Exfoliation: How much is too much?

By Shelly Barnes, LE

Exfoliation is the process of removing dead cells from the epidermis, or outermost layer of skin. Exfoliation can be performed two ways, either manually or chemically. Manual exfoliation is achieved with something mildly abrasive, like a washcloth or a scrub containing microbeads. Chemical exfoliation uses ingredients to encourage shedding of dead skin cells, like a retinol cream, alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) or beta hydroxy acid (BHA).

As we age, the turnover rate of our dead skin cells and production of new skin cells slows down. Exfoliation is essential in encouraging new cell growth and removing dead skin cells that lead to a dull complexion. However, many people get carried away with exfoliating their skin, and that can actually do more harm than good.

Over-exfoliation goes beyond the dead surface skin cells and can actually harm the healthy living skin cells. Those suffering from acne frequently over-exfoliate, hoping to remove blemishes and allow their anti-acne skin care products to be better absorbed. In reality, over-exfoliation often leads to more acne, as removing the protective barrier of living cells leads to more oil production and breakouts. It also opens up the skin to exposure of unhealthy bacteria, which can cause infection.

Those hoping to reveal younger, healthier-looking skin by exfoliating can actually end up looking older. Instead of smoother, glowing skin, skin can look dry, red and irritated.

So what is a good balance? A very safe form of daily exfoliation is the use of a mechanical facial cleansing brush, such as Clarisonic®, with a nonabrasive cleanser. This allows the use of a chemical exfoliant for aging skin or acne to be used without over-irritation. A mild chemical peel or dermaplaning can be performed by a licensed esthetician no more than once a month to encourage healthy skin cell turnover. Facial “scrubs” should contain microbeads, or jojoba beads and not ground up seeds and nutshells. They can scratch the face and cause painful irritation. A loofah should never be used on the face, and should be used with a very light pressure when used on the body.

With a little caution and a light touch, you can reveal beautiful, healthy skin.

Questions? Our aesthetic team offers complimentary consultations. We have all the products and services to help you achieve your healthy skin goals. Call us today: 913-588-7600.