Great Reasons to Exfoliate
And they all add up to younger looking skin
If you’re getting the recommended eight hours sleep per night and eating well and you still don’t see a youthful glow to your skin, exfoliation may be the missing piece of your regimen.
“Exfoliation removes dead skin cells, helps to smooth your skin and allows light to reflect better off of your skin, which gives you a better complexion,” said Dr. Deirdre Hooper, dermatologist at Audubon Dermatology in New Orleans. And the time commitment isn’t as tedious as you may imagine. “You want to exfoliate on average two to three times a week,” Hooper said.
All exfoliants aren’t the same. “You should use a gentle scrub and often the best is a small bead exfoliant as opposed to apricot or another rough exfoliant,” said Hooper. Choose a gentle formulation that has smooth particles instead of rough particles, which may be too strong and could cause irritation or redness. Though a particular scent may appeal to you, Hooper recommends steering clear of fragrances. “It is unnecessary to make your exfoliant effective and it can be irritating.”
Innovative people can make their own exfoliant at home based on their skin type. “If you have sensitive skin, you can use oatmeal mixed in with a little olive oil, or if you have non-sensitive skin or normal skin, you can make an exfoliant with baking soda or sugar mixed together,” said Hooper. Even troubled skin can be remedied. “If you have acne-prone skin, you can mix sugar and honey but do not use olive oil.” This can be done inexpensively, and it can achieve great results.
Though people with sensitive skin have to be careful, just about anybody can use an exfoliant. “You could start using an exfoliant in your teen years and use it for a lifetime,” said Hooper.
“As you get older, the skin is usually going to become less oily and less acne-prone and more sensitive, so it is going to be more important to use gentle exfoliants,” Hooper said.
If you’ve established a relationship with a dermatologist, keep him informed about your skin care plans. “Your dermatologist may be able to tell you about other specific treatments for anti-aging problems you have,” said Hooper. And no prescription is required for your routine – gentle exfoliants can be found at the drugstore.
Forming healthy skin care habits, such as staying away from the sun and using sunscreen, can help an exfoliant work at its best. It’s a misconception that making your skin hurt a little bit or getting scraped or rubbed by a maximum strength, harsh product is good. Dermatologists want to reinforce that a gentle, fragrance-free product is enough to do the job. However, if an exfoliant doesn’t work well for you, don’t get discouraged. “Someone with sensitive skin may just use a baby wash with a gentle cleanser in the shower if exfoliants do not agree with them.”
Don’t forget about the basics.
Dr. Ronald Davis, a professor of dermatology at Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans, said gentle soaps with a more neutral pH are important. “There are soaps you always hear about, like Caress and Dove and some others that have this more neutral pH and are very gentle to the skin,” Davis said.
Also, having the right moisturizer makes a difference and you should know that it’s okay to change your product with the seasons. “In the winter, we tend to need a heavier moisturizer so we have lotions, creams and what are sometimes referred to as ointments, which is a thick Vaseline consistency,” said Davis. Lotions have a lot of water in them and can run so they are not very good in terms of moisturizers. “A good rule of thumb is that if you have something that comes out of a pump bottle and it immediately runs off, it is not the kind you need if you have dry skin; you need something more heavy duty,” said Davis. Regardless of your choice for a moisturizer, avoid putting it on when the skin is dry. “The best time to put it on is right after you bathe, when the skin is still damp so you trap the water and it holds the water into the skin.”
If you tend to take long, hot showers or baths, beware. “Sometimes when we are cold it feels good to do that but hot water helps to strip the oil from the skin,” said Davis. Know that silk mitts, soft washcloths or scrubs are okay to use but sometimes they can be too irritating. It is about personal preference. Skin exfoliation should use alpha hydroxyl acids or beta hydroxyl acids to remove the outer layer of skin cells and promote cell turnover to allow healthier cells to come to the surface. Both of these fulfill different purposes as alpha hydroxyl acids deal with sun damage, dryness and thickness while beta hydroxyl acids deal with acne and blemishes.
There are a few other alternatives. “If you want to smooth your skin, you can use a retinoid, vitamin A cream, cleansers or moisturizers,” said Hooper. A moisturizer that contains hydroxyl acid is suggested. “A good over-the-counter type is called AmLactin or aqua glycol, or Neutrogena makes salicylic acid,” Hooper said. Consulting with your doctor is advised. “At the dermatologist’s office, you can get Vivite and a line called SkinCeuticals, which are good,” said Hooper.
Remember to take your time. It is possible to over-exfoliate especially on the face where the skin is delicate. Body scrubs on the face can be particularly detrimental. If you choose microdermabrasion, you should be cautious because it can make the skin too thin if you get treatments too quickly. Similarly, peels can remove too much of your protective layer and end up exposing the living dermis. Make a conscious effort never to wax if you had a peel recently because it might expose raw, living skin that would have to scab over in order to heal. Dermatologists see exfoliation in a positive light and note that complications are few and far between. Some even feel that body brushing every morning is a gentle way to exfoliate and wake up.
Everybody wants a quick fix and the difference can be observed instantly. “If you exfoliate two to three times a week with a gentle exfoliant, you can make the texture smoother, which allows your skin to reflect light better and look more polished and healthy,” said Hooper. You will feel better right away and with long-term use, you will continue to improve. “It is a maintenance procedure you are going to do where you keep going with it.” Persistence is the key. “You will see some results immediately as far as the texture of the skin but the longer you continue with a good skin care regimen, the better your skin will look, which is always good.”