Exfoliation – anti-aging care for any skin type

The aging process begins at birth and continues throughout life. Skin aging is the result of certain reactions in the dermis, epidermis, pigment cells, hair follicles, sebaceous glands and blood vessels in the skin layers. Over time, the thickness of the epidermis (outermost layer of the skin) decreases, while the stratum corneum, which is the outermost layer of the epidermis, thickens. The phenomenon, in turn, causes roughness and flaking and finally destroys the skin, making it dry and cracked and often leads to spot formation.
For this reason, exfoliation turns out to be one of the most important steps in any skin care routine. Not only does it help remove impurities, sebum and dead skin cells, but it helps the active ingredients to be absorbed and work more effectively, which means healthier beautiful skin. The use of properly selected exfoliants, tailored to the type and needs of the skin, leads to easier renewal of the epidermis, less frequent appearance of pigment spots, delay in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, increased hydration and suppression of inflammatory processes.


What is the exfoliation process?

The epidermis is the top layer of the skin and is made up of epithelial cells. Its main function is protection and participation in the maintenance of homeostasis. It consists of four types of cells (keratinocytes, melanocytes, Merkel cells and Langerhans cells), the main type of cells making up the epidermis being keratinocytes. They produce keratin – a fibrillar (filamentous) protein that makes up the extracellular space of epidermal cells. Keratin helps maintain the integrity of the skin and makes it waterproof. As part of the natural metabolism, millions of keratinocytes are shed every day.
Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. It naturally sheds them to make room for new cells, with a complete renewal cycle taking about 30 days. Sometimes dead cells are not completely removed and remain on the skin for a longer time, thus preventing skin renewal, clogging pores, becoming a prerequisite for the appearance of inflammation and preventing the absorption of cosmetic products. This can lead to dry, flaky patches and clogged pores. Exfoliating can help prevent this. It stimulates new cell growth and accelerates the skin’s natural renewal process, resulting in softer, smoother and more radiant skin.


What are the benefits of exfoliation?

Prevents pore clogging resulting in less inflammation, pimples, blackheads and less visible pores

Increases the effect of cosmetic products by improving the absorption of active ingredients
Stimulates collagen production, thus increasing skin elasticity, reducing the appearance of fine lines.
Has a beneficial effect in the fight against hyperpigmentation, making the complexion more even
Stimulates blood circulation
Improves the general condition of the skin by making it smoother, firmer, radiant and elastic.


What types of exfoliation are there?

According to the type of particles used, exfoliation can be divided into two large groups: mechanical and chemical.

Mechanical exfoliation 

The oldest used method of skin exfoliation is based on the removal of dead cells from the surface of the epidermis by solid particles or manual removal.
Solid particles:
clays, salt, sugar, coffee, dry crushed herbs, etc.
Home-made masks are very popular these days. They are attractive with a wide variety of combinations available at low cost, but they can also have a number of negative effects. The type of exfoliant used is extremely important. Vigorous rubbing of the skin with rough, hard particles can lead to micro-injuries, which in turn weaken the skin’s barrier functions and cause irritation and inflammation. Since the skin of the face is more sensitive than the skin of the body, the choice of exfoliating particles is of great importance. Scrubs whose main ingredients are products such as salt, coarse sugar, coffee and ground nut shells, for example, are suitable for applying to the body no more than once a week, but not to the face! To exfoliate the skin of the face, use fine clay and finely grated herbs suitable for your skin type.
Effective at the surface level!
Suitable for both body and face!
Easily accessible, even at home!
Great variety!
Not suitable for sensitive skin!
Can cause irritations!
Not suitable for active inflammation!
If not completely removed from the skin, they can clog the pores!
Should not be used more often than once a week!

Exfoliating tools:
brushes, files, sponges and gloves

Exfoliating brush. This is usually a bristle brush used on the face or body to remove layers of dead skin cells. From the type and softness of the hair, it depends on which area of ​​the body it is intended for and this should be mentioned on the label.
Files. They are mainly intended for the soles of the feet and should not be used on other parts of the body!
Exfoliating sponge. This is a gentler way to exfoliate the skin, again the varieties are different depending on whether they are intended for use on the face or body.
Exfoliating mitt/towel. The most gentle form of mechanical exfoliation as far as cosmetic tools are concerned. Every time we wipe our face, the cloth removes some of the dead cells of the epidermis. It is important that the material is soft and natural to not cause micro-injuries on the skin!
Effective at the surface level!
Great variety!
Affordable price!

Not suitable for sensitive skin!

Chemical exfoliation

This method uses different molecules – hydroxy acids, retinol and enzymes to renew the skin. While mechanical exfoliants can help improve the appearance of the skin, chemical exfoliation can provide much more effective results and, when used correctly, is much milder and gentler on the skin. Its mechanism is rooted in stimulating the exfoliation of epidermal cells from the stratum corneum, interfering with the connection between them. This leads to “softening” of dry and rough skin and promoting cell renewal. Thus, they are more easily removed and allow new fresh layers of cells to emerge.

Organic acids:

Hydroxy acids, also called fruit acids, have been used in the treatment of skin diseases for about 40 years. They are some of the most widely used and researched compounds in antiaging skin care. Clinical trials have shown the effectiveness of these ingredients in reversing the effects of aging and reducing wrinkles, increasing skin elasticity, tone and hydration. Alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and beta hydroxy acid (BHA) are the two main classes of hydroxy acids.

AHAs are used in the treatment of certain skin conditions such as acne, scarring, pigmentation, dry skin and wrinkles. They are involved in metabolic pathways and essential cell cycles. AHAs work at both epidermal and dermal levels. Originally used to treat hyperkeratosis and other skin conditions affecting cell renewal, AHAs have been found to help make skin softer and smoother, reduce wrinkles, lighten age spots and reduce inflammation.
Lactic acid (LA) is among the most popular AHAs in the cosmetics industry. It can be used in low concentrations (up to 9-10%) in cosmetic products for daily use and high (over 30%) – for professional care in beauty salons and dermatological clinics.

Gentle exfoliation!
Some representatives are especially suitable for sensitive skin!
Improve hydration!
Reduce fine lines and wrinkles!
Stimulate the synthesis of collagen and hyaluronic acid!
Increase epidermal proliferation and thickness!
Even out skin tone!
Improve the subcutaneous barrier function!
Can be used daily in low concentrations!
Can cause a stinging or burning sensation immediately after application, which goes away in a few minutes!
At high concentrations in a home environment, can cause inflammation and damage to the integrity of the skin!
It is recommended that they are always used in combination with sunscreen products, as they can increase the sensitivity of the skin to the sun!

Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), such as salicylic acid, are very similar to AHAs, with the main difference being their solubility. BHAs are lipid (oil) soluble unlike AHAs which are water soluble. This property allows them to penetrate the skin through the sebaceous glands, making them suitable for people with oily and acne-prone skin, penetrating deeply and breaking down the sebaceous blockages in the pores (comedones). In addition to the proven anti-inflammatory effect of BHA, they are proven to be low-irritant and can be used by people with sensitive skin. Beta hydroxy acids in skin care products work best at a concentration of 1-2%.

Gentle exfoliation!
Suitable for sensitive skin!
Improve hydration!
Especially suitable for oily and acne-prone skin!
Stimulate skin renewal!
Clean pores and helps prevent blackheads!
Anti-inflammatory effect!
Can be used daily!
Can cause a stinging or burning sensation immediately after application, which goes away in a few minutes!
It is recommended that they are always used in combination with sunscreen products, as they can increase the sensitivity of the skin to the sun!

Enzymatic exfoliation

Enzyme exfoliants are a relatively new class of skin care products. As the name suggests, they exfoliate using highly specialized and purified enzymes. Like most AHA and BHA acids, the enzymes are of plant origin and the effects of the two types of exfoliants overlap to a large extent. While hydroxy acids are small molecules with non-specific action, enzymes are large protein molecules that target a specific group of similar substances, and sometimes just one. This makes them “trained” fighters in the fight against the signs of aging. Due to their targeted action, they do not affect the surrounding structures, which makes them extremely suitable for people with sensitive skin.

Gentle exfoliation!
Have a specialized action!
Suitable for sensitive skin!
Stimulate skin renewal!
Even out the complexion!
Anti-inflammatory effect!
Can be used daily!
They can cause a stinging or burning sensation immediately after application, which goes away in a few minutes!
It is recommended that they are always used in combination with sunscreen products, as they can increase the sensitivity of the skin to the sun!
High price!

Retinol and its derivative forms

Retinoids are a class of active ingredients derived from vitamin A. They are used to soothe sun-damaged skin, minimize signs of aging, treat acne, reduce fine lines and wrinkles by increasing collagen production and stimulating the production of new blood vessels in the skin, which improves skin tone. Additional benefits include lightening blemishes and softening rough skin. Due to their wide variety, the choice of products containing retinoids is difficult, and their slow action further limits their use. Some of the forms are classified as medicinal products, which is why a doctor’s prescription and supervision are required when using them.

Stimulate skin renewal!
Even out the complexion!
Penetrate deep!
Suitable for sensitive skin!
Slow effect!
By prescription!
They should not be combined directly with other exfoliating products!
It is recommended that they are always used in combination with sunscreen products, as they can increase the sensitivity of the skin to the sun!


How to choose?

It is now clear that exfoliation should be an integral part of our daily beauty ritual. But given the huge variety of methods and products, how do we choose?!

Sensitive skin 

Avoid strong friction and mechanical exfoliation methods. They will further irritate your skin and may cause redness. Use a mild chemical exfoliant applied to a cotton pad or gentle reusable cloth. Apply in the evening, starting with a product with a low concentration (max. 5% AHA) 2 times a week and gradually increasing to daily use. Remember that it is normal for your skin to redden for a few minutes and to feel a slight stinging sensation, but if the effect lasts more than 10 minutes, remove the product immediately. Always finish the ritual with a rich moisturizing product, and in the morning use a sun protection product as a finishing care!

Normal skin 

Normal skin is usually resistant and undemanding to the exfoliation method. Choose according to your preferences, remembering that chemical exfoliants have the best effect if applied every night, while mechanical ones should not be used more often than twice a week.

Dehydrated skin

Exfoliation is extremely important for dry or flaky skin. Avoid mechanical exfoliation because the process is relatively aggressive and can lead to micro-injuries. AHAs are very effective for dehydrated skin. Lactic acid will help remove dead cells located on the surface of the skin and moisturize the inner layers of the healthy skin. Use AHAs every night, not forgetting to complete your beauty and health ritual with a rich moisturizing product, and in the morning use a sun protection product as a finishing care!

Oily skin

People with oily skin struggle with excessive sebum production, which leads to pimples, inflamed areas and clogged pores. Mechanical exfoliation up to twice a week can be very suitable, as long as the skin is not inflamed at the time. Use scrubs and masks containing brown or green clay, gently rubbing them onto the skin in a circular motion for best results. For deeper exfoliation, use AHA or BHA acids, with lactic and salicylic acids being best for people with oily skin. You can use them in the evening as part of your evening ritual. After removing the dead layer of cells, nourish your skin with a suitable cream or serum, and during the day don’t forget the sunscreen product.

Acne-prone skin 

Due to the specificity of this skin type, the choice is mostly based on the skin’s current needs. For daily exfoliation and maintaining the good condition of acne-prone skin, it is best to choose AHA or BHA acids as part of your evening ritual. Once a week, for calm, non-irritated skin, it is good to use a mechanical scrub mask containing activated carbon. It will dry the skin and remove excess sebum, thus limiting the growth of acne-causing types of bacteria. As a finishing care, always use products formulated for acneic skin!

Combination skin 

Combination skin is characterized by both oily and dry areas, and this determines the possibility of using different types of exfoliants in different areas of the face. Applying combined scrub-masks to the whole face or alternating chemical AHA exfoliating products with mechanical ones is suitable. Never use both types on the same day as this can cause skin irritation.

If you still don’t know what to choose, trust Personal Diagnostics by Lali.


This editorial is prepared especially for you by Lali
All rights reserved!

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Leyden JJ. Therapy for acne vulgaris. N Engl J Med. 1997; 336
McLoone P, et al., Honey: A therapeutic agent for disorders of the skin, 2016
Oakley A., Alpha hydroxy acid facial treatments, 2017
Zheng Y, et al., Clinical evidence on the efficacy and safety of an antioxidant optimized 1.5% salicylic acid (SA) cream in the treatment of facial acne: An open, baseline-controlled clinical study, 2013
Tang S-C, et al., Dual effects of alpha-hydroxy acids on the skin, 2018
Photo: Alesia Kozik

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