There are so many things in this world that we know about in the abstract but don’t really, fully understand the benefits of: prayer, not eating carbs, men and exfoliating, to name a few. We all know (at least I think we all know) that exfoliating is the process of sloughing off the layer of dead skin cells that we have all over our bodies, but we may not all be aware of why this process is a very beneficial thing. Hold on a minute. Did I just hear you gasp? Did you not know this, that you are currently, right this moment, covered from head to toe in a layer of epithelial cells that are constantly being shed all over your home, your furniture, your clothes? Did I just totally gross you out? If that fact in and of itself isn’t enough to have you running for your loofah, just sit back and read this as I explain to you a little bit about your skin and why exfoliating should be a regular part of your beauty regimen.
So, let’s start with a little science, shall we? Our skin is made up of three distinct sections. The bottom section of our skin, the subcutaneous tissue, is made up mostly of fatty tissue, blood vessels and nerves. This part of our skin provides a little bit of padding to help protect us from injury as well as give us a little shape (imagine skin that just hangs: not pretty ) while also helping to insulate us from extremes of heat and cold. The middle section of our skin, the dermis, is made up of collagen and elastin, the fiber network that gives skin its firmness and elasticity. It also holds receptors that make us aware of touch and heat, hair follicles, a bunch of different types of glands and lymph and blood vessels. The third and outer most section of our skin is the epidermis. Yes, the very same one from those ridiculous fourth grade taunts that the “cool” girls would hurl at you, “Your epidermis is showing!!”, while you look yourself over frantically (picture a cartoon dog chasing its tail) to find out what horribly embarrassing part of your body was left exposed to the world only to find out that they just meant your skin. Don’t worry, my therapist says that with just a few more years, I should get over that. Anyhow, this outer portion of our skin is made up of 5 different layers, (the details of which I will not bore you with) which start at the bottom with very robust and plump skin cells, full of water and life, and slowly rise to surface all the while losing their robust plumpness until they’re just a layer of dried out, dead and flakey skin cells. What can I say; I paint a beautiful picture with words. Lol!
Okay, so just a little bit more technical stuff to get through and all of this will become crystal clear. I’m going to assume that you all get the fact that a layer of dull and lifeless flakes atop shiny, new skin cells doesn’t do anyone a whole lotta good. In fact, it makes your complexion look…well, dull and lifeless. In some cases, this cell buildup can even look grey and ashen. Who needs that?? Additionally, this buildup of cells can trap oil, dirt and bacteria in your pores creating a cozy environment for, you guessed it, zits! And as if that wasn’t enough, this layer of cells that covers your pores also blocks your skin care products from being properly absorbed thus severely limiting their potency and effectiveness. Imagine your serum or moisturizer trying to make it’s way deep down into your skin when it’s met by this blockade of skin flakes that really get in the way!
The average length of the skin cycle is 28 days from plump and gorgeous to dead and shed which isn’t really so bad. Think about it; your average kid doesn’t look grey and ashy and covered in pimples, right? Right. Here’s the catch: as we age, this cycle slows down and while the cells still die, it takes longer for them to shed. Ultimately, they just sit there, obscuring the view of the newer, fresher skin we have underneath, clogging up our pores with oil, dirt and bacteria and sabotaging even our most valiant efforts to take really great care of our skin . Sure, we knock off some cells every time we touch our face or arm or whatever, but that’s not nearly enough to be able to reveal and nurture our best skin.
Did you just have the “a-ha!” moment I think you did? Because to be honest, from where I’m sitting right now, and with my confidence in your beauty savvy, I feel like I barely have to explain anything from here on out. I feel like you completely understand that gently exfoliating your skin 2-4 times a week, even everyday for some skin types (please note, I said gently…go put your husband’s belt sander back in his tool room) can help brighten your complexion, make you look younger buy exposing fresher and firmer skin and cut down on the breakout that are caused by accumulation of dirt and oil in your pores rather than hormones and stress and boost the efficacy of your skin care products. Deep down inside, I know you’ve figured this out on your own.
However, I do feel the need to point out that the benefits of exfoliating go deeper than that. It’s not only about beauty. If you use a manual exfoliant, meaning some form of a scrub that you mush around your face in small circular motions using the pads of your fingers (shameless plug alert: Yum Gourmet Organic Skin Care makes one of the best manual exfoliants on the market! Their Adzuki Bluberry powder exfoliant is absolutely divine. Contact me to order!!) you increase blood flow to your skin which also helps it look more vibrant as well as stimulate lymph movement and drainage which can help keep your skin clearer from the inside out. Your lymphatic system has no internal pump and it relies on body movement for circulation (I believe I discussed this in slightly more detail in my post titled “What;s in a Facial”). Massage, which you will be doing on a small scale when you exfoliate, can aid this circulation which helps flush blemish causing toxins from the lower layers of skin and is just good on a bigger kind of scale. Even if you choose to cuse an enzymatic or acid based exfoliant which relies on enzymes or acids to eat away at the dead skin cells, you’ll be boosting your ability for your skin to perform it’s functions properly since it will be in it’s optimal state. Your skin can’t flush toxins, absorb oxygen (yes, I know only a little, but still) or synthesize Vitamin D from the sun properly when it’s covered with a shell of dried out keratin cells on top of it. Please don’t forget, exfoliation is not limited to your face. It’s hugely beneficial for the skin all over your body and will provide you with the same glowing results. For a quick, at home body exfoliation treatment, combine equal parts brown sugar, olive oil and honey (you can throw some essential oils in there too if you’d like). Take it into the shower with you and apply in small circular motions always moving from the outer parts of your body in towards your heart. Rinse off and then wash yourself as usual. Your skin will be luminous and soft as a baby’s tushie!!
I hope this post hasn’t been too technical or long winded for you. I’m sorry, it’s just that when I get excited about something, I just have to share, and when I share, gosh do I share!! I also hope that I’ve explained, at least a little bit, why exfoliating is a wonderful and important part of any serious beauty ritual. Whether it’s every other day, once a week or even once a month, I encourage you to give it a try and reap the understandable benefits, both beauty related and beyond.
Have a beautiful night,