Exfoliation is an important process when it comes our skin health. Our skin is designed to exfoliate naturally. In fact, we create a whole new skin surface every 30 days as healthy young adults. However, as we age, this process slows down. So, let’s get beneath the surface and understand the importance of exfoliation in our skincare routines:
What is exfoliation?
Exfoliation is the removal of dead surface skin cells that cling to the skin’s outermost surface and become trapped in the pores. As we age, the natural process of exfoliation becomes slow and we end up with a rough, uneven, and dull skin surface. This is where exfoliation comes into your skincare routine.
Younger acne sufferers or those with conditions such as eczema or psoriasis have the opposite problem. They have an overproduction of new skin cells. With acne sufferers, excess surface cells are trapped in the pores and these become blackheads, whiteheads and pimples if there is excess oil and bacteria present on the pore.
If our natural processes of exfoliation are disrupted, we need to rely on additional external exfoliation methods to improve the condition of our skin. It’s important to remove dead surface skin to encourage new cell production, as this sends a message to the cells deeper down to reproduce fresh new cells. Exfoliation also removes pigmented, sun-damaged skin cells, helps to unclog pores, and clarifies skin with acne.
What exfoliants can be used in my skin routine?
There are 4 broad types of exfoliation. Your skin type will determine the best type of exfoliant for your skin:
1. Chemical Exfoliants
Chemical exfoliants usually come as a serum, such as Synergie Skin’s ReVeal. ReVeal contains alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs such as lactic, malic or mandelic acid) to help remove dead surface cells and improve natural moisture levels, and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs such as salicylic acid) to help unclog pores and reduce inflammation. ReVeal will also remove surface UV damage and uneven skin tone whilst reducing fine lines and promoting hydration.
For sensitive skin or those who suffer from rosacea and eczema, an acid-free chemical exfoliant is ideal. Synergie Skin’s Luciderm enhances the skin’s natural enzyme activity to exfoliate dead surface cells to eliminate rough, flaking skin and promote a luminous and more even skin tone and texture.
Physical exfoliants are scrubbing agents that physically remove the surface dead cells, such as Synergie Skin’s MediScrub. There are many materials used for physical exfoliation, such as botanical husks, coffee grinds, sugar and salt. One of my favourite physical scrub agents is aluminium oxide (corundum) crystals, the same material used in microdermabrasion machines, which effectively remove surface roughness, blackheads and dead skin build-up, particularly around the T-zone.
It’s important not to scrub too vigorously when using a physical exfoliate as this can damage the delicate skin surface and may cause fine blood vessels to become visible on the skin surface.
‘Micro’ meaning microscopic and ‘foliation’ referring to exfoliation, is the process of using finely ground particles to gently remove the loose surface cells, rather than using more deeply exfoliating ingredients. Using microfine botanical particles, such as rice bran powder, is considered more than cleansing but not as intense as exfoliating. Rice bran powder also possess numerous additional cosmeceutical skin benefits for anti-ageing and uneven skin tone.
Using a fine and natural muslin cloth, such as Synergie Skin’s Gentle X-fol cloth, also stimulates a micro-foliating action that increases circulation and promotes regeneration of new cells, leaving your skin feeling smoother, softer and better prepared for the application of serums and moisturisers. If you have sensitive skin, a microfoliant powder or the Gentle X-fol cloth is a good alternative to using a scrub.
4. Clinical Chemical Peels
Chemical peels are a popular and effective form of exfoliation and are considered a professional treatment. This method provides a higher-level of exfoliation and should be performed by an experienced therapist or dermatologist. Please be aware that you should always consult your therapist and do not undergo peels excessively as this will ultimately thin and age the skin. A good therapist will always recommend the best exfoliation schedule for your skin.
If you would like to indulge in a home MiniPeel for turbocharged overnight exfoliation, I suggest mixing Synergie Skin’s ReVeal with Pure-C crystals. Thoroughly cleanse using the Gentle X-fol cloth or a microfoliant powder. Mix 4-parts ReVeal with 1-part Pure-C crystals and leave overnight.
Note: This MiniPeel is not suitable for sensitive skin. Do not use retinol or vitamin B3 that night as the acidity of this MiniPeel will deactivate the vitamin A and B serums.
When should I exfoliate?
The frequency of exfoliating with skincare products depends on your skin type. When using a chemical exfoliant, it is best to avoid glycolic acid (which can be more irritating) and opt for lactic acid in combination with salicylic acid for decongesting the pores. Physical exfoliant scrubs should only be used twice a week at most as the particles may irritate the sensitive skin surface. Those with sensitive skin and skin redness should not use a physical exfoliant. Microfoliants can be used daily to support cells to be sloughed from the surface to encourage new skin cells.
In general, the rules are as follows:
Acne, sun-damaged and congested skin
Use a chemical exfoliant daily until the acne is controlled or the surface UV damage is reduced, then reduce usage to alternate days. Use a physical exfoliant no more than twice weekly, focusing on the T-zone and avoid broken skin.
Exfoliate once or twice weekly with a chemical exfoliant and once weekly with a physical exfoliant. A microfoliant powder can also be used daily.
Chemical exfoliation weekly is sufficient to remove surface dead cells. Physical exfoliation fortnightly or as needed. A microfoliant powder can also be used daily.
Sun-damaged or pigmented skin
Daily chemical exfoliation until the skin appears more refined and brighter, and then twice weekly for maintenance. A microfoliant powder can also be used daily.
Use chemical exfoliation twice weekly and physical exfoliation fortnightly or as needed. A microfoliant powder can also be used daily.
An acid-free chemical exfoliant can be used daily, such as Synergie Skin’s Luciderm, and a microfoliant powder can be used on alternate days. Always avoid harsh scrubs and acid-based chemical exfoliants.
The chemistry of mixing exfoliants with other ingredients
It’s important to remember the rules of mixing your ingredients. Avoid mixing low pH acidic serums (pH 3.5 or less) with high dose lactic, glycolic, L-ascorbic, and salicylic acid serums with vitamin B3 and vitamin A in the form of retinol, as this can cause the ingredients to be less effective. Use your exfoliating acids, such as Synergie Skin’s ReVeal and Blem-X, in the morning and vitamins A and B, such as Synergie Skin’s Ultimate A and Vitamin B, in the evening.
Not sure what products are suitable for your skin type? Head to our Analyse Your Skin quiz to find your routine – your skin confidence begins here.