Updated: Aug 7, 2019
An exfoliator is any skin care product that is used to remove the top layer of dead and dulling skin cells in order to brighten the complexion and to fight against the clogging of your pores. They can be broadly split into physical/ mechanical and chemical.
There are really no hard and fast rules on how often you should exfoliate. However, if you are just adding this step to your routine it is recommended to start with low frequency and low strength.
Frequency - How often you exfoliate per week
Strength - Physical abrasiveness or acid/ enzyme concentration
Once you have started using exfoliation in your routine and have found it beneficial then you may wish to increase the frequency and/or strength of the products you are using. However, please do this very gradually and do not increase further until you are confident that your skin is responding positively to your current routine.
Below is a summary of the types of exfoliators you may wish consider incorporate into your routine along with a list of the products we supply.
Physical/ Mechanical Exfoliation
Simply the physical action of something abrasive against the skin. We have tried to order the product types below from gentlest to most abrasive. However, in reality there would be some overlap depending on the exact specification of the product used.
The Konjac potato or Konnyaku is a perennial plant native to Asia and can be found growing wild at very high altitudes. Konjac is naturally 97% water and rich in mineral goodness along with being alkaline (less than pH7), helping to leave the skin perfectly balanced (skin is around pH5.5). They are often infused with ingredients such as clay or charcoal to impart added skin benefits and tailor them to specific skin needs. Simply moisten and rub across the face with or without cleanser. They are very gentle but effective exfoliators, eco-friendly and can each last 2-3 months with proper care.
Flannels and Cloths
When it comes to skin care it is so often the simplest changes that can have the biggest impact on your skin health. Incorporating a cotton/ muslin cloth into your cleansing routine can help to thoroughly remove impurities while also sloughing off dead skin cells. They are effective, relatively inexpensive, and environmentally friendly.
Sugar, oats, seeds, rice powder, husks, nut shells, charcoal. There are an array of different ingredients used as the exfoliating part of a facial scrub. Thankfully plastic microbeads have now been banned. The natural particles used in most of these products tend to be irregularly shaped and whilst effective at exfoliating do have the potential to cause micro-tears in the skin's surface. Whilst this can have the beneficial impact of boosting collagen production it can be problematic for those with sensitive skin. All of the facial scrubs we provide use very fine grains in order to be on the less abrasive side. However, we believe there are gentler alternatives for those with sensitive skin.
Alphahydroxy Acids (AHA)
AHAs are acids derived from fruits, nuts, milks and sugars. They help promote corneocyte discohesion (cell desquamation) and break down the bonds between the desmosomes, which allow for easier exfoliation of dead surface cells. It can be thought of as loosening the glue that holds the skin cells together. The following are different sources of AHAs:
Derived from sugars and one of the most common AHAs. It is appealing due to its small molecular size and multi-functional approach on the skin. It is effective at controlling sebum production.
Derived from milk and sugars. It is probably the second most common of the AHAs. It is considered to be a gentler alternative to glycolic acid due to its larger molecular structure. Lactic acid not only helps soften rough skin by breaking the bonds of the desmosomes, it is also an antimicrobial that is being seen more often as a preservative in natural products. This acid can also increase hydration, inhibit pigment and adjust pH.
Derived from citrus fruits and corn. While Vitamin C is typically considered a class of its own, it technically belongs to the AHA family. This AHA is also an antioxidant that is used to help brighten the skin and increase epidermal thickness.
Derived from apples and green grapes. This acid is a multifunctional AHA that also acts as an antioxidant and humectant (locks in water). It is soothing and beneficial to sensitive skin types that cannot tolerate glycolic acid.
Derived from bitter almonds. This AHA is comprised of a large form molecule that allows for slow and even penetration. Exfoliation with mandelic acid is more gentle and delicate for sensitive skin types. It helps brighten discoloration and contains antibacterial properties that are helpful in acne control.
Derived from grapes and cranberries. This AHA is actually a by-product of the fermentation process that takes place while making wine and is used as an antioxidant.
BHA functions and performs in a similar way to AHAs and refers specifically to Salicylic Acid. It is derived from willow tree bark, wintergreen oil and sweet birch and has been used as an anti-inflammatory for many centuries. One of it's benefits over and above AHAs is that it is lipophyllic (attracted to oil) and therefore has the ability to penetrate through the oils in the skin and clear out follicles of excess debris and skin cells, making it especially effective in the treatment of acne. Salicylic Acid tends to be less irritating to some skin types and may be a good alternative to those who have not tolerated AHAs well.
PHAs are similar to AHAs in that they perform the same role of exfoliation, but unlike AHA’s, PHA’s are gentler on skin and less likely to cause irritation. AHAs can cause itching, burning and tingling sensations and may also cause skin to dry out which is why they are not recommended for sensitive skin, rosacea-prone skin and skin prone to inflammation. PHAs on the other hand, due to their larger molecular structure, penetrate the skin at a slower rate which is why they are suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin, causing almost no irritation. There are several types of PHA’s with the most notable ones being gluconolactone and lactobionic acid:
A powerful antioxidant and the multi-tasker of all PHAs. Its antioxidant properties protect skin from free-radical and UV damage and helps strengthen skin barrier function. By strengthening skin barrier function, skin is less likely to be inflamed both from external and internal aggressions. A powerful humectant it helps to ensure healthy hydration levels within the skin whilst also inhibiting elastase; an enzyme that promotes the sagging of skin. This PHA is derived from gluconic acid, which is a substance naturally produced by mammals in order to metabolise carbohydrates. It can be produced from corn.
Derived from milk sugars this PHA displays potent antioxidant properties helping to tackle the signs of ageing, pigmentation problems, large pores and an uneven skin texture. This type of acid is known to help promote skin firmness and to stop the degradation of collagen, the structural protein found within skin. It displays powerful humectant properties helping to lock moisture within skin.
Enzymes work in a similar fashion to acids removing dead skin and the surface layer of living skin by dissolving the glue-like compounds that holds skin cells together. Fruit-based enzyme products are gentle and non-abrasive to your skin. Like exfoliating acids, digestive enzymes are applied with cotton cleaning pads or something similarly soft. In order to be effective the enzymes do need to be left on the skin for 10+ minutes to allow the proteins to be dissolved before being rinsed off. This is why they are often found in the form of cleansing facial masks. Fruits that contain protein enzymes include pineapple, papaya, kiwi fruit and figs.
SKIND Questions & Products
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