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By Shilpa Bhim
Exfoliating is touted as one of those steps your *need* to have in your skincare routine.
It promises healthy looking, glowing skin. Something we all aim for on the daily, with good reason #skingoals
As with any skincare product or step, we want to understand exfoliating really works, what type of exfoliant is best and whether you really do need it in your skincare routine.
We bet you’re wondering the same things too. We recently caught up with Dr Ritu Gupta (Dr Ritu), Sydney based cosmetic and medical dermatologist, to get expert advice on all things related to exfoliating.
Buckle up Zovers, you’re in for an insightful read!
WHY DO PEOPLE EXFOLIATE THEIR SKIN?
Exfoliating buffs away and removes dead skin cells, leaving behind skin that has a beautiful glow to it.
“When we exfoliate, we are shedding the upper layer of dead skin, the stratum corneum. It’s the reason why you have a healthy glow,” says Dr Ritu.
But did you know that skin also exfoliates naturally? It’s a pretty impressive organ! Dr Ritu notes that the natural exfoliation process occurs around every 28 days.
Given the self-exfoliating nature of your skin, how often do you need to exfoliate?
EXFOLIATE WITH CAUTION
Dr Ritu advises that you don’t really need to exfoliate, particularly if you’re on the younger side.
Let’s face it, you’re rocking that youthful glow anyway! Your regular cleansing routine should be enough to keep your skin clean and healthy and can promote exfoliation of dead skin cells.
As we get older, our skin cell turnover (the rate at which our bodies replace old skin cells with new ones) slows down.
Since it takes longer for your skin to replace existing skin cells with new ones, dead cells can linger for longer on your skin. This can result in skill that looks dull and has increased hyperpigmentation.
Exfoliating can help in this instance but proceed with caution. Over exfoliating can lead to skin issues as it strips the necessary oils and fat from the skin, notes Dr Ritu.
She also explains that being too overzealous on the exfoliating effectively removes the “layer of cement from in between the skin cells – opening up the spaces and leaving the pores (hair follicles) exposed to bacteria.”
SKIN TYPE MATTERS
There are other factors to take into consideration when it comes to exfoliating. Namely, your skin type.
“Normal to oily skin is pretty resilient,” says Dr Ritu. “Dry to sensitive skin won’t tolerate exfoliation very well. It has a naturally poorer skin barrier.”
OK, SO WHAT KIND OF EXFOLIATOR SHOULD I USE?There are two types of exfoliators:
- Chemical – AHAs, BHAs and enzymes
- Physical – brushes, mitts, cloths and scrubs
Dr Ritu’s preference is for a chemical exfoliant. She recommends using a gentle AHA or BHA cleanser daily, morning and night.
Stronger chemical exfoliants (around 15-20 per cent concentrate is used in chemical peels) should be limited to use once every few weeks. Slow and steady wins the (healthy skin) race after all!
“Often people are wanting to get rid of things like sun damage and pigmentation and think ‘I need to exfoliate’,” says Dr Ritu. In this instance, her pro-tip is to use a topical Vitamin A and sunscreen to protect the skin. The Vitamin A “works as a light exfoliant but stimulates collagen remodelling and reduces fine lines.”
Dr Ritu is weary of physical exfoliants noting that they can cause “more harm than good.”
Raise your hand if you were personally victimized by the St Ives Apricot Scrub back in the day?!
The more you scrub the deeper you are tearing into your skin. Products such as mitts can also become a depository of bacteria, notes Dr Ritu, leading to infection on the skin.
If you are going to use a physical exfoliant, do so with utmost care so you don’t damage your skin.
Finally, consult a professional to check if exfoliating is right for you.
What’s your experience been with exfoliating your skin? Go on, spill the tea and share it all with us via Instagram or email us!
Shilpa is a freelance beauty and lifestyle writer from Melbourne, Australia. You can keep up with her adventures over at @skb.ontherun and check out her latest articles here.