Autumn is here! With the cool crisp air, the crackling of leaves underfoot, and the changing of colors from vibrant green to deep rich reds, and bright orange and yellows; this is my favorite time of the year.
And just as the trees are preparing to shed the old leaves of the past season in exchange for the new leaves for this upcoming Spring; so it is with your skin.
What is skin?
The integumentary system consists of the largest organ in the body, the skin. This extraordinary organ system is responsible for protecting the internal structures of the body from damage, stores fat and produces vitamins and hormones prevents dehydration by regulating body temperature and water balance. This system is the first line of defense against harmful bacteria, viruses, ultra violet radiation. In addition to, the skin is a sensory organ, with receptors that detect heat, cold, pressure and pain. Components of the skin include your nails, hair, sweat glands, oil glands, blood vessels, lymph vessels, nerves and muscles. Furthermore, your skin has three layers, the epidermis, dermis and subcutaneous layer, and each layer performs specific functions.
The epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin; this is where the keratinocytes, living cells that make up a large part of skin, produces a fibrous structural protein called keratin. Keratin is a major factor in skin, hair and nails, these cells slowly push their way upward, then die and form a protective layer. This process is called cell turnover, the rate in which it takes cells to migrate from the dermis to the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin. The cell turnover rate decreases with age, the average rate for adults is 28 to 42 days and if you are over the age of fifty, then the rate is 42 to 84 days. Exfoliation aids in the cell turnover rate.
Exfoliation: “To strip off leaves”
Exfoliation, Latin for “to strip off leaves” is the process of removing the buildup of dead stratum corneum cells. Often times, referred to the peeling or sloughing of the outer layer of skin. The benefits of exfoliation are enhanced skin texture, smooth and softer skin, follicles are opened and deep cleansing and extractions are easier to perform. Exfoliation assist in the skin’s ability to retain moisture and product penetration of results-oriented ingredients are immensely improved. Exfoliating treatments and products are used for various skin conditions, including discoloration, uneven skin tone, acne, fine lines, wrinkles, skin tightening, flaking, dry, or dehydrated skin, and dull, lifeless –looking skin. For this reason, there are two types of exfoliation: mechanical and chemical exfoliation.
Mechanical exfoliation works by physically rubbing dead cells off the skin using, granular scrubs or creams, and exfoliates ingredients such as almond meal, walnut shells, or jojoba beads, sugar, salt and various beads. A brushing machine may be used such as the Clarisonic skincare brush or Olay Pro-X advanced cleansing system. The movement of the brush removes dead cells from the surface to the stratum corneum for a more even, refined look. Microdermabrasion is also a form of mechanical exfoliation and the most popular exfoliation method. According to, American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, over 400,000 treatments was performed in 2012. Microdermabrasion exfoliates the superficial layers of the skin using particles or a rough surface with the use of a suction creating tool for stimulation.
Dermaplaning is another form of mechanical exfoliation; it is a simple and safe procedure using a special handheld instrument called a dermatone to remove the outer layers of skin to reduce the appearance of scars and wrinkles, resulting in a smoother and more even complexion.
The ancient Egyptians, 5000 yrs. ago, used various fruit acids and lactic acid as a form of chemical exfoliation. Chemical exfoliation dissolves the intercellular lipids and proteins that hold them to each other. This plaque like substance is dissolved by chemical agents such as alpha hydroxy acids. The most common superficial chemical exfoliation methods include alpha hydroxy (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). AHAs include glycolic acid, derived from sugar cane, lactic acid derived from milk, malic acid derived from apples, tartaric acid derived from grapes. Specifically, glycolic and lactic are widely used in chemical peeling agents. Glycolic acid has the smallest molecular size; therefore it penetrates into the dermis more effectively. Salicylic acid ((BHAs) is derived from sweet birch, willow bark and wintergreen and has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. This common (BHA) is known for its lipid-soluble properties making it great for oily and acne prone skin.
Enzymes are typically derived from fruit acids. Enzymes are effective exfoliants and not has harsh towards the skin as other methods like acids, lasers, scrubs, dermaplaning and microdermabrasion. Enzymes most commonly used are pineapple juice (bromelain) and papaya (papain) these ingredients are known to dissolve keratin proteins on the surface of the skin to make it softer and smoother, thus maintaining the hydration level of the epidermis.
In summary, there are a variety of treatments, devices and products, used for various skin conditions, whether it is mechanical exfoliation or chemical exfoliation; exfoliation is the key to maintaining healthy, beautiful, rejuvenated skin.