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Woman washing her face

The Magic of Exfoliation

Lisa Petty
This content originally appeared on 

If your skin is looking dry and dull, it might be time to freshen up your skin care routine.

Despite how it might feel, what you see in the mirror didn't happen overnight: The skin cycle takes approximately two weeks when we are young, but slows to a month or more as we age. And it's not simply a cosmetic issue: skin purges toxins from the body, and if pores are clogged with dirt and oil, impurities could be trapped. The process of exfoliation helps to remove dead cells from the surface of the skin, exposing your healthy glow.

Get Your Glow On

There are two basic methods of exfoliation. Mechanical exfoliation involves using something abrasive like a facial scrub to remove dead cells. Look for one containing tiny granules of crushed walnut, ground almond, or oatmeal. Try to find products that contain beneficial essential oils: passion flower and black currant help to firm skin. Likewise, you remove dead body skin cells when you use your loofah in the shower or bath. For a gentle daily facial exfoliation, clean your face nightly with a cotton washcloth and warm water.

Chemical exfoliation, on the other hand, takes advantage of topical ingredients to help remove dead cells. Although the name sounds frightening, chemical exfoliations often use vitamins to achieve their effect. Vitamin C, for example, promotes cell generation, while vitamin B3 helps to speed up epidermal turnover.

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) are naturally occurring acids found in fruits and vegetables and milk. Many AHA products are derived from milk, citrus fruits, apples, grapes, or sugar cane. They work to normalize cell renewal and encourage the formation of healthy skin by peeling away the dead cells. AHA products may also reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

For sensitive skin, try beta hydroxy acids (BHA) instead. Derived from berries, papaya, pineapple, willow tree bark or wintergreen leaves, BHA works by digesting the bonds that attach dead skin cells to live ones. BHA smoothes skin while clearing away dirt and oils that can clog pores, and can help prevent acne eruptions. 

Some final caveats: do not combine chemical and mechanical exfoliation during your at-home facial or you could damage your skin. Remember, exfoliation can't turn back time: Exfoliate no more than once a week for dry and sensitive skin, and up to three times a week for oily skin.