You May Be Exfoliating Your Skin All Wrong

woman splashing face with waterIf a fruity-scented face scrub was a key part of your adolescent skincare routine, you're not alone. And if you're still deadset on exfoliating your skin, because you're concerned about an abundance of dead, dull skin cells, you're also not alone. But skincare experts agree that most of us are doing a lot more harm than good by relying on the wrong methods.

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For instance, many scrubs made with microbeads or granules tear the skin, instead of lightly glide across it. "I'm not a big fan of microbeads, especially if they're not biodegradable," says Debra Jaliman, MD, author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist.  "Often times, they can rip the skin and cause problems enlarging the pores."

Kim Lee, ND, of spa skincare brand Pevonia explains just how problematic those harsh ingredients can be, noting, "If you could see your skin under a microscope, you would see tiny tears these harsh scrubs are creating -- which now allow an opening for bacteria to enter the skin and the delicate hydration your skin struggles to maintain escape!" 

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What's more, scrubbing away at your skin and reducing its layers leaves it vulnerable to all sorts of acute and chronic damage. "Over-thinned skin cannot protect you against bacteria, environmental toxins, pollution, and the sun," says Dr. Lee. 

Of course, that's bad news for a slew of reasons -- from expedited appearance of aging to increased risk of melanoma. Scary!

That said, how should we be exfoliating -- if at all?

"Enzymes from papaya, pineapple, mushroom, milks, fruit acids, etc. are the safest, gentlest way," says Dr. Lee. "Enzymes digest dead cells and work to brighten and smooth the skin without penetrating too deeply [and] risking dryness, flakiness, and lipid loss." One Dr. Jaliman recommends: Boscia Exfolating Peel Gel ($34, sephora.com) which features pomegranate enzymes.

She also approves of sonic cleansing systems like the Clarisonic or pads soaked with glycolic acid, salicylic acid, or lactic acid. "Just pick the acid strength that's best for your skin type," Dr. Jaliman says. "Then, use it once or twice a day as needed."   

But if you're sure nothing's gonna slough away dullness like a grainy scrub, you're best using a super-mild one like Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant ($54, dermalogica.com). "It contains a gentle rice-based powder with salicylic acid and rice enzymes that help exfoliate and brighten skin," Dr. Jaliman explains.

Ultimately, though, experts agree that when it comes to exfoliation, less is more, and erring on the side of gentle vs. aggressive is likely to have a much healthier effect!

What do you usually do to exfoliate your skin?

exfoliating skin pros cons

Image via CandyBox Images/shutterstock and © Valua Vitaly/Shutterstock

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