Exfoliation: how much is enough?

Most of us exfoliate because…well, we heard we should, right?
But did you know exfoliation can cause untold harm to your skin?

Let’s unpack the science.
Skin grows from the bottom up. New skin cells are made regularly, nice, fat juicy plump cells if you’re healthy, not so juicy ones if you’re not.
They grow UP towards the outside of your body, slowly leaking their contents, till they reach the top layers.
What started off as the juice inside the cell, ends up as the glue that binds your skin together in the top layers.

Years of marketing has taught us that these top layers are ‘dead’. We have all heard someone say ‘to remove the dead skin on the surface’.
But did you know, a skin cell never actually dies? Until the moment it falls off your body naturally, those surface cells are performing vital functions which cannot be underestimated.

For a start, they are literally what holds you together.
That upper layer keeps the world out, and your moisture in.

When your skin is finished with those cells, they simply fall off.

The need for an intervention - exfoliation - only comes if the cells don’t fall off in a timely manner.
This is what we see in acne skin, where a person produces many times more cells than it should, leading to a lot of clutter at the surface, blocking up pores and creating sealed caves out of the pores, which bacteria then hide in.
It’s also what happens as we age and the rate of natural fall-off slows right down, leaving skin looking quite dull.

It’s tempting to grab a scrub and simply buff away these dull cells, revealing a smoother skin surface beneath. And that’s great…. so long as your skin has got enough cells to lose.

How do you know if you have enough to lose?
These are tell-tale signs that your skin should NOT be exfoliated with a scrub

  • If you have active acne.

    Pustules should never be abraded, they will simply break, and you’ll be left with inflamed skin that is slower to heal. Deeper, more tender blemishes are normally nothing to do with exfoliation and actual need things like retinol to regulate the hormonal aspect of the pimple.
    Natasha recommends adding O Cosmedics Potent Retinol Serum to your night moisturiser.

  • If your skin is dehydrated.
    your skin is so clever, when it senses a lack of water in the lower layers, it sends a message to the top to say ‘stop letting cells fall off’. It does this to create a band-aid of cells that stop evaporation, to try to stop further water loss. If your skin is dehydrated, you know the feeling of a papery surface cluttered with cells.
    What to do: Only exfoliate if you are going to follow up with a quenching moisture mask. Immediately commence using a serum prescribed by your facialist to restore hydration to the lower layers. This will reactivate the natural fall-off enzyme, and break the cycle of feeling dry but wanting to scrub it daily. Choose a leave-on serum containing lactic acid and calming agents. It will release the bonds between dull cells while delivering moisture into the depths and increasing skins ability to hold water. Natasha recommends O Cosmedics Potent Clearing Serum once a day after cleansing, followed by moisturiser and spf.

  • If you are exfoliating daily, and the next day it feels like you need it again.

    This is a sign your skin is playing catchup. “she’s going to remove the top layers again tomorrow, we better make some more cells because we actually needed them there, that’s why we put them there’. A vicious cycle of exfoliation will cause more damage over time, because it inflames you and leads to post inflammatory pigment formation. Step away from the tube….

  • If your skin is sensitive.
    The problem with a scrub is that it does not discriminate: you want to scrub into ‘dead’ cells, but at the same time you’re abrading living cells. Your skin is already overreacting via it’s blood supply and immune responses, so it’s not going to take that well. Choose a light, enzymatic option that has no granules whatsoever. Natasha recommends O Cosmedics 3in1 Fruit Peel Mask applied for 15 minutes once a week, removed with The Skin Shammy, follow with O Cosmedics Repair Serum or DP Dermaceuticals Vitamin Rich Repair.


    For a customised solution to exfoliation, that helps and does no harm, contact us on 0434 082 354. Your skin is our passion.