We all talk about exfoliation. But what exactly is it? Basically, it’s the process of removing dead skin cells from the surface of your skin.
Why all those dead skin cells?
Most of the top layer of the skin is actually made of dead skin cells. And they’re there to protect you.
Living skin cells develop in the lower layer of the skin (called the dermis) and work their way up to the top. On the way they become filled with a protein called keratin and die off. This makes them waterproof and highly protective, so they can keep the inside of your body safe from water, heat, bacteria and other external elements. Not bad when you consider the skin is only about 2 millimetres thick!
Desquamation – the exfoliation of life!
Your skin sheds dead skin cells constantly in a natural process called desquamation. In fact, you naturally lose around 40,000 dead skin cells every single day.
SO if your skin is already good at exfoliating itself naturally, do you need to exfoliate even more? The answer is: you don’t really need to, but sometimes it’s nice to!
Dead skin cells can get clogged up and refuse to budge (ironically that’s often because of too many skincare products!) The occasional light exfoliation is useful to encourage them to let go. And yes that does make your skin look temporarily fresher and brighter.
But please be gentle when you’re exfoliating the face. You don’t want to remove too many of those protective skin cells or damage your lovely skin.
Good ways to exfoliate
- Muslin cloths or face cloths– these have a gentle but effective buffing action when you use them regularly with oil based cleanser and warm water. If you do this twice a day that’s practically all the exfoliation your skin needs.
- Facial tools– such as as gua sha and kansa wand. Regular massage with your facial tools and plenty of oil is another good way to help shift dead skin cells – as well as boosting your circulation and lymphatic system.
- Face masks with natural fruit acids– some fruits contain alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), a water soluble acid that weakens the bonds between dead skin cells and makes them easier to remove. I love AHA masks – but only recommend using them once a week, or twice at most. Some good ones to try: Micheline Arcier Masque Purifiant (shown in the pic), Elemis Papaya Enzyme Peel, Balance Me AHA Glow Mask, The Organic Pharmacy Enzyme Peel Mask.
- Manual exfoliation– lightly massaging and stroking clean, dry skin using just the hands is a great way to slough off dead cells and makes your skin look smoother and brighter. It’s an important part of my Natural Facelift Massage treatment, but you can do it yourself too.
Please don’t ever use these
- Gritty facial scrubs– these were all the rage when I was a teenager, and we all used to scrub away vigorously, waiting for that radiant glow. It almost makes me weep when I think of it now! Horribly scratchy and potentially damaging.
- Chemical facial peels– make the skin blister and peel off, revealing ‘new’ skin underneath. Why use harsh chemicals on your beautiful, delicate skin? Dated and dangerous!
- Microdermabrasion– this professional treatment uses an abrasive tool to sand off the top layer of skin. Personally I think it’s too invasive. Even worst, it’s a common cause of broken capillaries.
PS Here we’re talking specifically about facial exfoliation. You can exfoliate more vigorously on your body – particularly the arms and legs. More about that another time!