Rules of exfoliation

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Exfoliation of the face is a sensitive business. A lot can go wrong in the process. Read on to know the rules of effective exfoliation.

Exfoliation is a natural process. Millions of dead skin cells are shed on a daily basis. The top layer of skin is sloughed off and replaced by a fresh layer of cells every 28 days. But natural exfoliation isn’t always enough. Effective skin exfoliation using the right products and tools makes the skin smooth. It also reduces wrinkles, increases circulation and eliminates pigmentation. However, scrubbing the skin too hard can lead to irritation and redness.

“Exfoliation is a process by which dead cells are removed from the skin. It is imperative to use the right exfoliator for your skin. Always use a scrub with fine granules. Rub it gently on the skin and wash with normal or lukewarm water. Make sure to moisturise the skin immediately after scrubbing,” says Dr Jaishree Sharad, Director, Skinfiniti Aesthetic & Laser Clinic, Mumbai.

Dr Sharad advises using a washcloth and a mild exfoliator for dry or sensitive skin and a stronger chemical or mechanical exfoliation for oily skin.

Types of exfoliants
According to Dr Mohan Thomas, Senior Cosmetic Surgeon, Cosmetic Surgery Institute, there are two types of exfoliants. “When applied on skin, a ‘chemical’ or ‘acid’ exfoliant dissolves dry skin cells. These exfoliants include ingredients such as glycolic acid, AHAs and BHA, and enzymes such as pumpkin, papaya, and pineapple. Physical exfoliants include facial brushes, sponges, and facial scrubs,” he shares. A combination of both physical and chemical exfoliants gives best results.

When to exfoliate?
How often to exfoliate depends primarily on the skin type and the climate. “Exfoliation removes dead cells, unclogs pores and removes grime. While dry skin can be exfoliated once a month, oily skin once a week and normal skin once in a fortnight,” advises Dr Sharad. Lesser exfoliation is required during winter months as compared to warmer, more humid months.

“Exfoliate at night only. And follow up with a broad-spectrum sunscreen during the day. UVA rays tend to damage skin even on cloudy days, especially if the skin has been recently exfoliated. If you’re exfoliating the skin for the first time, monitor the reaction. Discontinue the regimen if there’s any redness or irritation,” says Shruti Ghadi Pevekar, Founder, Oranze Owwsm Beauty Salon.

Exfoliation can improve your skin’s appearance and make topical treatments more effective, but every type of exfoliation may not work for every skin type. “In some individuals, more aggressive forms of exfoliation may result in post inflammatory hyper pigmentation (PIH), or the appearance of dark spots on the skin. Exfoliation may aggravate other skin conditions like herpes simplex, molluscum contagiosum and warts, because these conditions include raised, fluid-filled bumps that could open and become infected,” warns Dr Shefali Trasi Nerurkar, MD Skin, Consultant Dermatologist, Dr Trasi’s Clinic & La Piel.

How to exfoliate?
According to Amit Bobade, Owner, Hairworks Unisex Salon, natural, organic products work better than synthetic exfoliants like plastic microbeads. “The latter not only harms the skin, but also causes intense environmental damage. At our salon, we prefer scrubs infused with natural ingredients such as apricot, fine walnuts, coffee, sugar and oatmeal. If you’re using an AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) exfoliant, follow the instructions properly. If the mask is to be removed after two to five minutes, do not keep it on for ten. AHAs have a quicker penetration, so it is working at deeper layers even after it is removed,” he highlights.

In-salon exfoliation – to do or not to do?
“Salon beauticians are not able to diagnose skin infections correctly neither they are trained to differentiate type of skin. We routinely see many patients with post salon procedure complications such as excessive dryness and redness after scrubbing,” points our Dr Shefali.

Manual blackhead removal if not done with proper aseptic precautions can cause infection at the site of comedone removal. “Any type of trauma to skin can trigger hyper pigmentation. Comedone removal when done with inappropriate pressure can also cause PIH,” she adds.

Dr Jaishree seconds that. “If the client has an existing viral infection, it can be passed on to others visiting the salon. Folliculitis or hair follicle infection is another common problem when you exfoliate in salons,” she says.

Weapons of beauty
Speaking about the products and tools involved in the process of exfoliation, Dr Sharad elaborates, “Dermaplaning is a tiny scalpel is used to scrape off one layer of dead skin. This process removes facial hair and exfoliates the skin. Microdermabrasion can be done on any skin area in need of exfoliation such as face, neck, the back of your hands, legs, and chest. It removes dead cells resulting in smooth and radiant skin. Aluminium oxide crystals or diamond tip or sand paper like tip is used. It also reduces superficial acne scars. A chemical peel involves the application of a solution to the skin in a controlled manner, producing controlled exfoliation. The solution may be an acid, a fruit extract, a botanical extract, or even a milk extract. It can be done on any part of the body.” Dr Sharad suggests using silicon loofahs for the body, clarisonic brushes for the face and scrub mitt for the face and body.

Dr Thomas suggests avoiding natural scrubs, such as those with apricot pits or walnut husks. “These grains have sharp edges that can lacerate the skin. Look for micro-beadlets, as they will roll across the skin and not cause irritation or use fruit scrubs,” he says.

Side effects

Exfoliating the skin more than once in a week can damage the protective barrier layer of the skin making it sensitive and dry. This leads to flaking, increased susceptibility to rash and redness as well as premature aging in the form of fine lines, wrinkles and pigment spots. “Wet the skin first and then exfoliate it gently. Never scrub dry, flaky or irritated skin. Do not scrub if there is skin abrasion, infections, boils, pimples or pigmentation,” Dr Sharad stresses.

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