Folks looking to improve their daily skincare routine might wonder whether an exfoliating product is a good choice. While these products' benefits seem to be worthwhile, plenty of people have also heard that exfoliating can be overly harsh on the skin. So what does an exfoliator do your face, and why should you exfoliate, anyway? Let’s answer these questions and more.
Your Skin’s Daily Cell Buildup
Everyone’s skin, no matter how attractive it might look on the surface, becomes incredibly dirty over a single day. Even worse, you eventually build up dead skin cells over the topmost layer of your epidermis over a week or month. This is natural, but it can cause serious skin health problems if you let it continue unchecked.
In truth, you accrue another few hundred (at minimum) dead skin cells every day on your face alone. These skin cells do provide some serious benefits – they trap in some moisture and prevent your skin from becoming too dry and protect newer and more vulnerable skin cells from surface damage. Most of these dead skin cells also fall off with regular activity.
But some of them can clog your pores and remain stuck on your skin. This is a big issue, especially since other dirt and debris can clog your pores over time.
Toxins and Debris
Your face normally gathers toxins and other dirt particles as you move around and apply makeup or just get stuff on your face. Again, most of the stuff will wash off thanks to a healthy level of face oil that keeps things relatively clean. However, your skin’s pores will eventually gather a layer of dirt and debris that packs into your pores and prevents them from functioning normally.
Furthermore, if you use makeup frequently, you can’t avoid packing that stuff into your pores over time. It doesn’t matter how thin or easy to remove your makeup is advertised to be. It’ll still get stuck in your pores and require some removal effort. While cleansers do a great job of neutralizing most of your remnant makeup, exfoliants can get rid of almost everything.
Sebum is the oily and waxy substance that your body naturally produces. You never want to get rid of all of this, but too much of it can be a huge issue.
While sebum does help keep your skin moisturized and protects it from damage, it can also build up over time to excessive levels. In lots of cases, this can make folks’ faces appear shiny or feel “gross”. Too much face oil can also make your face dry, itchy, or cause you to experience incessant blemishes. Oil can also pack more debris into your pores.
How Exfoliation Helps
Exfoliation, in short, is the act of physically or chemically removing the topmost layer of skin cells from your face and treating oily skin with dirt and debris at the same time. In truth, getting rid of extra oil and debris is something of a side effect since a lot of that gunk is attached to the topmost layer of skin cells anyway.
Still, it means that exfoliation provides several benefits at once. Think of it as a thorough scrubbing of your skin far beyond what regular soap and water can hope to accomplish.
Regular exfoliation helps with all the possible negative outcomes described above largely because it cleanses your pores of dirt, toxins, dead skin cells, and other debris. This sloughs off the gunk on the surface of your skin and allows new, fresh skin cells to come to the forefront leaving you with smoother skin.
The results are dramatic and immediately noticeable. For starters, your skin will be softer to touch and a little bit more sensitive (which is why you should only exfoliate a few times a week at most). But this makes it a lot more pleasant to touch and, additionally, makes your skin appear younger and smoother overall.
The very act of scrubbing away the topmost layer of skin cells and rubbing the flesh there stimulates blood flow to the vessels just beneath your skin. As a result, your face’s color will improve and you’ll become more vibrant overall. It can even help reduce things like hyperpigmentation and dark spots!
By unclogging your pores, you’ll experience fewer acne breakouts and less skin itchiness. If you use your exfoliating products correctly (and in conjunction with a great moisturizer), you’ll even experience less dry skin overall, even though exfoliation tends to dry the skin out by itself. That’s because getting rid of excessive oil and debris will help your skin retain the appropriate amount of moisture over the course of a day.
Other Exfoliation Benefits
Aside from unclogging your pores, improving your skin’s color and texture, and helping you get your acne-prone skin under control, exfoliating can provide several ancillary benefits.
Boosts Other Skin Product Effectiveness
That’s right; exfoliation can make your other skincare products work even more effectively. Things like serum and moisturizer will benefit from being used after an exfoliating product. That’s because exfoliation removes dead skin cells and other pore-clogging debris, allowing these moisturizing products to penetrate more deeply into your skin.
Moisturizer, for instance, will go deeper into the layers of your skin and help those cells retain their moisture even more effectively. A serum can provide nutrition deeper into your skin’s pores for potentially even greater brightening results. Without dead skin cells acting as a physical barrier to these products, it’s no surprise they perform much better.
Improves Skin Health
Suki Skincare and others point out that exfoliation can even directly improve your skin’s health by boosting circulation. This is somewhat related to its ability to improve your skin tone and color. Basically, by stimulating blood flow, you improve the oxygenation of your skin cells, especially for those near the surface. This also improves your cells’ ability to multiply healthily, lessening the likelihood of minor damage accruing over time.
While no one can fully stop the aging clock, those who exfoliate can expect fine lines or aging skin a little later than their peers.
Furthermore, exfoliation can stimulate collagen synthesis. Collagen is a compound that your skin cells need to reproduce correctly. By improving the synthesis of this compound, your skin cells will remain healthy for longer. This translates to younger and healthier-looking skin even as the years go by. If you want to look like you’re 30 when you’re 40 (or even 40 when you’re 50), you’ll want to exfoliate consistently.
Does Skin Type Matter?
Very much so. Since exfoliation physically removes the topmost layer of skin cells on your face, it necessarily makes your skin feel a little raw or sensitive. This is especially true if you don’t frequently exfoliate or are trying the process for the first time.
So folks with sensitive skin will want to target specific exfoliating products that take this into account. There are two main types of exfoliating products: chemical and physical.
Types of Exfoliating Products
Chemical exfoliators use chemical ingredients to break the intercellular bonds between skin cells. This helps your dead cells wash away with water. While you still need to use some physical force, the primary exfoliating action has nothing to do with breaking up the cells with physical elements. It’s less scrubbing away dead skin cells and more like dissolving them to help with cell turnover. The ingredients used in these exfoliators include glycolic acid and salicylic acid.
Physical exfoliants use physical compounds to remove dead skin cells with abrasive force, also called mechanical exfoliation. These are face scrubs that include somewhat harsh compounds like salt, sugar, and dissolvable microbeads. These products scrub away dead skin cells and are incredibly effective, but are no doubt a little harder on the skin.
Which Exfoliating Product Is Best for Your Skin?
It ultimately depends on your own comfort level. But chemical exfoliators might be better if you have sensitive skin already since they’re a little less harsh on your skin. They may also be better if you have dry skin, although anyone using an exfoliating product should already be incorporating a moisturizer into their skincare routine to compensate for the automatic drying effect.
No matter what type of skin you have, it’s always great to target excellent exfoliating products as opposed to cheap or harmful ones. You should always look for quality exfoliators that use gentle ingredients whenever possible.
For instance, the Suki Skincare Exfoliate Foaming Cleanser does a great job of getting rid of dead skin buildup to unclog pores on the skin's surface while also stimulating cellular renewal and collagen production beneath the skin. It uses 99.9% sugar crystals that dissolve and do a great job of physically removing debris without making things too uncomfortable.
Furthermore, you should only exfoliate two or three times a week depending on your skin sensitivity and personal needs. Exfoliators are incredibly potent, but this also means you should avoid over-exfoliating and risk making your skin feel too sensitive.
Exfoliation removes the topmost layer of dead skin cells from your face while stimulating collagen production, blood flow to your skin cells, and boosting the efficacy of other skincare products. It’s an extremely beneficial process that should be a staple part of any encompassing skincare routine. We’d recommend it to everyone!