Exfoliating the skin is one of the BEST kept secrets for maintaining a youthful and radiant complexion. Most women don't do enough of it (or they're using the WRONG type) partly due to the lack of proper education on the topic and the confusion between which exfoliant is best to use for their skin type.
TWO TYPES OF EXFOLIANTS
There are essentially 2 types of exfoliation: abrasive (manual) or chemical. Each type yields similar yet different results (some better than others) and the manner in which they are used and applied are very different. Keeping in mind that the stratum corneum (uppermost layer of the EPIDERMIS) is approximately 16 cells layers, abrasives typically work on eliminating only the upper 4 to 6 layers. Abrasives (or manual/mechanically exfoliating) products contain many different ingredients and they are available in various forms.
ABRASIVE EXFOLIANT EXAMPLES
Some examples would be salt and sugar scrubs, crushed walnut shells, polyethylene beads, jojoba beads, etc. Mechanical abrasives are items and devices such as loofahs, microfiber facial towels, The Clarisonic face exfoliator, microdermabrasion treatments, etc. All of these products, treatments and ingredients work by physically sloughing away dead surface skin cells. Microdermabrasion machines, because of how they work, are also known to stimulate collagen production. Abrasive exfoliants are NOT suitable for those with active acne breakouts (Acne Grades 3, 4, 5). Gentle jojoba beads work well on oily, congested skin types (Acne Grades 1 & 2) as well as dry skin types. These are actually my favorite 'abrasive' exfoliant and I use them on myself and with my skin care clients because they are spherical (round). I don't like abrasive exfoliants with jagged edges used on the face because they can cause micro-tears in the skin resulting in trauma.
The chemical category of exfoliants is both varied and wide ranging, usually also working the stratum corneum, but in most cases penetrating much deeper than abrasives. Chemical exfoliants employ the process of keratolysis to release dead skin cells. Keratolysis is defined as the action of breaking down, dissolving and sometimes digesting (enzymes) the intercellular cement holding the cells in question together.
CHEMICAL EXFOLIANT EXAMPLES
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA's) are known to work on the stratum corneum, stratum granulosum and possibly down into the stratum spinosum (a deep layer of epidermis). They help with fine line reduction and increase dermal collagen production, giving your skin a fresher, younger and plumper appearance. AHA's also have certain antioxidant effects, helping to neutralize free radicals which damage and age our skin.
Different AHA's include: Glycolic Acid derived from sugar cane, Lactic Acid comes from sour milk, tomatoes and honey, Citric Acid comes from citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges, Malic Acid comes from apples, Tartaric Acid is derived from grapes and various plants, Mandelic Acid comes from bitter almonds and Azelaic Acid is naturally found in wheat, rye and barley.
The Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA's) include Salicylic Acid. It is the king of this category and it has the unique ability to dissolve the accumulation of sebum (facial oil) and dead skin cells that typically clog pores and lead to congested/acneic conditions. Think blackheads and whiteheads here folks! This is because Salicylic Acid (BHA) is lipid (oil) soluble whereas AHA's are water soluble. Because of this difference in properties, BHA's are best used on oily skin with whiteheads and blackheads. AHA's seem to work best on thickened, sun-damaged skin where breakouts are not a problem. However, research has shown that when BHA's and AHA's are properly used in conjunction with each other in the correct proportion, the results are very good.
OTHER TYPES OF CHEMICAL EXFOLIANTS
Retinoic Acid is a Vitamin A derivative. Other names associated with it include retinol, retinyl palmitate, isotretinoin (Accutane) and tretinoin (Retin-A, Renova, Differen, Atralin, Avita, Altinac, etc.). These work way down into the stratum spinosum and germinativum layers of the skin. These Vitamin A derivatives have been shown to reduce thickened, aged skin. They 'reorganize' the cells that have clumped together because of free radical damage and natural aging's effects throughout the epidermis and even into the dermis (2nd deepest layer of skin). Vitamin A is a lipid (oil) soluble vitamin.
Because of an increase in dermal collagen production, this class of Vitamin A derivatives aids in the reduction of fine lines. Combined with the smoothing of damaged, clumped cells described above, this group of exfoliants can give the skin a more youthful, energetic look and plumper, firmer feel.
***Acne sufferers using Retin-A or other topical Vitamin A creams beware- A lot, if not most, prescription creams for Retin-A and other Vitamin A derivitives contain ISOPROPYL MYRISTATE. This ingredient gives the cream a silky feel and texture and also rates as 5 on the comedogenicy scale! A five is the MOST COMEDOGENIC. So, it clogs pores and aggravates acne. Go figure, a cream prescribed for clearing acne CAUSES more acne! I'll post more on this subject at a later time...
Ascorbic Acid is a version of Vitamin C and works all the way down to the stratum spinosum and germinativum layers. There are other versions of L-ascorbic acid but what they all do is mildly exfoliate in combination with citric acid, as well as stimulate the fibroblasts for greater collagen production. This combo creates firm, vibrant skin. Beware though, Vitamin C products go bad quickly. Because of it's unstable nature, products containing Vitamin C can oxidize quickly and loose their effectiveness. Vitamin C products (L-ascorbic acid) should be kept in an air-tight treatment pump in order to maintain maximum freshness. Vitamin C is also water-soluble so companies using this in powdered products such as mineral makeup, is just pure HOOEY! Vitamin C can do nothing without a proper delivery system. I'll talk more about this in a later post as well.
The next category of exfoliants aren't chemicals at all- they're enzymes. Similar in depth of work to abrasives, enzymes work on the upper 8 layers of cells of the stratum corneum. Typically in skincare, fruits are the main source of enzyme preparations. Examples include the papain enzyme from papaya, the bromelain enzyme from pineapple and of course, pumpkin enzymes.
Enzymes are digestive in nature and consume keratinized (hardened & dead) skin cells. Because of this action, they deliver great results without the aggression associated with many other types of exfoliating methods. Just as Vitamin C and Vitamin A seem to have a balanced synergistic relationship, enzymes stimulate hydroxy acids to work better, stronger and longer.
A WORD OF CAUTION...
Keep in mind that ANY method of exfoliation can be irritating to the skin and should be used with caution. Also, it is IMPERATIVE that you wear a minimum SPF 15 with both UVA & UVB protection while using any type of exfoliation. Exfoliating thins out the skin and makes it more susceptible to damage if it's not protected properly. Look for active sunscreen ingredients like zinc, titanium dioxide and avobenzone.
In my next post, I'll discuss which kinds of exfoliants are right (and wrong) for specific skin types.
Lastly, here's a disclaimer (you knew this was coming right?)...
No information shared here by PRIIA Cosmetics, a division of Esthetically Yourz, Inc. and Kelley Maddison is intended as or should be taken as a substitute for medical advice. PRIIA Cosmetics, a division of Esthetically Yourz, Inc. and Kelley Maddison are not responsible for any results (or lack thereof) with the use or misuse of any of the types of products mentioned above. This information is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose disease. Use or misuse of any of the types of products mentioned above are solely the responsiblity of their user. (sorry but have to CMB...Cover My Butt!)
Until the next post...Happy Exfoliating!
-The Mineral Makeup Coach