Radiant Reactions

The art of exfoliation.

I love the feeling of fresh, smooth, radiant, “brand new” skin, and that’s probably why I’m addicted to exfoliation products. Your skin can visually benefit from the use of them. Normal skin can be exfoliated once or twice per week, while dry and sensitive skin should be exfoliated every week or every two weeks. In fact, people with oilier skin can be exfoliated up to four times a week, but it’s important to use a product designed for your skin type.

Exfoliation products can:

• get rid of dead skin cells
• unclog skin pores by removing the trapped oil and grime beneath the skin surface
• fade discoloration, for example that left by acne
• reduce the appearance of scars
• improve blood and lymph circulation
• speed up cell renewal to promote radiant looking skin

In addition, beauty products applied to exfoliated skin will absorb better. Remember to always use a moisturizer after exfoliation!

Here are three main groups of facial exfoliation products that you can use at home. Choose a type that suits your skin needs and watch your complexion improve after every use.

Mechanical Scrubs
The most popular type of exfoliant, they’re usually in the form of a thick cream or emulsion containing rough particles: ground nutshells, milled apricot pits, salt, sugar and sometimes jojoba beads or polymer particles. You exfoliate by rubbing the product against your skin. Recommended for non-problematic skins. Beware acne skins: it’s very easy to spread acne-causing bacteria all over your face when using a “mechanical” exfoliant.

Also in this category are facial buffers and facial loofahs. Do not use a mechanical exfoliant if your skin is extremely thin and delicate, or you suffer from broken capillaries or acne.

One easy home recipe is an oatmeal scrub, gentle enough for almost every skin type. You just need some rolled oats and warm water. Mix together and let oats soften.

Apply the paste to your face and rub gently. Wash off with water and a delicate cleanser.

My Drugstore Favorite: St. Ives Apricot Scrub, which contains milled apricot pits.

Microdermabrasion Scrubs
A popular variety of exfoliants, “home microdermabrasion” contain very small crystalline particles such as aluminum oxide or very finely milled salt. It is recommended for rectifying discolorations, uneven skin texture and enlarged skin pores, but not for thin skin as there is a lot of rubbing involved.

My Very Favorite: Dr. Brandt Skincare Microdermabrasion Exfoliating Cream.

Enzymatic Exfoliator
A versatile exfoliant, provided you’re not allergic to the particular enzymes used in the product. Some fruits such as pineapple, papaya, pumpkin and kiwi contain protein-resolving enzymes; these enzymes improve digestion and can be used for the benefit of your skin. Enzymatic exfoliants contain enzymes that dissolve dead skin cells on contact and are usually a bit more delicate. This exfoliant is more suitable for dry, thin skins, and for complexions with visible capillaries and pimples.

For an easy at-home masque: Blend a large chunk of pineapple with thick natural, sugar-free yogurt and apply a thin layer of the mixture onto the face, avoiding the eye area. Leave on for about 10 to 15 minutes and wash off with a delicate cleanser. This home exfoliating mask combines the beneficial actions of lactic acid in yogurt and pineapple enzymes.

My Delicious Favorite: Peter Thomas Roth Pumpkin Enzyme: a detoxifying peel for the face and neck.

Chemical Peels
Chemical peels contain beta hydroxy acid, salicylic acid or alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic and lactic acids. Home chemical peels contain a low percentage of acid for safety. These products can improve oily, congested and tired skins. Exfoliation products containing salicylic acid are beneficial for acne-prone skin as they effectively dissolve skin blockages when used regularly and can help prevent pores from clogging.

Glycolic acid is beneficial for skin with an uneven textures, scars, hyperpigmentation and can even help decrease fine lines and wrinkles. Acids make your skin UV sensitive and you can end up with discolorations and burns if you don’t protect your complexion properly. Wear broad-spectrum blockers against UVA and UVB
rays after treatment.

An actress friend of mine swears by this: every other month she creates an “aspirin exfoliator.” (Aspirin is chemically similar to salicylic acid.) Crush three tablets of soluble (but not fizzy) aspirin in a small amount of water, add some natural yogurt and apply to the face for about 15 minutes. Avoid contact with eyes. Be smart and perform an allergy test 48 hours before use. Do not use an acid exfoliant if you’re using products or supplements with retinol, if you’re suffering from skin diseases – for example cold sores – or if you’re planning to tan in the near future.

These products can make oily, congested and tired skins look great once again. In my professional opinion though, home chemical peels should only be used under the advice of your dermatologist.

My Favorite: Philosophy’s The Microdelivery Peel Kit.

Never use any exfoliation product on broken or inflamed skin, and discontinue application if irritation, allergy or rash occurs. (If you have any questions ask your dermatologist.) You don’t have to be afraid to use an exfoliation product, just make sure that you choose the product that respects your skin’s need to make your skin look its best – radiant and smooth all year round.

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