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POLISHED - A guide to exfoliation

Exfoliation? Scrubbing? Peeling? Our exfoliation guide is here to help you to understand the different techniques and benefits.

Exfoliating involves the removal of dead skin cells either mechanically or chemically (such as in chemical peels).


A physical exfoliant - as its name indicates - physically removes the outer most layer of the skin by "breaking up the keratinized protein, which accumulates on the skin’s surface, lifting and whisking away dry, dull cell debris to reveal softer, fresher skin beneath" (W. Johnson). There are different products used to physically exfoliate:


Image: Green Tea Sugar Scrub by SHUNDARA@SAVYNATURALISTA

Scrubs contain small particles that physically "rub off" dead skin cells. They have a mild loosening action and can have different degrees of roughness. The most common ingredients used in scrubs are beads of Jojoba, rice bean, sugar, salt, or crushed nut shells.

Attention: The rougher the scrub does not mean the better the exfoliation. Crushed nutshells may be abrasive with its sharp edges which can create microscopic scratches. If you have sensitive skin the best choice are very small, smooth particles (called microfoliants) to avoid irritations and skin damage.


Image: Mia2 Cleansing Brush by Clarisonic

Exfoliating devices such as microdermabrasion, ultrasound, or brushes have the same function as the scrubs: to remove the top layers of epidermis (dead skin cells). The difference simply lays in the technique:

  • Microdermabrasion uses pressurised suction combined with crystals/diamond and is ideal for skin showing sun damage.

  • Hydromicrodermabrasion combines microdermabrasion with water and/or serums to infuse moisture into skin, "reducing redness, soreness, flaking and other commonly experienced aftermath" (W. Johnson)

Attention: Microdermabrasion is not recommended for sensitive skin, rosacae, or open acneic lesions

  • Ultrasound uses sound waves to create cavitation/openings which allow the product to penetrate well into the skin, resulting in a deep cleanse and exfoliation of the skin;

When to use: Ultrasound is safe for all skin conditions except open or inflamed acne.

  • Brushes can enhance the results of a cleanser or scrub as well as assist in the removal of cream or masks.


Chemical exfoliants are very powerful, dissolving cell debris by using tropical ingredients such as enzymes, acids (most common are AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) and BHA) or vitamins (i.e. Retinol).

Chemical exfoliants are more invasive than physical exfoliants, as they are using acids to dissolve the bonds that hold the skin cells together. A professional chemical peel will have higher strength and concentration, and can thus treat much deeper lines and wrinkles with longer lasting effects.

Chemical Peels

It may sound dangerous, but putting acids on your skin will actually chemically promote cell turnover and reveal smooth and bright skin. You will not be able to "overscrub" like with physical exfoliators, as there are no scrubbing particles that can create microscopic scratches.

When to use: AHA based chemical exfoliators are great for normal - sensitive skin types with skin concerns such as sun damage, uneven texture or pigmentation. BHAs are great for clogged or enlarged pores, thus for acneic skin.


You should avoid exfoliation altogether if any of the following applies to you:

- recently waxed

- sunburned

- laser/light-based treatment within the last 72 hours

Also, if you have recently taken Accutane (Isotretinoin), you need to wait a minimum of six months before undergoing any form of exfoliation.

Last but not least, it's important no to over-exfoliate.

It may result in more fragile skin with less natural ability to protect from UV, easily sensitized, and healing more slowly. Depending on your skin type and conditions, the frequency of exfoliating your face can vary a lot.

Stop by at Llumier to get your skin analyzed and get customized product and home-care advise.




#peel #exfoliation #scrub #skincare

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