One often hears that a life goal we should strive to achieve is to "be comfortable in the skin you're in". But what is the solution if you are experiencing skin problems? Walking down the skin care aisle of the drug store can be overwhelming. With new pricey creams and serums popping up every day touting the benefits of peptides and sophisticated antioxidants, it can be hard to know what to choose.
There is one classic skin care remedy that can do wonders for skin and is often overlooked — exfoliation, according to dermatologist Dr. Mary P. Lupo, Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine. As Lupo puts it, "It's the dermatologist's equivalent to the basic black dress."
Exfoliation works by removing the outermost layer of dead skin cells. Not only does this immediately leave your skin looking brighter and healthier, but according to Lupo, it also helps "improve the penetration of topical active ingredients." That means it makes all those fancy face creams more effective by allowing them to penetrate deeper into the skin's surface.
There are three big categories of exfoliators, all of which you can get at your local pharmacy. The type that works best for your skin type and needs is your obvious best choice. Sometimes you will only discover which is the best type for you through the "trial by error" method.
Chemical peels, mostly in the form of acids like glycolic and salicylic acid, tend to be the strongest and work by encouraging the superficial layer of skin to blister and peel off. Enzymatic peels, like bromelain extract from pineapples, contain natural compounds that dissolve proteins and gently encourage an acceleration of the skins natural exfoliation process. And finally mechanical exfoliation—in the form of facial brushes or scrubs—uses friction to slough off dead skin cells.
While exfoliation can smooth and brighten skin, not every type is right for everyone. In certain cases, it can do more harm than good. How often you can exfoliate depends on both on your skin type and the strength of your treatment method. Those with oily, hearty skin can probably get away with daily exfoliation, while sensitive skins types should stick to no more than a few times per week.