To Exfoliate Or Not To Exfoliate…That Is The Question!

No seriously Ladies, that is the big question! So often clients come into my room claiming they’re skin is dry and sensitive and when I ask them about their skin care regimen, most are not exfoliating properly. What happens is dead skin creates a build up which inhibits the skin from functioning properly. This will eventually create problems like dehydration and congestion which leaves the epidermis (the outermost layer) feeling rough, “dry” or broken out and will ultimately lead you to finding yourself in my room completely frustrated and losing hope. This is where it gets gross… When I look at a client’s skin under that magic lamp of mine, what I usually see is a combination of old, dead skin cells glued together with topical garbage like sunblock, make up, sunless tanners, junky moisturizes and of course, environmental dirt. It’s not pretty. This garbage, if neglected, will eventually lead to sallow, lethargic skin that lacks of tone, luster, appropriate hydration levels, or even worse, can lead to adult onset acne.

So, the bottom line is, if you aren’t 21 anymore…chances are your skin isn’t shedding like it used to. Studies show younger skin renews itself every 15-30 days, but as we age (ahem.. all you 30 somethings and up) that renewing process more than doubles! That’s right, this means you could be wearing last seasons skin, eww gross! We don’t wear last seasons fashions, so why wear last seasons skin? Got it, Good.

So how does one exfoliate, you ask?

There are a few mediums that can be used to exfoliate. First, is the good old fashion Scrub, but it’s not for everyone. A scrub includes any granular substance or gommage, this type of exfoliant is a what I like to call manual exfoliation. It’s kind of like sanding down an old antique before you refinish it. It’s a good prepping step that can polish and smooth the epidermis, but do keep in mind it doesn’t penetrate the dermal layer (lower and deeper). The problem with scrubs besides the lack of penetration, is that if used too frequently or if it’s too harsh, it can lead to irritated red skin, where the appearance of broken capillaries can get worse over time or for those of you struggling with acne, it can over stimulate sebaceous glands thus making break outs worse! This is bad, very bad. If you’re prone to redness, broken capillaries, thinner skin, acne or are under 17, I would skip scrubbing all together. One of my favorite scrubs is Valmont’s “Exfoliant” which uses crystallized algae to gently exfoliate the epidermis, it’s even great for you Rosacea folks! Please see your local Esthetician to help you figure out your skin type.

Then there are Alpha beta hydroxy acids… If I could play music here and move clouds with beams of light, I would. Alpha beta hydroxy acids are amazing and great for all skin types; however, rules do apply.

The most common and simple alpha hydroxy acids are glycolic, lactic, citric and malic acid. These awesome acids are derived from food, like sugar, milk, citrus fruits and apples, YUM! The will skin like this, trust me. Alpha hydroxy acids improve skin because they have little, tiny, cute molecules small enough to penetrate the outermost layer and reach the dermal layer (lower and deeper layer). So essentially, AHA’s cause dead skin cells to become unglued, slough off, dissolve, pack their bags and say Sayonora! This makes room for the regrowth of new skin, and this is what gives you back your youthful glow. Wrinkles will be less defined, evil sun spots will fade, and the overall texture and color of your skin will slowly transform. It’s truly amazing!

Now, Beta hydroxy acid, last but definitely not least.

The ultimate Beta hydroxy acid is salicylic acid. This acid is similar to the alpha in that it does all those magnificent things I listed above, but while Alpha hydroxy acids are water soluble, Salicylic acid is lipid (oil) soluble. So what in the world does that mean? Salicylic acid is actually able to penetrate a single pore containing sebum (oil) and exfoliate or loosen up that build up and help that pore purge, YES! This means see ya later blackheads, and peace out white heads!

So the moral of the story is to say YES to exfoliation and to look for products containing alpha beta hydroxy acids. Keep in mind, especially you sensitive types, that these acids are active, stimulating and vasodilate (expand) the capillaries. This means feeling a heated rush or tingle is very normal, as is a flushing of the skin, do not be alarmed, this is temporary. This means blood flow is being increased and circulation is being improved in the skin, all of which is good. It’s kind of like yoga for the face. Remember, no pain, no gain, so stop whining and get on board!

Now, using just beta or just alpha or too much of one without the other can cause various problems like redness, itchiness and/or peeling. So, finding a product that has mastered achieving that delicate balance of alpha beta acids can be a difficult and painful process. But look no further than Lotion P50 by Biologique Recherche, it is a remarkable product, it’s a toner and exfoliant in one, and a best seller here at Rescue Rittenhouse Spa. This product, completes me!

See one of our trained Estheticians to get started on your new exfoliation routine right away!

– Tirzah Fowler