Exfoliation literally means shedding.
The skin naturally sheds skin cells by the thousands by moving older and dead cells on a superficial layer over the epidermis. In evolutionary terms, this is a natural barrier for skin shielding it from humidity, temperature and sunlight. Artificial exfoliation is the act of removing that dead layer of cells along with dirt and pollutants (though not very cell targeted, you will chip away some new cells too) by using physical and chemical exfoliants.
By nature, the skin on the face and neck is more soft and sensitive in comparison to the rest of the body. Which is why experts do not recommend using the same product on the face and body. Regular and customized skin care routine is necessary from the teens for healthy skin with minimal problems. A daily routine consists of cleansing, toning and moisturizing whereas a facial consists of cleansing, exfoliating, specific mask , toning and moisturizing.
What happens when we don’t exfoliate?
You exfoliate passively everytime you rub your face with a towel. Cleansers help in gentle daily clean up of the face but regular and well spaced exfoliation can improve skin health and appearance in many ways. Not exfoliating for months and years together leads to product buildup and makes blemishes appear prominent, can lead to product buildup, clogged pores and hence more acne. Appearance of fine lines and wrinkles will become very noticeable because the new cells cant get to the surface. Over buildup of dead cells lowers the effectiveness of any product you use, be it sunscreen or a serum because it gets absorbed lesser into the dermis.
What happens when we exfoliate too much?
Recent research suggests that over exfoliating skin, reveals the more sensitive portion of the skin open to the environment. This opens pathways for skin infections, clogged pores, more blemishes and exposure to radiation. Either way, exfoliating everyday is unnecessary when cell turnover is slower than the rate you scrub off dead cells. Further the upper harder and protective layer form a natural barrier to sunlight and the environment.
All herbal scrubs and apricot, walnut bead scrubs and brushes fall under this category. The thumb rule is as long as you don’t have acne or open wounds or sensitive skin, physical exfoliants can help shed dead skin cells, improve blood circulation and leave a freshened effect.
Indian skin is used to using Ubtan, turmeric or sandal as natural cleanser/exfoliant since ages. As much as it helped our mothers and grandmothers with skin care, abrasive exfoliants like these seem little help to this generation with an array of skin problems. The reason? We are more exposed to harmful products and environmental pollutants from air to water and eat far less healthy foods than our ancestors did. Think of a piece of silk washed using a rough brush. Physical exfoliants will only do MORE harm to damaged skin however natural the product is. If you have acne wait till the acne clears out before you use rough exfoliants. Use paraben and silicone free gel based scrubs for regular exfoliation.
They are essentially exfoliating acids . Chemical exfoliants contain acids AHAs, BHAs and glycolic acid that function by oxidizing and chipping away the upper surface. Plant based exfoliants contain papaya, pineapple, pumpkin enzymes and extracts from peppermint etc. Chemical exfoliants and scrubs can cause as much damage as physical exfoliants if over used. A good skin care routine that involves cleansing, toning and day/night product is enough on a daily basis with occasional scrub or exfoliation on the face. If you feel too clogged and sweaty, using a body scrub should do no harm but the same must not be used on the face.
How often should you exfoliate?
The skin replenishes with a completely new layer of skin on an average of thirty days .Most people think once in two weeks (if you cleanse and tone regularly) is ideal or once in a week if you are a very active person who goes outdoors a lot. Exfoliation after heavy makeup worn for longer periods is necessary to remove left over product buildup. Listen to your skin, feel unfresh and cant feel skin properly when you run your fingers over even after cleansing? Exfoliate using gentle exfoliating gel. If your skin feels so sensitive even when your hair falls over your face, don’t use an exfoliating product and settle with mild cleansing and recovery product