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Talking about....Exfoliation

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

Exfoliation is a great way to keep skin looking fresh and bright, as it assists with cell renewal. As we age this becomes more crucial, as cell turnover naturally slows down. Shedding, technically known as desquamation is a natural process, so exfoliation should be about enhancing, not forcing this process. Over-exfoliation will ultimately lead to a compromised barrier.

There are two types of exfoliants: PHYSICAL & CHEMICAL.

We will explore both types here:


Physical exfoliation describes physical methods to lift dying cells from the skin. These can be manual, battery operated or electrical tools for home or in-clinic use.


Scrubs use abrasive ingredients to slough away skin cells. If using this form of exfoliant, make sure you look for a product that has smooth biodegradable granules, such as jojoba beads. Granules that aren’t smooth (such as apricot kernels) will just scratch and damage your skin. Non-biodegradable beads (i.e. plastic micro-beads) damage marine life; find their way into the water supply and ultimately the food chain, which is not good for any of us. Thankfully they are were banned in the UK in 2018, but this is not yet the case worldwide!

A scrub should only be used once a week and despite the term ‘scrub’ – DO NOT SCRUB away at your skin! Apply and very gently travel over the skin in circular motions.

Professional Advice - Use with care

Professional Choice - Dermaquest Algae Scrub (£29), Dermaviduals peeling Cream (POA)]


Cloths can be a good way to assist in the removal of cleansing products and by their very nature provide gentle exfoliation. However, it should be noted, they can harbour bacteria. If using, please use a clean cloth every time. I favour muslin, silk or microfibre cloths over flannels, as they are gentler on the skin. They should only ever be gently glided over the skin with warm, not hot water.

Professional Advice - Use with care

Professional Choice - This is Silk Silk Cloths, pack of 3 (£21.99)


Battery operated or manual, I am not a fan! Again, the brush heads can harbour bacteria and it is so easy to be over-zealous. We cleanse twice daily (or we should), so if we were to use these morning and night, 7 days a week, our skin would soon become compromised.

Professional Advice - Not recommended


Believe it or not you can buy microdermabrasion machines for home use. Please don't! Microdermabrasion buffs the surface of the skin using abrasion. Think sandpaper for skin!

You can guess by my tone I am not a fan of home units or salon treatments. In my opinion, it is an aggressive, not progressive quick fix, that ultimately leads to compromised skin.

Professional Advice - Not recommended


Even more incredulous is home use of dermaplaning!! Dermaplaning uses a sharp blade to shave the skins surface, including vellus hair. It leaves the skin velvety soft BUT, in my opinion, this is one of those fad treatments storing up a whole lot of problems for the future. Not only is the skin at risk of infection. I believe the treatment to be far too aggressive, especially if used alongside acids.

The shaving of vellus hair also goes against everything I’ve ever learned about hair. Whilst the shaving of a vellus hair will not stimulate the hair, shaving gives vellus or terminal hair a blunt edge, thus making it feel courser! In other words, to keep a smooth skin you will HAVE to keep dermaplaning. Mark my words, in a few years I will have an abundance of electrolysis clients. In other words, please stay away from blades, professionally and most definitely at home.

Professional Advice - Not recommended


The word chemical conjures up all sorts of aggression and nastiness in our minds. However, within the professional skincare arena, chemical exfoliants are typically botanically sourced ingredients.


Enzymes offer a gentle approach to exfoliation and are actually one of my preferred protocols. Enzymes are made up of amino acids and are comprised from living things. We as humans use enzymes as catalysts to bodily processes, such as digestion and metabolism. On your skin they gently break down keratin proteins. There are many types of enzymes, but in skincare papaya, pineapple and pumpkin enzymes are commonly used in formulations. These are known as proteolytic enzymes. Because they don’t affect the PH of your skin, they are are great on a sensitive skin. Although proceed with caution if the barrier is compromised, as sensitised skin can be extremely reactive! Do however, store your enzyme products well. Heat can break down the enzymes, making them inactive. So always store in a cool, preferably dark place.

Professional Advice - Not recommended

Professional recommendation - Dermaquest Essential Daily Cleanser (£31), Dermaviduals Enzyme sprinkle kit (POA)


Used responsibly acids can effectively increase cell turnover without dragging or compromising the skin. In simplistic terms, they work by dissolving the glue that holds the cells (that need to be renewed) in place.

There are two main types of acids:

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA’s) are primarily water soluble and used to exfoliate, improve hydration, texture and tone. By far the most popular AHA is Glycolic. However, others to look out for are Lactic, Mandelic, Malic, Citric and Tartaric.

Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA’s) are oil soluble, which makes them great for oilier skin types. They help reduce oil secretion and decongest clogged pores. Salicylic is the one and only BHA.

If you want to introduce acids to your home regimen, I would always recommend discussing with a skin professional. There is not a one size fits all. The level of potency can vary greatly and may cause irritation if the skin is not healthy and ready to receive. As a rule of thumb, you should only be using once per week. Any more should be with advice.

Professional Advice - Handle with care

Professional Choice - Dermaquest Peptide Glyco Cleanser (£32), Dermaquest BHA Cleanser (£34)

In conclusion, exfoliation should be a gentle way to enhance the natural desquamation process. Overdoing it will strip the skin creating barrier issues, moisture loss and overly sensitised skin.

If you'd like more information about which products are right for you. Why not audit the life of your skin.

Head to for more information.

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