If someone had to ask me what the secret to great skin was, I’d say it had more to do with taking off than putting on. I’m talking about exfoliating. It does so much for your skin, and yet, so many women overlook this step in their skincare routines. I used to be one of those women till a couple of years back.
After a relatively acne-free life, I started to break out two years ago. They would start as tiny bumps on my face and then turn into pimples. I’d get a clean up but they would eventually come back. I visited a dermatologist, but that helped only temporarily. So I started doing my research. This is what I found.
As you grow older (even 28 is old when it comes to this) the skin’s natural ability to slough off dead skin slows down. This is further exacerbated by sun damage, having dry or oily skin types and skin disorders. As the natural process of shedding is compromised, the dead skin sits on the surface longer. This gives your skin a rough texture. This rough texture is also the reason light bounces of unevenly and that’s why you feel your skin looks dull. The accumulated dead skin settles in pores making them appear bigger. Over time it mixes with sebum and can block pores, which can eventually lead to breakouts. Moreover, all this dead skin forms a layer and prevents your serum and moisturiser from being absorbed and they just end up being a huge waste of money.
You can tackle all of the above by just adding one more step to your skincare routine. Exfoliating helps get rid of all this dead skin and helps speed up the process of generating new cells, keeping your skin healthy. With this layer of dead skin out of the way
- Your skin is more even textured
- It looks brighter and more even toned
- You experience fewer breakouts
- Pores appear smaller
- Your products are able to penetrate better
Since I’ve started exfoliating regularly, my skin has never looked better. The trick is finding the right exfoliator. I have dry, ageing skin so I find that gentle, but daily exfoliation with chemical exfoliators like Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) or Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA) work best for me. I swear by Philosophy’s The Microdelivery At-Home Vitamin C Peptide Peel (used weekly) and the Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner (used daily). When using chemical exfoliators however, you need to pay close attention to the ingredients in your serums and moisturisers. If they contain retinol or acids as well, it could irritate your skin, so you want to balance it out with something gentler. I had to stop using the Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner once I started using Philosophy’s Renewed Hope in a Jar because that contains AHAs and BHAs too, and together they were drying out my skin.
Since chemical exfoliants penetrate the skin deeper, they also help to plump fine lines and ageing skin. Mature skin will benefit from Philosophy’s newest The Microdelivery Overnight Anti-aging Peel that combines both AHAs and BHAs along with an overnight mask. The result is two-fold as the acids tackle signs of ageing while the mask provides the intense hydration required by mature skin. Chemical exfoliators are also great on acne prone skin since they don’t irritate lesions. Salicylic, glycolic and lactic acid help reduce oil, unclog pores and even help minimise acne scars. But it’s best to do a test before using any of them on your full face.
As effective as AHAs are, they can sometimes be too harsh for some skin types. The new generation of AHAs – PHAs or Poly Hydroxy Acids – promises the effectiveness of their predecessors without the inflammation or flaking along with a dose of hydration. The CNP Laboratory Invisible Peeling Booster, that contains PHAs is a leave on peel. Used after cleansing but before your toner it helps to do away with dead skin and prep the skin for the benefits from your other skincare products.
Some women aren’t satisfied till they feel like they have exfoliated and prefer to use physical exfoliators that contain beads or grains or nuts or salt. These can actually be harmful to the skin because they are very abrasive and can cause tiny fissures in the delicate skin on your face. If you must use a physical exfoliator, pick a gentle one like the Crème Simon Double Exfoliation Facial Scrub, a rich, creamy scrub that contains two types of extremely gentle beads – wheat and jojoba. Even though it is a physical exfoliator, I find it doesn’t dry out my skin and always leaves it looking brighter once washed off.
Yet another way to exfoliate physically is to use a cleansing device like the Clarisonic Mia 2 or Clinique Sonic System Purifying Cleansing Brush. These allow you to control the settings and even choose different brush heads depending on your needs and are ideal for those with oily skin. You can even go old-school with your exfoliation and use a muslin cloth which helps gently slough off dead skin. Even though it’s a form of physical exfoliation, it’s so gentle you can do it everyday. And while there’s something therapeutic about the whole process, I don’t think it does much for mature skin.
Once women realise the benefits of exfoliating they tend to get a bit over zealous with it – which is just as bad as not exfoliating. Overdoing it can leave your skin raw and sensitised – meaning it could react to products it is normally suit it just fine. When using a physical exfoliant, never apply too much pressure on the skin. Go longer if necessary, but never harder. You’re not scrubbing dishes here. If you’re using a chemical exfoliant, I would suggest using it only at night as it can increase photosensitivity. Once washed off, make sure you follow up with a rich moisturiser or mask as your skin is primed to receive the benefits from your skincare. Needless to say, you absolutely must use a broad-spectrum sunscreen the next morning.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this rather lengthy post, and if you’re above 28 years old, I urge you to start exfoliating.