How exfoliation helps your skin maintain a healthy cell lifecycle

What is exfoliation? | Types of popular exfoliators | How to pick an exfoliator?Tips to exfoliate properly | The benefits

Exfoliating body polish spread on a plain surface  

Cell turnover is a natural process that goes on in our bodies in which new cells are replacing old cells all the time. The skin is no different. Its outermost layer called the epidermis undergoes a complete cycle of renewal every ~28-60 days. New cells born in its deepest layer, mature, and rise up to the surface to be eventually shed off. The natural ability of the skin to keep this cycle going can get affected by both internal factors such as genetics, hormones or age and external factors such as pollution, diet or exercise habits. While it may not be possible to control all these aspects, exfoliation can definitely help assist the skin topically in doing a better job of maintaining a healthy cell turnover cycle. 


So what is exfoliation?

It is the use of an external physical or chemical agent to remove skin cells that don't shed off on their own. In absence of proper exfoliation, this deposit of worn out cells can result in dry patchy skin or clogged pores or even breakouts. Physical exfoliants have been in use much longer due to their simpler nature and easy availability. Their wide variety ranges from granular substances such as scrubs and polishes to tools such as loofahs and pumice stones. 


Types of physical exfoliants

Amongst the natural options, the more robust kind include coffee grounds and nutshell powders like apricot or walnut. They can be used comfortably to slough feet and ankles and also the body if the grains are not too rough but should be used with caution on face to avoid any micro tearing of the delicate facial skin from harsh granules. More gentler options include jojoba beads, flower powders, rice powder, sugar, salt and oatmeal to name a few. With so many sustainable options to pick from, avoid picking products with synthetic micro-beads often found in face washes and body washes. These plastic beads are a major cause of water pollution at present and threatening aquatic life in both freshwater bodies and oceans.  


What to consider before choosing an exfoliator - 

The body part. There is a reason different exfoliators are available for face, body, lips, scalp and feet. They tend to the nature of skin for the particular body part so that the exfoliation happens safely and effectively. 

The skin type. Is it normal, oily or dry? The frequency of exfoliation required for oily skin is usually more than dry skin. Arrive at a routine for yourself with such nuances considered to not over-exfoliate or under-exfoliate under ignorance.

The season. While exfoliation is required throughout the year, you can switch to a formulation or change frequency of use more suitable to the season. For example, rich and moisturising body polishes can be more frequently used in winters. 

Any specific skin concern. If you have any medical concerns such as eczema, psoriasis, heavy acne etc., you should go for exfoliation only in consultation with a doctor so as to avoid any risk of aggravating the existing condition or interfere with its ongoing treatment if any. 

Check on the key exfoliating ingredient. If you have any doubts about its safety and suitability to you, consult a dermatologist. Remember that just because an ingredient is natural, doesn't make it foolproof. How it has been processed, what is its function and your own experience with it, will all count in the vote of confidence for it. 


How to exfoliate the right way - 

Be gentle. When exfoliating, don't rub or press too hard or too aggressively. Over exfoliation doesn't do the job better but rather can cause inflammation and tearing of delicate skin tissue potentially.  

Cleanse before exfoliation. Exfoliator should always be applied with clean hands on cleaned body parts to avoid the risk of any potential infections. 

Moisturise after. To help heal the skin, calm down any burning sensations and replenish the essential moisture loss. 

Use one product at a time. A few weeks of regular use will help you clearly identify if a product works for you and how well a job is it doing of it. Give time and room to your skin and listen to what it says. 

Exfoliate regularly but not daily. Two to three times a week is recommended in general or it can even be a once a week routine if that's what feels better to your skin. Exceeding this frequency will not be a good idea as the skin needs time to recover from all the action. 

Switch over time. With so many great options to try, we won't ask you to just stick to one type of exfoliator always. Rotate between your favourites and keep updating your repertoire as the needs of your skin will update too. Just try to not mix them up too much and too soon as mentioned earlier as well. 


Benefits of proper exfoliation should result in skin that - 

  • Feels soft and smooth to touch
  • Appears clean & fresh (in case a cleansing exfoliator has been used)
  • Brings out a natural shine (in case a moisturising exfoliator has been used)
  • Has makeup spreading smoothly, evenly and easily
  • Sees a reduction of ingrown hair 

Last but not the least, spending time in the shower conducting a slow, full body exfoliation can be therapeutic to the mind as well, allowing it to slow down and drift into a relaxed space during this intimate self care practice.