Chemical Exfoliation: Not as Radioactive as it Sounds

Stay tuned for an update on a new favourite in my skin care collection: Andalou Naturals’ Pumpkin Honey Glycolic Mask!

This is the side of exfoliation that gets me extremely psyched! It definitely is not as intense as it sounds, and can actually be quite gentler than the mechanical methods of exfoliation I mentioned in my previous post.

Chemical exfoliation refers to the use of certain chemicals to facilitate a sloughing off of dead skin cells, and these chemicals also promote the regeneration of new skin cells. When you see words like brightening, or regenerating, it is often referring to the chemical exfoliation process. This is the ideal method of exfoliation if your skin is dry, sensitive, acneic, or if you’d like to get rid of red/brown spots from acne!

NO SCRUBBING REQUIRED!

The most common chemicals used to provide chemical exfoliation are AHAs, and BHAS (alpha & beta hydroxy acids). To find these ingredients in products, you want to look for ingredients called glycolic acid, salicylic acid, or lactic acid. Acne.org offers a10% AHA 6 oz tube (or 16 oz) for a pretty decent price (not to mention their version of AHA is fragrance and dye-free, and specifically formulated for those with acne-prone skin).

AHAs work by encouraging the skin to regenerate itself, and using them will result in a thinner outer layer of skin, that reflects light better and ensures dead cells aren’t sitting on the surface, dulling your complexion.

There are unique benefits to using either of the AHAs mentioned, but they all work on the skin in similar ways. Salicylic acid, a BHA, works very well at exfoliating our pores. It is used in 2% doses for spot blemish treatments, but used in other concentrations in products to promote exfoliating of the skin.

From what I have read (and I did research for this article – I will specify my sources below), lactic acid is the most effective of the AHAs, as well as being less irritating. It must be said, though, that what works well for one person may not work at all for another.

A warning for those interested in using AHAs – they can make your skin sun-sensitive, so it is either best to invest in a good sunscreen / makeup with SPF, or to only wear your AHA products at night.

Retinol (or Vitamin A), is also a commonly used product in products that claim to be anti-aging, exfoliating, or brightening. It can be harsh if used too often, but definitely effective in a mask or treatment that you use 3 times a week!

Be sure to pick up a papaya, pineapple, or pumpkin fruit enzyme mask, if you’d like to try a gentler form of chemical exfoliation! Alba makes a really great one (IT IS CLEAR AND GREEN, HA!), that I really enjoyed.

You need not grab that facial scrub to get the super smooth and soft skin you so-eagerly desire!

Sources

The Dermal Institute: http://www.dermalinstitute.com/us/library/20_article_Methods_of_Exfoliation.html

Discovery Health: How to Exfoliate Skin: http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/cleansing/tips/how-to-exfoliate-skin.htm/

Exfoliation (Cosmetology): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exfoliation_%28cosmetology%29

Acne.Org’s take on AHA: http://www.danielkern.com/product-p/aha-6.htm

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The Classy Anarchist Tells All: About Exfoliating Your Skin!

Ever have one of those days, where you look in the mirror and see a dull, and lifeless face looking back at you? Your skin seems like it has no glow, and those damned zits have healed, but they leave red or brown-ish marks that take months to fade? I don’t think we need makeup to give our skin a natural glow. By exfoliating regularly, we can shed those dulling dead skin cells from our face, revealing the fresher healthy skin beneath. Exfoliating helps to even your skin tone, give oil and dirt the boot, as well as prevent acne!

Before you whine about how your skin is too sensitive for facial scrubs, I will tell you there are types of exfoliation more appropriate for dry, sensitive type.

There are two major types of exfoliation methods. Mechanical, and chemical. I am going to discuss mechanical exfoliation in this blog entry, and will continue with chemical exfoliation in the following entry.

Most of us consider mechanical exfoliation to be the primary way we exfoliate. This would be through the use of facial scrubs, cloths, or any other tool you use to physically wash your skin for the purpose of exfoliating. Many facial or body scrubs contain ground walnut shell, oatmeal, sugar, or some sort of microbead that works to physically remove the dead skin cells, oil, and dirt, when you wash your skin with them.

The most harsh of these include loofahs (for the love of god, never on the face), walnut shell scrubs, and sugar scrubs. They can be effective, but someone who does not have excessively oily skin ought not use any of these methods more than once a week (if at all, arguably). If you have breakouts, these methods run the risk of irritating already pissed off pores, and will result in excessive redness and make your breakouts worse!

I used to use St Ives’ Apricot Scrub (the one with 2% salicylic acid), and while this did work relatively well for some time, I think it actually increased my skin’s sensitivity, and irritation, gradually over the years.

If you absolutely *have* to exfoliate using a mechanical method, I would suggest using a product that contains those microbeads (usually advertised on the product), as opposed to crushed fruit pits, shells, or even sugar. Oatmeal is also a gentler method. Check out the scrub section on Vitacost, as they list all ingredients. I did notice that Devita offers a Gentle Aloe Facial Scrub with jojoba easters (beads!), and this would be a good choice for anyone looking to mechanically exfoliate.

Check back for what I have to say about chemical exfoliation (my favourite method)!