Shedding light on the benefits of shedding (some skin cells)
If you’ve been reading our blog stories, you’re probably familiar by now with the many changes that happen to your skin as your hormone estrogen levels decrease during peri-menopause and beyond. You may have noticed that your complexion isn’t as radiant as it once was. Because as estrogen levels decline, your skin can start to look dull and crepey. You might even have noticed the onset of some adult acne breakouts. Say what? Dull skin, wrinkles, and acne all at the same time? How is that even fair?
Ok, it’s not fair. But there’s help. As you enter peri-menopause your skin cell turnover rate (called desquamation) slows down. When you’re young, these cells turn over about every 28 days, exposing a layer of fresh cells underneath. As you age and this shedding process increasingly slows, you begin to see dry patches and an uneven skin texture. Sometimes, when the dead cells don’t shed completely, they can clog your pores, leading to adult acne breakouts.
Here’s where the benefits of exfoliation come in. Exfoliating is the process of removing dead cells from the surface of your skin using a granular or chemical substance, or an exfoliation tool. Basically, you’re just taking over the job your body used to do on its own. Exfoliating can improve the appearance of your skin in several ways. First, removing the dead cells on the surface will leave your complexion looking brighter as you reveal the fresh cells underneath. Second, with the dead surface cells gone, your moisturizers and treatment products can penetrate better. Finally, exfoliating regularly (a few times a week or more) can help prevent clogged pores, resulting in fewer breakouts.
So you’re ready to become an exfoliation expert? You’ll want to choose either a physical or a chemical exfoliant. Physical (or manual) exfoliants are the most common; they work by mechanically sloughing off the dead cells. They include a granular cleanser (like a sugar scrub), a sonic brush, and microdermabrasion, as well as a plain old washcloth. You can use a physical exfoliant every day, but be sure to be gentle. More is not necessarily better, because you don’t want to strip the skin of necessary fats and oils, which can lead to redness and irritation.
Chemical exfoliants can be milder than scrubs. They work by gently dissolving the 'glue' that holds dead cells to the skin’s surface. This allows the dead cells to fall off, revealing the brighter skin underneath. A cleanser containing beta-hydroxy acid (salicylic acid) works this way, as do lotions or pads containing alpha-hydroxy acids like glycolic, lactic, or citric acid.
There’s no better way to get the most out of your serums and creams than to apply them to freshly exfoliated skin. Add this step to your routine today and you’ll see a brighter complexion tomorrow!