Fall Rejuvenation? Exfoliation!

We have returned from our vacations and the children are back to school. Yes, summer is over! It's time to put away swimsuits and put on dressier clothing for the more formal events of fall. And now that the suntan is fading, it's also time to refresh your skin's glow for the new season through a process called exfoliation.

Exfoliation—superficial skin peeling—is a safe and proven method for removing layers of dead cells to improve appearance and slow down the aging process. Since the time of Cleopatra bathing in milk and wine, this practice has moved from royalty to mainstream consumers. Signs that your skin might need exfoliation are:

  • dull appearance, no life or glow
  • surface of the skin looks dry and dehydrated
  • skin feels thick and rough to the touch
  • blemish marks from recent breakouts
  • more wrinkles than usual

There are a variety of techniques and products used for exfoliation, but the two main categories of peels are mechanical (scrubs and microdermabrasion) and chemical (acids and enzymes). The mechanical peels can be as simple as scrubbing the skin with a washcloth, as thorough as a body rejuvenation treatment at the salon, or as high-tech as micro-dermabrasion equipment.

The relatively harsh ingredients used for decades in chemical peels have now been replaced by gentler fruit acids, AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) and enzymes. For chemical peels, the relatively harsh ingredients used for decades have been replaced by gentler fruit acids, AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) and enzymes. Here is a list of some of the most common acids and enzymes used as ingredients in exfoliant products:

AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acids):

Glycolic Acid – Derived from sugar cane and easily absorbed, it is excellent for acne or oily skin and promotes cell regeneration. Not recommended for very sensitive and dry skin.

L-Lactic Acid – Derived from milk and hydrating, it promotes cell regeneration and supports cell turnover. Friendlier for dry skin.

Malic Acid – Derived from apple, it helps firm and tone, while providing antioxidants to the skin.

L-Tartaric Acid – Derived from grape, it is toning and rich in antioxidants.

Citric Acid – Derived from citrus, it is antiseptic, has antioxidants and supports capillaries.

Salicylic Acid / Beta Acid – Derived from wintergreen and birch bark, it is an antiseptic, drying and promotes peeling, while supplying antioxidants. Normally used for acne or oily skin.

L-Retinol Acid – Chemically related to Retinoic Acid, it similarly supports and improves the skin, without incurring the photosensitivity and side effects of Retin-A.

Enzymes:

Papain – Derived from the Papaya fruit, it softens keratin and removes dead skin cells. Safe for sensitive skin.

Pumpkin – It has high concentrations of vitamin A, Beta Carotene, Zinc and Salicylic Acid, important antioxidants, and it also promotes healing.

Bromelain – Extracted from the Pineapple fruit, it smoothes and polishes the skin and promotes cellular regeneration.

Professional products designed for salon peels typically have higher concentrations of active ingredients than those sold for home use. In fact, some of the home product formulas are too weak to produce any significant results. Whether at home or at a salon, the best results will be obtained by following professional guidelines, proper technique, careful pre- and post-care, and selecting products with the right ingredients.

Before trying either a mechanical or a chemical peel, consider the following list of contraindications that suggest your skin might not be ready for exfoliation:

  • recent burns
  • many capillaries visible (skin is thin)
  • skin feels more sensitive than normal
  • planning activities with greater sun exposure
  • very delicate, sensitive skin

If your skin tends to be sensitive, always try a patch test before using a new product. And after any exfoliation treatment, your beautiful new skin will be more vulnerable to environmental factors including the sun's UV rays. So, remember to apply protection! Conscientious, daily use of a sunblock and moisturizer is an absolute must following a peel.

  Mary Thé 

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