Professional exfoliation, followed by at-home care, is key in maintaining healthy, radiant skin. While it's important to not over-exfoliate--which could lead to a chronically red, irritated complexion--proper application of this technique can be the difference between a dull skin tone and a fresh glow.
The exfoliation process involves gently sloughing off the outer layers of dead skin cells with the use of an abrasive tool--such as a loofah sponge or brush--and/or a coarse product, such as a skin cleanser containing sea salt or ground nut shells.
By removing dead skin cells, which can block pores and cause blemishes, the exfoliation process leaves the skin healthier and more vibrant while allowing other products, like moisturizers and serums, to penetrate more effectively. Any area can be exfoliated, including the face, neck, chest, back, arms, or legs, but it is important to always use products intended for your skin type.
There are three ways to exfoliate:
1) Using a tool that scrubs, like a loofah, or washcloth;
2) Using a product containing abrasive particles, like a walnut facial scrub;
3) Using a product that contains gentle exfoliating acids, like alpha-hydroxy, beta-hydroxy, or salicylic acids.
The first two options require rubbing action on the skin. The third does not; instead, the product removes the outer layers of skin by reacting chemically with dead skin cells.
"Going to the spa and getting a great exfoliation is the easiest way to kick start healthy skin," says Mary Blackmon, founder of Spa-addicts.com. Professional exfoliation, including microdermabrasion and chemical peels, is often more intensive than at-home treatments. After a professional session, explains Blackmon, you can follow up with exfoliating treatments at home using a tailored product specifically for you, as recommended by your esthetician.
At-Home ExfoliationExfoliating can be a great home care tool for maintaining the results you experience after spa treatments. For instance, if you exfoliate regularly after a waxing session, you will be less likely to experience ingrown hairs and blackheads on the waxed area.
If you and your esthetician have determined at-home exfoliation should be part of your skin care plan, following a few simple steps will increase the efficacy.
When exfoliating your face, use products specifically designed for this purpose. "Be gentle with your face, especially around the delicate eye area," says Blackmon. "Make sure to use products that are specific to the area of your body that you are exfoliating." Products intended for the body are often too harsh and abrasive for your face, where they could cause irritation, rashes, and/or breakouts.
Exfoliation can dry out the skin, which can cause wrinkles over time. Consequently, if you exfoliate regularly, moisturizing is important. And don't over-exfoliate, Blackmon says. "Twice weekly should be ample."
Your exfoliation needs will vary depending on your age and the climate in which you live. For instance, warm weather can cause sebaceous glands to overproduce, which can lead to the accumulation of even more dead cells. Also, older skin may require less exfoliation since it's dryer and more delicate. Consult your skin care practitioner to determine the best course of action.
When exfoliating at home, use the following guidelines for best results:
1) Moisten your skin. Otherwise, you are likely to irritate the skin and the treatment will not be as effective.
2) Apply an exfoliating cleanser to your skin or squeeze some into your loofah. If exfoliating delicate areas, like your face and neck, simply pour the cleanser into your hands. Make sure to use a cleanser that is suited to your skin type, and is not too abrasive.
3) Scrub the exfoliating cleanser over your skin using a circular motion.
4) Use a sponge, exfoliating gloves, or loofah for more resilient skin, like that found on the arms, back, and legs.
5) Rinse skin completely.
6) Follow with a moisturizer designed for your skin type.
If exfoliation is not done properly, you could end up with dry, irritated skin. Consequently, it is important to trust the expert--your skin care professional --and follow her/his recommendations on what's right for your skin type.
Oftentimes, professional exfoliating treatments, followed with proper home care, can put you on the path toward healthy skin. Work with your esthetician to determine your best course of treatment.
"The number one desire of all estheticians is to help you face the world with confidence and pride in the way you appear in public," says Alison O'Neil Andrew, an Atlanta-based esthetician. Your skin care professional will help you find the products right for you, and it's your job to communicate with your practitioner your skin care goals, what's working, and what isn't.