Exfoliation is the removal of the oldest dead skin cells that cling to the skin's outermost surface. Exfoliation is an important part of both facials and body treatments. When done correctly, exfoliation leaves the skin feeling smoother and fresher looking. Exfoliation also makes penetration easier for expensive facial products like serums.
There are two forms of exfoliation:
The dead skin cells are physically rubbed off with an abrasive. Examples of mechanical exfoliation include a salt glow, a body scrub that might use sugar or coffee grounds. On the face, mechanical exfoliation ranges from scrubs should use small, round, gentle abrasives like jojoba beads to more aggressive procedures like microdermabrasion.
Mechanical exfoliants include microfiber cloths, adhesive exfoliation sheets, micro-bead facial scrubs, crepe paper, crushed apricot kernel or almond shells, sugar or salt crystals, pumice, and abrasive materials such as sponges, loofahs, brushes, and simply fingernails.
Enzymes, alphahydroxy acids (AHAs) or betahydroxy acids (BHAS) loosen the glue-like substance that holds the cells together, allowing them to slough away. Facial peels are a form of chemical exfoliation. They can either be very gentle or very aggressive, depending on how the strong the peel is. Body treatments might use mild chemical exfoliants like pineapple enzymes.
Chemical exfoliation may involve the use of products that contain alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), or enzymes that act to loosen the glue-like substance that holds the cells together, allowing them to ease away. This type of exfoliation is recommended for people treating acne.