What is exfoliation?

The skin consists of multiple layers, and the epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin. The stratum corneum is the top layer of the epidermis. It is composed of 10 to 30 layers of dead skin cells. The cells continuously fall off and are replaced by new ones. Cell turnover in young adults takes about 28 days. With aging, the turnover process slows down, and it takes about 45 days to complete.

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Any process that removes the top layer of skin cells before they naturally fall off is exfoliation. It is often found that removing the top layers of skin helps improve the appearance of the skin. Some methods of exfoliation can be performed at home, while others require the assistance of an aesthetician or dermatologist.

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What are chemical exfoliants?

Chemical exfoliants are acids that remove dead skin cells that promote healthy skin. These exfoliants unclog pores and even reduce the signs of aging. Protecting the skin from free radicals can reduce acne scars, dull skin, dark spots, and pigmentation. They are available in a variety of concentrations. The following are three types of chemical exfoliants:

1. AHA (Alpha-Hydroxy Acids)

AHAs contain water-soluble ingredients such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, and mandelic acid. AHAs reduce pores, pigmentation, fine lines, texture, and dark spots.

2. BHA (Beta- Hydroxy Acids)

BHAs are oil-soluble so that they can penetrate deep into the pores as well as work on the surface of your skin. In addition to improving skin texture, these acids unclog pores and remove acne-causing sebum. Salicylic acid is an example of a BHA.

3. (Polyhydroxy acids)

A PHA works similarly to an AHA. The difference is that PHA molecules are larger, so they cannot penetrate as deeply. They’re less irritating than other chemical exfoliants, particularly AHAs, and PHAs like gluconolactone and lactobionic acid have additional hydrating and antioxidant benefits.

Benefits of exfoliating

1. Unclogs pores: Exfoliating effectively helps in unclogging the pores. Exfoliating prevents dirt from making its way to the pores by sweeping away the dead skin.

2. Prevents acne: Exfoliation is a must if you tend to break out due to hormonal imbalances or acne. Exfoliating regularly will help you remove the dead skin cells that clog your pores and cause breakouts.

3. Improves skin texture: Skin exfoliation encourages the regeneration of new and healthy cells. It transforms your skin from rough and dull to healthy.

4. Improves moisture absorption: It’s difficult for your skin to absorb nourishing moisturizers and serums when dead skin cells build-up. Regular exfoliation will ensure you are reaping the benefits of your skincare regimen.

5. Slows down the aging process: You may notice your skin becoming rougher as you age. The build-up of dead skin cells over time results in this issue. Exfoliating your skin helps keep your skin looking healthy even if you age.

What is the best type of exfoliator to use?

1. Sensitive skin: Even people with sensitive skin can exfoliate regularly; make sure that you do so gently and only once or twice a week. Look for a lactic acid product since sensitive skin can easily become red, irritated, and dry. In addition to gently exfoliating your skin, lactic acid will simultaneously moisturize it.

2. Dry skin: Exfoliation is necessary for dry skin. Dead skin cells build up on the surface of your skin and make it difficult for other products, such as moisturizers, to penetrate. Also, if you do not exfoliate often, your dry skin will become flaky and dull. Due to its water retention properties, glycolic acid is one of the best ingredients for exfoliating dry skin.

3. Normal and combination skin: In this skin type, some areas of the skin may be dry, while others may be oilier. Depending on the season, this skin type can become drier in the winter and oilier in the summer. Normal/combination skin types can choose any exfoliant based on skin concerns. You can use glycolic acid or salicylic acid, depending on your skin condition.

4. Oily skin: Excess oil production causes breakouts in people with oily skin. Salicylic acid is excellent for people with acne-prone and oily skin since it helps clear clogged pores. Additionally, it prevents blackheads and whiteheads and effectively removes dead skin cells. Since salicylic acid can dry out the skin, it is advisable to apply moisturizer afterwards and avoid over-exfoliating. Joanna Vargas Hydrating Cream is an ideal option. The cream is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to hydrate your skin.

Things to remember while using a chemical exfoliant

  • One should not use chemical exfoliators excessively. It should gradually be introduced into the skincare routine.
  • It would be best if you used chemical exfoliants once every two weeks. After using an exfoliant, wait a minimum of 24 hours before applying another scrub or exfoliator.
  • Patch test before trying a new product.
  • Chemical exfoliants can make skin more sensitive to UV damage, so always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen.
  • To prevent sun exposure, you should use chemical exfoliants in the evening.


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