If you’re like me and you like a bit of self-pampering, you’re probably used to exfoliating your skin once or twice a week. Some people do it before applying a mask, some people do it randomly, and most people use abrasive scrubs. In the past couple of years however, there has been quite a fuss about chemical exfoliation. I thought I’d write a post about the difference between using a manual exfoliator and a chemical one, just to make kind of an ‘overview’…
Let’s start with the basics: what is exfoliation and why is it so important? Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells. Our skin exists out of three layers: the epidermis, the dermis and the subcutaneous layer. The epidermis however, als consist out of five tiny layers. The bottom layer of the epidermis, the stratum basale, gets oxygen and ‘food’ from the dermis, which means the cells that live in there are alive. The more you go up, the more cells die, which means that the top layer of the epidermis called the stratum corneum, consists out of cornified and dead skin cells. These cells need to be removed in order to stimulate the underlying skin layers to create new skin cells more rapidly. This means brighter, smoother and clearer skin, but it also allows products applied after the exfoliation to penetrate more deeply thus becoming more effective.
There are two ways to exfoliate: manual and chemical. Manual exfoliation is the most common, simply because it has been around for so long and people are used to using abrasive scrubs. When manually exfoliation, a product containing a grainy substance is used to remove the dead skin cells. The cells get literally ‘polished off’ the skin, revealing softer and brighter looking skin afterwards. The grains used in these products can be natural of plastic and can sometimes feel scratching or irritating.
Chemical exfoliation is a little bit more complicated though. Chemical exfoliants can exist in the form of toners, serums or moisturisers and use mostly enzymes or alpha hydroxy acids (AHA). These chemical exfoliants can penetrate the skin deeper than manual ones; how depper it penetrates the skin and thus affects more layers of the skin, the more rapid the cell renewal takes place. There are very strong chemical exfoliants, which can only be used around once a week, but there are also less strong exfoliants which can be used everyday or even twice a day.
So here’s the overview: manual exfoliants only remove the top layer of the skin, whilst chemical exfoliants penetrate the skin deeper. I wouldn’t recommend using a manual exfoliant when you suffer from active acne, as it can spread the bacteria and cause even more acne. In this case, chemical exfoliants are way more effective and can even help clear up the acne. With chemical exfoliants, the skin cells get dissolved and you don’t have to scratch and irritate the skin. After all, it’s up to you what you prefer and one isn’t necessarily better than the other. One last thing: it doesn’t matter what form of exfoliation you use, but you do really need to wear sunscreen the day after you exfoliate!