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By Cynthia Bailey MD.

Facial exfoliating products brighten skin to create a more youthful and dewier complexion.

Skin exfoliants remove dull dead cells in the top layer of your skin called the stratum corneum.

The stratum corneum layer of your skin has a brick and mortar like structure. Dead keratin protein filled cells are stacked in a lipid mortar. With age and sun damage this structure does not slough off with the same efficiency that it did in youth. This is one of the reasons that a complexion becomes duller with age. Exfoliation can reverse that.

How do skin exfoliating products work

Exfoliating products work in 2 ways:

  1. They can physically scrub off dead cells.
  2. They can use chemistry to loosen the ‘glue’ that holds the dead keratin filled cells together. Chemical exfoliating ingredients are called keratolytics.

Often chemistry exfoliation also helps the brick and mortar structure to become more compact, effectively creating a more youthful sheen to your complexion too. All chemical exfoliants are irritating and the key to using them successfully is to know your skin’s sensitivity and not go beyond its limits to the point where you have created irritation.

What are the best skin exfoliating products?

Physical exfoliation can be done with scrubs (such as my Bamboo and Clay Thermal Exfoliating Scrub) or a Facial Exfoliating Sponge.

Chemical exfoliation is done with alpha hydroxy acids (Glycolic Acid Wash, Lotion, Cream), beta hydroxy acids (salicylic acid as in my Acne Kit products and Triple Action Exfoliating Scrub which contains AHA/BHA and physical exfoliating beads), and retinoids ( such as my Retinol Night Cream and Advanced Corrective Eye Cream).

Tolerant complexions may be able to use a combination of these products. Sensitive skin, such as people suffering from facial rosacea, seborrhea or eczema, often do best with very gentle physical exfoliation. This is because in these conditions skin barrier integrity is too porous allowing the chemical exfoliants to penetrate skin too readily and lead to irritation.

Right after using a physical exfoliating product your skin may be more sensitive and absorb more of the next product applied. I always recommend to patients that after physically exfoliating, apply a soothing product such as my Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy, Instantly Luminous Multi-Action Serum or one of my Daily Face Creams.

Exfoliation is a great way to brighten your skin’s appearance to a dewier and more youthful look. It does require that you start gently and pay attention to how your skin tolerates products. Most people find a nice balance and get great benefits from exfoliation.