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Understanding exfoliation

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Exfoliation is a natural process performed by the body that sloughs off dead skin. Exfoliation unfortunately does not occur uniformly which is the reason why areas of the body, especially the face, feel rougher at times. Enter manual exfoliation methods. Manual exfoliates include surface exfoliation, mechanical exfoliation, superficial chemical exfoliation, and medium depth exfoliation. Choosing the right methods depends on one’s skin sensitivity and goals.

Nuts, crystals and crushed herbs are the ingredients most generally used to gently polish the skin in surface exfoliation. Often prescribed by a well-trained esthetician, surface exfoliates are part of a take-home skin care program. This is usually a separate step performed every one to two weeks. This method is exceptional before a special event. It will create a flawless make-up application.

Enzyme peels speed up the breakdown of dead skin cells on the skin’s surface and will help treat tone and texture concerns. Enzymes often include pineapple and papaya fruit acids. Depending on the strength used, enzyme peels can be a home treatment. Regular use is recommended.

Technology offers more intense exfoliation with microdermabrasion and dermaplaning. Microdermabrasion blasts the skin with micro-crystals. Expect the skin to look pink for up to 24 hours. Dermaplaning uses a scalpel to remove dead skin and lightweight hair. These services should only be performed in a medical spa setting and are not recommended for sensitive skin.

Superficial chemical exfoliations include an application of hydroxyl acids (AHA) and beta hydroxyl acids (BHA). Hydroxyl acids include glycolic, lactic, malic, tartaric, mandelic and citric acids. Glycolic and lactic acids are most common. AHAs dissolve the fats and proteins that bind the dead skin cells together. Salicylic Acid is a common BHA. BHAs break through oily skin and helps with acne by reducing dead skin accumulation. Lower level AHA and BHA cleansers are available for regular at-home use.

Medium-depth exfoliation techniques include the Jessner’s and Trichloroacetic acid peels. Only highly-trained professionals should perform these techniques. Do not combine these peels with other exfoliation methods. Do not use this method before an important event as the skin may peel after the treatment.

Because manual exfoliation can be abrasive if performed without training, the first question to consider is the condition of the skin. Is the skin sensitive? If the answer is yes, use a milder surface exfoliation method, regularly, every one to two weeks. If there is an underlying condition that requires attention, such as discoloration, skin tone, lines and wrinkles, or acne, seek out a highly-trained medical esthetician or dermatologist for help in choosing the right product or service.

Potential clients interested in peels need to explain all sensitivities and concerns to their skin care professional. Peels should be postponed if sun exposure is imminent.

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