I have posted many times- do not waste your money on expensive moisturizer if you are applying it on dead skin layer- Exfoliate! Exfoliation is the fundamental step to a fresher younger looking complexion which should be done at least once a week (note- do not over-exfoliate as it will weaken your skin and make your skin much more sensitive). This blog examines the types of exfoliation available:
1) Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA)- This is by far the most gentle and effective skin exfoliation method and have been deemed as a major technological advance in history of cosmetic science. AHA’s are a group of carboxylic acids such as glycolic, lactic, malic and citric acids. Among them, glycolic acids have the smallest molecular structure thus being most active. There are technical grades of these acids which many dermatologists use in their professional products. There are also gentler versions of these you can find from natural fruit sources such as sugar cane (glycolic acid), apple (malic acid), oranges & lemons (citric acid) and milk (lactic acid).
AHA’s are water soluble thus you often find them in skin toners or gels. When used at levels below 10% and pH around 3-4, the AHA products are usually considered safe. However, if you have sensitive skin, avoid using products containing lactic acid as many people feel a “stinging” sensation when use lactic acid. Lactic acid is often used as a marker around the side of noses to test if you have sensitive skin or not. Additionally, daily use of sunscreen is strongly recommended especially if you are using any AHA types of products.
Benefits of AHA: It helps to exfoliate away the top dead layer of skin to encourage skin cell turn over so you will look less wrinkled, skin feel smoother and the ability to absorb moisturizer is enhance so you will look younger and radiant. For men who have in-grown hair issue, using AHA can also help to eliminate this issue as the dead layer of skin is removed.
2) Beta Hydroxyacids (BHA)- This is mainly referred to salicylic acid which can be found in Aspirin or in willowbark extracts. This type of acids are oil soluble, thus can go deeper than AHA. In fact, this has a better “pore-unplugging” benefits therefore it is classified as an over the counter (OTC) drug to treat acne when used at 2% level. In addition to unplug pores, BHA are great anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory agents good for people with oily and sensitive skin.
Benefits of BHA: It helps to keep a clear complexion great for acne-prone skin types. When used at 2% level, it is effective to treat acne and considered as a OTC drug.
3) Enzymes- While AHA is good for removing top skin layers, helps to eliminate wrinkles and produce smoother plumper skin and BHA is great for a more clear complexion, enzymes have the ability to break down the keratin protein to speed up the cell turn over. Most common enzymes used in cosmetic industry are from pineapple and papaya. In general, cosmetic chemists do not like to work with these materials as they are temperature and pH sensitive. Changes in environment can deactivate the enzymes and rendering them inactive. The results of using enzymes may not be as prominent as the use of AHA’s and/or BHA’s.
4) Physical Exfoliator- these are the “scrubbies” which aggressively remove the top skin layer as supposed to the AHA/BHA/Enzyme gently remove dead skin via speeding up the cell turn over. This category also marked the KEY difference in mass and prestige market offerings. In mass market, the common scrubbies include polyethylene (going to be banned in CA due to non-biodegradability), walnut shell, pumice, apricot shell and other non-irregular shape of particles. In the prestige market, carefully selected round beads helps to roll away the dead skin layer without scratching the skin surface such as jojoba beads and magnesium oxide are more commonly offered.
Unless you use a gentle exfoliating cleanser daily, you must exfoliate your skin at least once (prefer 2-3 times) a week to help skin cell turn over. Set a schedule to exfoliate (every Friday night after washing your face or every Monday, Wednesday and Friday night). Exfoliating is also the secret why men look good at their age even if they don’t use much skin care- they EXFOLIATE with their shaving daily! Get rid of that top dead skin layer regularly and you can look radiant. Do not waste your expensive moisturizer on dead skin layer. Start now and see a difference for yourself when you exfoliate. Do not forget to put on sunscreen daily too!