What are the health downsides of doing frequent facial skin exfoliation?
Exfoliating the skin is beneficial as a rejuvenating treatment (we'll talk about the downsides below). This is what rejuvenation with retinoids, chemical peels and laser peels is based on.
Essentially exfoliating removes a small portion of the very top of the epidermis (stratum corneum). That makes the skin react as if it is wounded, which speeds up the epidermal cell turnover and increases collagen production in the dermis.
For a number of acne products, part of their function is desquamation or exfoliation of the skin. Among their other actions, products such as sulfur, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and retinoids (like the prescription adapalene, tretinoin and tazarotene and the over-the-counter retinol) help open up pores, which treats and even prevents acne breakouts.
That is all pretty great, now for the "however." The stratum corneum is what protects the skin from drying out by forming a water-resistant layer made of keratinocytes and certain oils and waxes. The stratum corneum can also bind water and increase hydration, as seen in wrinkling of the fingertips when in water for a prolonged time. So with frequent exfoliating, skin loses moisture, becomes more dry and lackluster.
Stratum corneum is also a protective layer that prevents irritants and microorganisms from getting through to the skin. So exfoliating makes the skin more susceptible to irritation and possibly even infection.
Exfoliating also irritates sensitive skin and can cause flares of rosacea.
Finally, I think that if you do it gently, once a week exfoliating followed by a gentle oil-free, non-comedogenic moisturizer made for sensitive skin is fine as long as it doesn't irritate your skin.
Is skin exfoliation (body) recommended?
The skin actually exfoliates every 40-42 days. It completely turns over.
Exfoliation helps to push the process faster, for instance when one wants to repair wrinkles and stimulate collagen. But it is not essential to do so.
How do you exfoliate your skin?
In Korean spas they are known for their body scrub/exfoliation treatments. They will use a exfoliating scrubbing mitt found at most Asian grocery stores in the Beaty isle. It's cheap and basic looking, but works like a charm. Then they wet your body with water and get your skin soft. Then after you skin is half wet/dry they start to scrub with soap and your layers come flying off. If you do this at home I recommend you use your regular soap or gel and gently clean your body. Rinse with hot water and get the shower nice and steamy. Get out from under the direct line of water and get the shower hit and full of steam. Stay there u til you are getting half dry and let the steam make your skin soft then use te scrubbing mitt dry. It's incredible!
Is it normal for my skin to exfoliate in a hot bath/shower?
It's not "normal" - unless you are using an exfoliating product on your skin. If you feel your skin is exfoliating in the shower, your water temperature may be too hot. Most likely your skin is moist which will help release a few dead skin cells from the top most layer of your skin.
Depending on your skin type, you can exfoliate anytime from daily to 3 times a week to keep your skin healthy.
What's the difference between moisturizing and exfoliating the skin?
Basically exfoliating is the removing of dead skin cells on the outer layer of skin to create a smooth appearance. It increases the cell renewal rate. It is important to exfoliate because old skin cells can clog pores and pose more skin problems.
Exfoliation can be achieved through chemical or mechanical means. Mechanical exfoliation involves physically scrubbing the skin using microbeads, salts, cloth etc. Chemical exfoliation involves applying products that contain ingredients such as glycolic acid, salicylic acid, lipo-hydroxyl acid, mandelic acid, fruit enzymes on skin. Salicylic acid would be a good choice to treat acne (through exfoliation).
Moisturization slows down the water loss from skin and therefore maintaining hydration, and improving the appearance of dry and aging skin.
There are a few types of effective moisturizers - occlusive, humectants, emollient and protein rejuvenators.
Occlusive like silicons, petrolatum, mineral oil can inhibit transepidermal water loss (TEWL) to prevent the dehydration of the inner layer of skin.
Humectants like trehalose and glycerin have water-binding properties (by forming hydrogen bonds with water molecules). Humectants attract water when applied to the skin and theoretically improve hydration of the stratum corneum. However, the water that is drawn to the skin is trans-epidermal water, not atmospheric water.
Emollients like squalene, cholesterol smooth skin by filling spaces between skin flakes with droplets of oil, and are not usually occlusive. They may help hold oil and water.
Protein Rejuvenators have proteins like collagen and elastin. However these are large protein molecules. We can't replenish these proteins through applying them. They are mere expensive humectants.
Can dry skin use creamy exfoliators?
I would recommend a combination of the 2. Yes, even though your skin is dry you still need to exfoliate (about 2 times per week should do it). You'll also want to use a very hydrating serum and moisturizer. Key ingredients to look for are hyaluronic acid, which penetrates deeper into the skin, locking in water molecules. Rosehip oil, which is rich and helps reduce any scaring, and green tea extract for anti-inflammatory purposes. Now serums penetrate deeper into the skin and should be applied before your moisturizer. If you'd like I can recommend some great ones to help combat your dry skin! Hope this helps :)
Is baking soda bad for your skin if used as an exfoliator?
Using baking soda is very bad for your skin. It is far too alkaline. Your skin naturally has a pH level of around 5.5, making it slightly acidic. Your skin is slightly acidic in order to protect itself from viral infections and bacterial infections. The top layer of your epidermis is called the moisture barrier, and this keeps your skin supple and moisturized. The moisture barrier is protected by a thin film called the acid mantle. When you use products, like baking soda, which has a pH level of around 8.3, your skin becomes too alkaline, and its natural acid mantle and moisture barrier are damaged.
While you may not experience any issues after using baking soda three or four times, after prolonged use you will experience a great deal of damage. You will experience symptoms like:
- Dull complexion
Eventually, after prolonged use of products that are too alkaline, like bar soaps and baking soda, you could cause permanent damage to your skin’s moisture barrier. When this happens, your skin loses its ability to retain moisture.
I would strongly advise against using baking soda. Aside from the long-term damage it will do to your skin, baking soda doesn’t even have the propensity to exfoliate your skin.
To exfoliate efficiently use either a warm wash cloth with a mild cleanser, and gently exfoliate your face, or use a chemical exfoliant. Good chemical exfoliants, are alpha hydroxy acids, like glycolic acid or lactic acid or beta hydroxy acid, which is also known as salicylic acid, both of which are naturally occurring.