motions gently on your face.
- Use light movements - It is very important to keep your movements light and gentle. If you rub your face harshly, you will risk turning it red and irritated with a burning sensation.
- Rinse it off - After you’re done exfoliating, rinse off the scrub or cleanser with lukewarm water instead of hot water to avoid irritating your face.
- Moisturize - Exfoliation can leave your face or skin feeling dry and so, it is extremely important that you moisturize your face to avoid dryness and irritation post-exfoliation. Use a gentle and soothing moisturizer like the Carmesi Soothing Moisturizer for better results.
Chemical exfoliation method
- Pick your favorite exfoliant - Choose the kind of exfoliator you want based on the ingredients and the type. You can get exfoliating serums or use at-home chemical peels to get the job done.
- Follow product instructions - After you choose the type of exfoliant you want, read the product label carefully to figure out how to use it. If you’re using a serum or peel, you will need to keep the product on your skin for a specific amount of time before you can wash it off. Whereas in the case of cleansers, you can simply lather the product on your face before washing it off.
- Moisturize - This is an important step no matter what exfoliant you’re using. Moisturize your face adequately to keep it from drying off.
Which exfoliator should you use based on your skin type?
The kind of exfoliator you go for completely depends on your skin type and this is your guide to selecting the one suitable for you:
- Dry skin - It’s best to avoid physical exfoliators as they can cause microtears on dry, flaky skin. It is advisable to use AHAs like glycolic acid, which will remove the dead skin cells sitting on the surface of the skin, promoting healthy skin cell turnover. It’s important that you use SPF after using glycolic acid or any such similar acids because your skin becomes photosensitive and prone to sun damage.
- Sensitive acne-prone skin - You should completely avoid physical exfoliants if you have acne problems because this will lead to more redness and breakouts. You can apply a mild chemical exfoliator with a gentle washcloth or subsequently, get a salicylic acid peel at a dermatologist’s office.
- Normal skin - If your skin is free from other complications, you can opt for any method of exfoliation, but you may find that your skin responds better to one type over the other. Experiment a little to find out which one works best for you or alternate between the two depending on your needs.
- Oily skin - If you have thick or oily skin, you can use strong physical and chemical exfoliators, though you can benefit more from manual exfoliating and brushing. Use an exfoliating scrub in gentle, circular motions to remove the extra layer of buildup on your skin.
Combination skin - Most people with combination skin have a mixture of oily and dry areas on their skin. If this sounds like you, you should alternate between physical and chemical exfoliators depending on the area of the skin you’re targeting. Never use both on the same day as this can leave your skin irritated. For oily areas, you can try a scrub or brush one day and for the dry areas, you can go for a mild AHA on another day.
When should you skip exfoliation?
On most occasions, it is safe, and even healthy, to exfoliate your skin as long as you do it correctly and according to your skin type. However, if you notice any redness, unexpected peeling or inflamed and irritated skin, you should immediately stop exfoliating.
Also, avoid using some chemical exfoliants if you are also using certain acne products like retinol, benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid simultaneously. This can lead to irritated and worsened skin with breakouts or redness.