Exfoliation is one of those skin care terms that sounds important, but what does it actually mean? Well, let’s break it down in layman’s terms: Exfoliation is simply “the process of removing the top layer of dead cells from your skin,” says dermatologist Jeremy Fenton, M.D., of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. Your body routinely performs this cleaning act on its own, in fact. “Skin cells are generated at the bottom layer of your skin and they slowly move up toward the surface over time,” he says. “Eventually, they are naturally sloughed off.”
But sometimes your body needs a little extra help—with age and normal fluctuations, skin can become less adept at shedding those tired, old cells. This is where an exfoliating scrub can come in really handy. By manually removing the debris, you can brighten dull skin, clear out your pores, minimize the look of lines and wrinkles and even help the ingredients from your other products absorb better. For all these reasons, Dr. Fenton considers exfoliation “a powerful tool in improving your skin’s appearance.”
Now that you understand why exfoliation can give you amazing skin, don’t overdo it. “Exfoliating will strip away some of the natural oils in skin,” cautions Dr. Fenton. His advice is to start slowly. “For most people, I recommend exfoliating one to two times per week based on your tolerance.” Over time, your skin will adjust. The best time to scrub? In the morning.
The pro application technique is to apply a nickel-sized amount of exfoliating scrub and work it into your face and neck using small, gentle circular motions (see a demo here). Post-exfoliation, your skin will essentially feel brand new (think: super soft and super smooth). To keep it that way, apply your serum and eye cream, if using one, then your moisturizer to trap in extra hydration along with active ingredients, like antioxidants and collagen.
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