Up there with a good night’s sleep or vitamin-packed smoothie, exfoliating can give your skin an instant boost that will leave your complexion dewy and glowing. Taking as little as two minutes, it lifts up and gets rid of dead skin cells, making you look fresh and rejuvenated. As we crank up the heating, this versatile treatment has a bunch of other major selling points.
1. It’s the best prep there is
There isn’t one single treatment that’s as easy to or do that will refresh your skin more than exfoliating. “The texture of your skin improves immediately,” says says Romy Saibil, a medical doctor specially trained in cosmetic medicine and co-owner of the True Medispa treatment clinic in Toronto. Whether it’s a spa treatment or using an exfoliating scrub in the shower, your face instantly becomes smoother, making makeup easier to apply and giving you a more natural-looking finish.
2. It shows off your new cells
Skin can shed up to 30,000 cells per day, and they don’t fall off right away. Exfoliating will help you speed up the removal of dead cells, so you can show off the pretty, plump fresh ones underneath. (You wouldn’t wear a beautiful new silk shirt under an old pilling cardie, now, would you?)
3. It accelerates cell renewal
“The payback for exfoliating is huge,” says Saibil. It’s like skin care karma: Good inspires good. In the process of removing dead skin, you are actually promoting new growth. “When you uncover new cells,” says Saibil, “it actually increases the rate at which your skin replenishes itself.”
4. It gives you value for money
Think about it – if you’re carrying a dead layer of skin around everywhere with you, it’s going to absorb a whack of the skincare products you’re applying, just to fall off by the end of the day. “If you have dead skin accumulation, it’s harder for the creams and sun blocks to penetrate the skin,” says Saibil. Exfoliating improves the absorption of your topical skincare products so you can apply less and make that pot go farther.
5. Everyone can do it
This is not a treatment that’s only suitable for people with certain skin types or budgets. You can have the treatment carried out by a professional, or do it yourself by washing your face with a warm wash cloth. You just need to adapt the type of exfoliation (see below) and the frequency. Oilier skin responds well to being exfoliated two to three times per week and for dry skin, once a week is ideal. Exfoliating will remove the top layers of any skin type and leave it looking more radiant, reduce the appearance of wrinkles (there are fewer cells sitting in any creases) and on oilier skin, it has the added benefit of removing the build up of dirt and grease, which will reduce the appearance of blackheads.
There are three main ways to exfoliate and each of these is available in the form of home-use products or salon treatments.
Mechanical (exfoliating particles like salt and sugar)
This is the best way to start exfoliating, says Saibil. Perhaps the most common for home use, a mechanical exfoliator contains beads or exfoliating particles, which are applied in a circular motion to physically rub off the dead skin. Best for younger complexions, this type of exfoliation doesn’t go as deep as other forms and you can control how abrasive it is.
At-home fix: Wash your face with a warm, damp flannel wash cloth or soft sponge. Added bonus: the warm water also opens pores.
Salon treatment: Microdermabrasion, the blasting off of dead skin cells using crystals.
Chemicals (alpha-hydroxy acids or AHAs found in fruits or Beta hydroxys which are better for oily skin)
Acids can be found in many home-use exfoliating products and are used to loosen and dissolve the cells. They sink into the skin and target lower layers so are more powerful exfoliators than mechanical ones.
At-home fix: Lemon juice, products like vitamin C serums
Salon treatment: Chemical peel, the applying of a more concentrated chemical mask which treats lower layers of the epidermis, and can cause skin to blister and lift off.
Enzymes (for example papaya or pineapple, that gently break down dead cells)
Enzymes dissolve the dead skin cells without any rubbing so they’re suitable for people with rosacea and sensitive skin.
At-home fix: Products include masks, cleansers, powders and wipes.
Salon treatment: Enzyme mask.