Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Chemical Exfoliation | Part IV | Necessity or Long term damage?

A few weeks ago, I was questioning whether I (and many others) were over-exfoliating (Part I). I looked at how it all began; from Cleopatra bathing in donkeys' milk to over-the-counter retinol (see Part II). Part III explored the various exfoliants used, the difference between AHAs and BHAs and how they functioned.

The current mindset is "How do I look the best instantly?" And the answer is to peel your skin in some form or another. The largest segments in the skincare market targets acne and anti-ageing.

Here are the usual solutions to these 'problems':
  • Anti-ageing: exfoliating toners, glycolic acid, chemical peels, microdermabrasion
  • Acne: retinol, salicylic acid, peels, benzol peroxide
Basically, peel, peel peel...

When we exfoliate, our skin looks brighter, less dull and smooth. Exfoliating doesn't come with its disadvantages though:
  • increased skin photosensitivity to UV light 
  • redness, blotchy skin, erhthema, a sign of...
  • inflammation
  • hyperpigmentation
  • thinning skin

Photo^ by hotelcostacalero licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

So, instead of causing short term damage for immediate results, I think we should shift our focus to skincare that targets repair and skin health.

I think it's also important to stop over-exfoliating. Many cleanser and toners, and even lotions contain acids that exfoliate our skin, so we might be overstimulating our skin on a daily basis without even realising. Ingredients like alcohol and propylene glycol are also used in some products as penetration enhancers. They usually work by disrupting and dissolving the barrier our skin naturally produces to keep it healthy. And really, isn't that barrier there for a reason?

Here are some changes I've made since starting this series:
  • exfoliate with glycolic acid less, from a couple of times a week to once a week
  • transition from glycolic acid, which is stronger, to lactic or mandelic acid, which absorbs at a slower rate than glycolic (see bibliography), thereby causing less irritation and damage
  • if you have acne, look at a more holistic way to treat acne, my trigger was dairy 
  • look into more innovative anti-ageing products like copper peptides

So to end this series, I still will and do exfoliate. Only chemically, and definitely not as often as I used to.

Photo^ Talaso & Spa Masaje/Facial/Massage


Rizza, L. et al. 'Comparative In Vivo Study Of The Efficacy And Tolerance Of Exfoliating Agents Using Reflectance Spectrophotometric Methods'. International Journal of Cosmetic Science 32.6 (2010): 472-472. Web.


  1. Yikes. I only exfoliate a couple times a week which is less than I used to. :]

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    1. I guess it all depends what you use, but my skin was getting dryyy :S


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