Happy New Year, Epidermis!

New Year, new you. Fresh start. Tabula rasa. Whatever you want to call it, the start of a new year inspires many people to embark on new beginnings in one or more areas in their life. Shouldn’t your skin get a new beginning too?

It can! There is an affordable way to uncover a fresh layer of skin, brighten your skin’s appearance and make it softer. It’s called exfoliation, which is the removal of dead skin cells from the top layer of the skin (the epidermis). I know you’ve probably heard of this before, but how often do you actually do it?

Let’s talk about the two types of exfoliation–mechanical, or physical exfoliation and chemical, or enzyme exfoliation. In mechanical exfoliation, dead skin cells are rubbed off with an abrasive product. It sounds harsh, but if you use an exfoliant (also called an exfoliator) that contains beads as opposed to apricot scrubs (which contain jagged pieces of nut shells and other ingredients) it won’t cause micro tears in your skin. Chemical exfoliants contain enzymes or alphahydroxy ingredients that break down the “glue” that keeps the dead skin cells holding onto the epidermis. With chemical exfoliants, the product does not need to be manipulated once it is on the skin. Think of it as the lazy lady’s exfoliant 🙂

On the extreme (and more expensive) end of mechanical exfoliation is microdermabrasion, which uses a machine to spray out a crystal or diamond tip exfoliant (the diamond tip is the newer and more gentle form of microderm). Then, a small vacuum suctions up the dead skin cells and exfoliant residue. The extreme and more expensive type of chemical exfoliation is the chemical peel, which uses stronger or more concentrated ingredients to loosen the dead skin cells. Both microderm and peels are done by estheticians or in a dermatologist’s office.

If you can’t or don’t want to go to a professional for microderm or a peel, you can still get great results at home. I think that exfoliation is essential for all skin types, and should be done once or twice each week. If you have dry and flaky skin, exfoliation will remove those dead skin cells that you can see and feel on the skin. It will make the skin feel softer and allow it to more easily accept moisturizer. Those with oily and acne-prone skin will benefit from exfoliation because it will remove surface oils from the skin, helping prevent breakouts. Dull skin, often a complaint of those who see their skin aging, will be brightened after exfoliation. It’s amazing what the removal of dead skin cells can do to your skin’s appearance! And for those who have sensitive skin, exfoliation should still be done, but a gentle chemical exfoliant is recommended, as the rubbing action needed for a mechanical exfoliant can be irritating on very sensitive skin.

Regardless of your skin type, regular exfoliation usually means you can get away with wearing less foundation. The reason is that removing the dead skin cells (and surface oils, if your skin is oily) makes the skin look healthier. And unless you are going for a full coverage look, why not let that healthy skin show through? I find that when my skin is clear, soft and bright, I don’t even want to wear much foundation. Most of the time, I wear and use foundation to fake glowing, even, healthy skin. You can get there with regular exfoliation, in combination with a good cleansing and moisturizing routine, so why not try it? (You may not want to skip any face makeup entirely, but a tinted moisturizer can give you some coverage and let your skin show through.)

And again, your skin will feel softer and will more easily accept skincare products, like moisturizer, night cream, and serums, if you exfoliate. Without the layer of dead skin cells on the surface, products can more easily penetrate the skin and do their job. You might find that you need less product on exfoliated skin for this reason.

It’s not too late to start a New Year’s resolution for your skin. So out with the old (dead skin cells) and in with the new (healthy, glowing skin)!

Have a beautiful day 🙂

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