Exfoliation of the skin is a natural process during which dead skin cells are released from the top layer of the epidermis and are replaced with new cells from the basal layer of the epidermis where cells are replicated. Until about the age of 30, skin cells turn over approximately every 28 days. This natural exfoliation process decreases as we age contributing to the fine lines, wrinkles and a dull, dry appearance. This is where exfoliation treatments come into play, by increasing the turnover rate in a controlled manner. Regardless of the exfoliating method, the results are typically a more refined, smoother appearance. With regular exfoliation, a more even skin tone, reduction in fine lines and overall more youthful appearance may result.
Skin be exfoliated either manually or chemically, and there are many examples of both. Manual exfoliation is the use of a superficial product or device to remove dead skin cells. Chemical exfoliation is the use of an enzyme or an acid to either break apart keratinized cells or to dissolve them.
At home vs. professional exfoliation
You can manually exfoliate their skin at home with a scrub, abrasive pads or brushes. There are different facial scrubs that contain granules of certain nuts, jojoba beads, salts, sugar and other substances with a granular texture. When these topical home care products are used, they are often recommended twice a week. There are also manual buffing pads on the market that can be irritating to the skin, especially when over used. One of the most popular forms of home exfoliation is the use of mechanical cleansing brushes, which offer a safe, easy-to-use exfoliation method with a low risk of side effects. Professional exfoliation treatments that are used by an esthetician can include microdermabrasion, dermaplaning, professional enzymes, and chemical peels.
Microdermabrasion, one of the most sought after esthetics treatments, involves a trained technician mechanically exfoliating the skin through a hand piece. The devices most commonly use abrasive particles such as aluminum oxide crystals, sodium bicarbonate salts, silicone-derived particles, or a micronized diamond-tip as the method of exfoliation. As the hand piece is gently glided over the skin, the particles or diamond-tip are directed on the outermost layers of the skin. At the same time, the crystals and detached keratinized cells are drawn into a waste container of the machine through suction. This combination of exfoliation and suction creates a mild stimulating response in the skin, similar to that of superficial chemical peeling methods.
While results vary among individuals, microdermabrasion has been reported to improve the appearance of the skin by softening fine lines, reducing superficial skin discoloration, evening the texture of the skin and providing the skin with a healthy glow. Microdermabrasion should not be promoted to remove deep wrinkles, acne scars or dermal pigmentation, as it is not intended to reach the dermis. Although some clients do see improvement in these conditions with multiple treatments, it should not be over-stated. Additionally, microdermabrasion should never be used for inflamed skin conditions including grades III and IV acne, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis.
Dermaplaning is a simple and safe procedure using a sharp blade (scalpel) to exfoliate the epidermis with the added benefit of removing vellus hair (peach fuzz). This procedure has been used for many years and is becoming increasingly popular as consumers become aware of the service. Dermaplaning provides an immediate result with a smooth, more even tone and vibrant appearance. It is popular before big events, as the result is immediate and makeup goes on the skin smoother, appearing more natural.
Dermaplaning is a great treatment on its own, but is also commonly used as a prep before other esthetic treatments including superficial chemical exfoliation, LED, ultrasound or as an add-on to a facial. Other indications for treatment include dry or dehydrated epidermis, fine lines and wrinkles, acne grades I and II and vellus hair removal. Clients that have an excess amount of vellus hair particularly like dermaplaning for the smooth texture that occurs after the hair removal. This hair can also trap dead skin cells and oil in the follicles, resulting in clogged pores. Therefore, removing the hair gives you clearer, healthier skin. This is also a great treatment for those that are pregnant or nursing looking for a more effective exfoliation method while they cannot use exfoliating acids due to the risk of certain chemicals being absorbed into the blood stream.
There is no downtime associated with this procedure, unless a superficial nick or scratch appears. Dermaplaning is most commonly performed on a monthly basis, but can be done as often as every two weeks. There is a low chance of adverse effects when the technician is properly trained and practices safe measures. Although merely an old wives’ tale, many patients are often concerned that the hair will grow back heavier and darker after dermaplaning. You can calm your fears, shaving cannot change the structure and function of the hair. It will grow back at the same rate and texture as before the treatment. It is important to know that the hair may feel blunt when the hair initially grows back. This should not be confused with extra hair growth. Clients see the most benefit when using a customized skin care regimen to address any underlying concerns.
Enzyme exfoliation is a type of chemical exfoliation that breaks down the “glue” that holds dead, dulling skin cells together. Professional enzyme exfoliation can be used instead of a surface peel to remove aging dead cells, awaken dull skin and target pores. It also facilitates easy penetration of active serums into the skin during the next step of the facial.
Enzyme treatments are for those who have skin that is too sensitive for surface peels, but still experiences one or more of the following issues:
- Clogged pores
- Dull skin
A chemical peel uses a chemical solution to smooth the texture of your skin by removing the damaged outer layers.
A light chemical peel might be the right choice if you have uneven pigment, dryness, acne or fine wrinkling.
This kind of peel removes just the outer layer of skin (epidermis) in a light exfoliation and results in a healthier glow.
A combination of alphahydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids, such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid and malice acid can be used. All of these chemicals are the mildest choices. You can repeat these treatments to achieve your desired results every 2 – 4 weeks.
Do your research and talk to your esthetician to decide on a plan that works best for your skin conditions and lifestyle. I am always available for a free consultation if you happen to have any questions or would love to learn more about these treatments.