Exfoliation: what, why and when?

Exfoliation is the removal of dead surface skin cells that cling to the skin’s outermost surface and become trapped in the pores. Exfoliation is a vital, natural process when it comes to the health of our skin. Our skin is designed to exfoliate naturally. In fact, we have a whole new skin surface created every thirty days in a healthy young adult.

However, as we age, this process becomes slow and sluggish and we end up with the rough dull skin surface. Younger acne sufferers have the opposite problem. They have an overproduction of new skin cell. Many of these new cells are trapped in the pores and these become pimples if there is excess oil and bacteria present.

Why exfoliate?

If our natural processes of exfoliation are disrupted, we need to rely on additional external methods of exfoliation to improve skin condition.

It is particularly important to remove dead surface skin to encourage new cell production. Exfoliation also removes sun damaged skin cells and helps unclog pores and clarify skin with acne.

What exfoliants can be used in my skin regimen?
  • Chemical Exfoliants:  These are usually available as skin serums (such as Synergie Skin ReVeal serum). Alpha Hydroxy acids such as lactic acid helps remove dead surface cells and improve natural moisture levels and Beta hydroxy acids (salicylic acid) helps to unclog pores and reduces inflammation
  • Physical Exfoliants: These exfoliants are basically scrubbing agents which physically remove surface dead cells. There are many materials used for physical exfoliation, such as walnut husks, coffee grinds, sugar and salt. However, one of the best physical scrub agents uses aluminium oxide crystals, the same material used in microdermabrasion machines. Synergie Skin MediScrub contains these crystals which are able to effectively remove surface roughness and dead skin build-up, particularly around the T-zone. It is important not to scrub too vigorously as this can damage the delicate skin surface and may cause fine blood vessels to become visible on the skin surface.
  • Chemical Peels: Peels are another method of higher level exfoliation and may be performed by an experienced therapist or dermatologist. Be careful not to book in peels excessively as this will ultimately age the skin. A good therapist will recommend the best schedule for your skin.
When should I exfoliate?

Exfoliation with skin care products depends on your skin type. Physical exfoliant scrubs should only be used twice weekly maximum as the fine particles can damage the sensitive skin surface. Those with sensitive skin and skin redness should not use a physical exfoliant. 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.

In general the rules are as follows:

Acne and congestion – use a chemical exfoliant daily until the acne is controlled then reduce usage to alternate days. Use a physical exfoliant no more than twice weekly focusing on the T-Zone and avoid broken skin.

Dry skin – exfoliate once or twice weekly with a chemical exfoliant and once weekly maximum with a physical exfoliant.

Normal Skin – chemical exfoliation weekly is sufficient to remove surface dead cells. Physical exfoliation fortnightly or as needed.

Sun damaged / pigmented skin – daily chemical exfoliation until the skin appears more refined and brighter and then twice weekly for maintenance.

Ageing skin – use chemical exfoliation twice weekly and physical exfoliation fortnightly or as needed.

The chemistry of mixing exfoliants with other ingredients

Remember the rules of mixing your ingredients. Don’t mix acids such as lactic, L-ascorbic and salicylic (present in Synergie Skin ReVeal and Blem-X) with Vitamin B serum (niacinamide) and Vitamin A serum (retinol) as acids cause these ingredients to be less effective. The rule of thumb is to use Vitamin A (Synergie Skin Ultimate A) and B (Synergie Skin Vitamin B) at one part of the day and exfoliating acids at another part of the day.


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.

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