What you need to know about exfoliation. 

Hey people, 

Did you enjoy making your very own body scrub? I know I did, almost as much as I enjoyed using it :p. As promised, here goes my post on exfoliation. 

Skin renewal cycle. 

So we all know the skin renews itself every month or so, on average. It is made up of several layers of specialized cells with varying functions, that work together to maintain the internal environment. The innermost layer of the epidermis is the basal layer that attaches the epidermis to the dermis and is made up of connective tissue (look at the image to understand this). The basal layer also contains stem cells which allow for continuous proliferation of keratinocytes. These keratinocytes migrate up the various layers as time goes on and as new keratinocytes are produced in lower layers, until they reach top layers. By this time, the cells have become flattened, and fully differentiated corneocytes, with no organ else’s (practically dead). These are then subject to desquamation (sloughing off). 

Image from WebMD.
The basal layer is the bottom part of the epidermis. The blue line.

So what exactly is exfoliation? Now that we have a general idea of the cycle,  we can see that the newer skin cells are just below the surface and this is where exfoliation comes in. Exfoliation helps to expose this newer, hydrated, brighter layer, as we rid ourselves of old skin. I have come to find this to be one of the crucial steps in skin care, because without it many of our awesome ingredients found in our creams and potions may not work as they should. The dead skin can fall off on their own but sometimes, for many reasons (like poor skin hydration, genetics, inflammation, etc), it doesn’t always work out evenly. It is important to note though, that there is such a thing as too much exfoliation, so it has to be done carefully and correctly. 

So how do we go about it? 

Chocolate body scrub by The Naija Formulator.

There are two ways to exfoliate –  physical and chemical methods. The physical method involves scrubbing the skin using a loofah or brush, body scrubs, microdermabrasion and the likes, while chemical exfoliation requires the use of chemical exfoliants like AHAs and BHAs (alpha and beta hydroxy acids). 

How to exfoliate appropriately

I used to scrub so hard and I’m sure a lot of you can relate, but one day, I had the ‘aha moment’. If you are trying to take off only the dead cells on the surface, we need not rub too hard (the layer is really thin). In my opinion, it is more effective to scrub lightly but using circular motions in both directions. Just think of it, picture it in your mind. Scrubbing hard can cause tears especially when using abrasive exfoliants. Uneven exposure of skin in the lower layers can also occur, creating a patchy look.

When using chemical exfoliation methods, starting at low concentration is key. It is better have a low concentration left on for a longer time, than high concentration left on for only a few seconds. It is also worth building up tolerance, if you are new to it. It is important too, to completely remove the acid from the skin to avoid burns. 

Both methods can be used effectively but only when used with caution. It is not advised to use abrasive scrubs on sensitive facial skin, so I prefer to use an exfoliating facial wash or toner. The body is a bit more tolerant but it is still important to proceed with the utmost caution. 

That’s it! I hope you learned a thing or two, people. Go forth and enjoy your creations (or purchases)! 


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