Scrubbing A-Z + Things You Didn't Know About Exfoliation
Let's Talk About Exfoliation
Let’s talk about exfoliation. I’ve not been around the beauty & makeup scene for real long but I’ve heard most misconceptions in this topic only, which made me write the ultimate #blogpost on this subject to finally clear all the doubts regarding the same.
Although used synonymously by some, exfoliation & scrubbing have subtle differences. Scrubbing is a kind of exfoliation while exfoliation is not all about scrubbing because it can be achieved in various ways. Scrubbing exfoliates the skin mechanically but exfoliation can be done by both techniques: mechanically & chemically.
Scrubbing is literally mechanical exfoliation. By definition, scrubbing refers to the technique in which coarse particles are rubbed against the skin to mobilize the dead cells on the upper layer of the skin, called the stratum corneum of the epidermis to reveal fresh inner skin. But scrubbing, is a very superficial procedure, whereas exfoliation by other means like using chemicals can be real deep, sometimes upto dermis (inner layer).
Here, atleast now; by scrubbing I mean exfoliation of the rather softer skin on our body like face & arms (sometimes neck) but not beyond that because body scrubbing is a wholly different subject which I don’t think I’ll be able to cover in a single post & maybe in future, we’ll talk about this.
But for now let’s concentrate on scrubbing only face, neck & arms. Our most queries are regarding these soft parts only.
Let’s discuss the matter in full detail:
· Is exfoliation good for skin? If so, why is scrubbing or exfoliation good?
èScrubbing is the procedure of mobilizing cells (mostly dead & damaged cells along with dirt accumulated on the upper part of the skin) from stratum corneum to reveal fresher, clean skin underneath & also to encourage cell turn over which seems to slow down as the skin ages.
Usually due to telomere shortening with each cell cycle, as we age, the cell renewal process slows down naturally. We cannot stop that but we can conquer the external influences on the turn over rate like sun damage, free radical damage etc. This turn over rate is about 30 days (in 30 days, the whole upper layer of skin is renewed).
Exfoliation, by mobilizing the cell layer by itself, forces the skin to shorten the period of renewal which hugely benefits ageing skin as well as damaged young skin & exfoliation on a regular interval is good for all ages, any skin type to keep up the overall good health of skin.
Scrubbing on the other hand is a milder version of exfoliation process, can be done more frequently than other procedures & upon regular practice also naturally gives you brighter complexion & spotless skin.
· How often should the skin be exfoliated?
èDepends mainly on the procedure you’re employing & on how deep it penetrates. If you’re more inclined towards chemexfoliation or chemical procedures like chemical peels, then once in a month should suffice, even if its lighter peels like Salicylic Acid/Glycolic Acid Peels rather than deeper ones like TCA.
Phenol peel, if you must exercise should be done only once in a lifetime, under the guidance of a professional because of the risks it involves.
TCA peel can be safely done once a month.
Other popular chemexfoliation procedures are application of Alpha Hydroxy Acid (Glycolic Acid) or Beta Hydroxy Acid (Salicylic Acid) or topical Retinoid (Adapalene, Tazarotene, Tretinoin) based creams on a regular basis, usually at night.
Scrubbing, on the other hand depends on the kind of scrubs you’re using.
If you’re looking for a professional microdermabrasion, doing so once a month should give you optimum results provided you’re not using any other chemexfoliation methods along with it or it may inflame your skin.
But homemade DIY scrubs (or those similar to homemade ones found in the market) can be used more often. Oily skinned people can use them more frequently than others with dry/normal skin.
People with sensitive skin are advised to exercise caution even with homemade scrubs & limit it for using only once a week & applying moisturizer thereafter is mandatory.
· Can scrubbing cause acne?
But yes scrubbing or overexfoliating can sometimes inflame the skin so much that the skin immunity as well as it’s principal job of acting as a barrier can be compromised which may pave the way for bacterial infection including those like acne vulgaris.
But usually it does not if proper way is employed while scrubbing & adequate care is taken thereafter.
Superficial exfoliation like using homemade scrubs doesn’t demand much but a suitable moisturizer should do; but deeper the exfoliation, greater the downtime is as well as greater care shall be taken afterwards. Like with chemical peels, some are suggested to apply anti bacterial ointments or those using topical keratolytes like glycolic/salicylic acid/retinoid based creams are suggested not to scrub etc.
· Can exfoliation or simple scrubbing remove acne scars?
èIndeed. But as I said, deeper (read more aggressive) the procedure is, better it works but count the risks in.
Usually, it is chemexfoliation procedure that is clinically employed to remove acne scars whether as topical ointments or with chemical peeling because they work really well.
But homemade scrubs can also help albeit at a much, much slower rate.
But let me warn you, these (or any) procedure would only work if you strictly follow sun protection rules like applying sunscreen frequently & cover the affected area with protective clothing.
· Can scrubbing /exfoliation make acne worse?
èYes & No both.
Scrubbing or mechanical exfoliation can not only make acne worse but also inflame your already inflamed skin, predisposing it to nasty acne scars or post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. So, it is best if you keep those baking soda/sugar scrubs away from your acne ridden skin.
But at the same time, chemical exfoliation heals acne. Chemical exfoliation or chemexfoliation refers to consistent application of AHA (Glycolic Acid), BHA (Salicylic Acid) or Retinoid (Tretinoin/Adapalene) based ointments on the affected area which heals acne fast by its innate keratolytic action. It discovers & destroys the comedones on the way during keratolysis.
So, this is indeed a paradoxical situation.
I have planned this article to cover the subject in two installments & in this, the first installment I have answered common questions regarding exfoliation & scrubbing like those above & in the next, I’d cover DIY homemade scrub recipes for use in face & body.
So stay tuned for more.
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Thank you for reading.