You’ve probably been told skin exfoliation is an essential aspect of an effective skincare routine. Armed with this knowledge, you diligently attempt to exfoliate dead cells from the surface of your skin, hoping to refine and refresh your skin or vanquish whatever skin concern you’re currently unhappy about.
But you may not realise things can go awry if exfoliation is done incorrectly; it can cause skin conditions you were not expecting.
Abrasive scrubs, brushes and sponges or excessive chemical exfoliation can lead to overly exfoliated skin resulting in skin that becomes flakey, hyper-sensitive, reactive, and vulnerable to environmental stressors leading to prematurely aged skin, prone to breakouts and lacks moisture.
All the skin concerns you were trying to resolve seem to worsen. This can be frustrating and lead to a merry-go-round of expensive and ineffective lotions, potions and treatments.
So, if things can go so wrong, why encourage skin exfoliation?
Surely the skin, like every other organ of the body, can do this without our help.
Yes, it can and does, but with the proper chemical and mechanical exfoliation practices, we can help the skin to perform better without causing any harm to the underlying skin.
The reason why we encourage gentle exfoliation is two-fold.
Firstly, to remove dead, dull surface cells to reveal a fresher, more hydrated appearance to the skin and, secondly, to help activate cell turnover at the epidermis base. Here, cells continuously divide and migrate upwards to the final outermost layer, the stratum corneum, to form a healthy skin barrier function.
What is the skin barrier function?
Skin barrier function is the lipid matrix of the outermost layer of the skin, known as the stratum corneum comprising dead skin cells and three lipids: cholesterol, free fatty acids and ceramides. It waterproofs you and keeps microbes and other environmental debris from entering your body.
So, one of the first goals in caring for your skin is to ensure your protective skin barrier function is formed correctly to protect you from environmental stressors and minimise premature ageing.
Gently encouraging the removal of dead skin cells from the skin’s surface activates the movement of cells through the epidermis to ensure the process of building a robust skin barrier is complete.
Here’s the thing, exfoliation should be a gentle nudge, not an all-out assault on your skin.
So how do we exfoliate the skin without disrupting skin barrier function?
Specific skincare products, Chemical Peels and Microdermabrasion can all involve exfoliation and can assist in the process; let’s take a closer look.
#1 Alpha Hydroxy Acids
For at-home use, look for a skincare product formulated with ingredients that include alpha hydroxy acids.
Topically applied alpha hydroxy acids dissolve the bonds that anchor dead skin cells to the surface, setting them free.
The most common alpha hydroxy compounds are lactic, glycolic, malic, mandelic and citric acids.
Many skincare products and brands will create a combined formulation with lactic and glycolic acids being the most used alpha hydroxy acids.
What’s important is you avoid harsh scrubs in favour of an alpha hydroxy acid in a serum or cream formula.
How often you use it will come down to the recommendations of the skincare brand and the skin care professional that recommended it to you. But, for me a mild aha cream, gel or serum can be used nightly if it’s a low concentration or a little more potent or your skin doesn’t need as much exfoliation then a frequency of 3 times a week will get the job done.
#2 Chemical Peels
Best administered by a skin care professional, chemical peels come in various formulations and concentrations. Some are mild, while others can be more aggressive. Which one is chosen for you will depend on what you’re trying to resolve in your skin.
For example, if you have difficult-to-treat hyperpigmentation or severe wrinkling caused by sun damage, then a deeper peel may be suggested for you.
As with most treatments that exfoliate the skin, caution and care must always be taken. If you embark on a chemical peel treatment, start with a thorough skin consultation where outcomes, pre and post care and any contraindications are clearly explained before your treatment.
Chemical peels can offer an excellent solution to some of the more challenging skin conditions that can present on the skin.
Since the 80s, microdermabrasion has become a mainstay and is now one of the most recommended treatments in clinics and salons worldwide for exfoliating the skin.
One of the reasons why microdermabrasion is so popular is because the treatment provides instant results. And who doesn’t want that? The skin looks fresher and more hydrated, and due to the mechanical action, blood circulation will be increased, giving the glow of health we’re always looking for.
However, early microdermabrasion machines were a little harsh, and many blasted the skin with crystal grit. I don’t know about you, but this is not the way I’ve ever wanted my skin exfoliated. Sure, the skin looks good immediately after, but sandblasting your skin can have disadvantages when that health-blushing glow turns into sensitivity.
You don’t want that.
But here we are in the twenty-twenties, and things have moved on; we no longer blast the skin into oblivion. It’s now a gentle nudge with a hydrodermabrasion machine, using a diamond tip wand to gently buff away dead skin cells whilst simultaneously infusing the skin with hydrating serums.
Your skincare professional will choose a cocktail of ingredients depending on your skin type and the condition you wish to treat; this could be hyperpigmentation, dehydration, premature ageing, sensitivity, or acne-prone skin conditions.
Hydrodermabrasion machines are the latest iteration of microdermabrasion and are worth considering when you next want a skin refresh.
The skin is left, exfoliated, and smoothed, with improved blood circulation to wake the skin up and significantly hydrated to give the skin a bounce while keeping the barrier function intact so it can continue to protect you from everything the environment can throw at you.
Impressive, and if you follow a hydrodermabrasion treatment with a complementary treatment like a gentle peel or LED Light Therapy, you’ll swear you can hear your skin singing as you venture out into the day with newly refreshed skin!
And now you?
If you’ve got an event coming up, or if you want your skin to keep functioning optimally, then hydro dermabrasion will be a welcome addition to your skincare wellness routine. If you’d like to ask me a question or comment on this article, you can reach me here, or if you found this article helpful, why not share it on your socials?
See you next time,
This article was produced in partnership with The Global Beauty Group. To learn more about any of the treatments or skincare mentioned in this article, contact the beauty salon suppliers, The Global Beauty Group, on 1300 006 607 to find a treatment specialist in your area.