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Expose Your Natural Beauty with Exfoliants

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Dermatologists and cosmeticians agree (and they rarely agree) that exfoliation should be part of a beauty regimen for your skin. Exfoliation removes old dead skin cells from Irface of the skin.

Dermatologists and cosmeticians agree (and they rarely agree) that exfoliation should be part of a beauty regimen for your skin. Exfoliation removes old dead skin cells from Irface of the skin. It makes your skin look and feel soft and smooth and may reduce fine lines and minor blemishes.

Skin is made up of several layers of cells. New cells are constantly formed on the bottom layer and dead cells are constantly shed from the surface. Each cell moves towards the surface during its lifetime. Along the way it can become misshapen, stick to others abnormally or retain water improperly, causing dull, flaky skin. As we get older, cell production tends to slow down and cells may not shed properly. Our skin sometimes needs outside help.

Both dry and oily skin can benefit from exfoliation. Dry skin frequently has a build up of dead dry skin cells on the surface that give it a dull flaky look. If moisturizer is applied without exfoliation, the dead cells are just held under a wax or oil layer, making the problem worse. Oily skin tends to act as an adhesive for the dead cells instead of allowing them to fall off, as they should. The dead skin particles and oil often plug up pores, causing blemishes.

Exfoliation Options

There are two basic ways to exfoliate your skin, chemical or physical. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

Alpha-hydroxy acid, or AHA, is the main chemical exfo-liant available, made from natural fruit acids. Retin-A, a form of vitamin A, was the first chemical exfoliant found to be effective in smoothing skin, but a large number of people found that it causes redness and swelling. AHA is more effective as an exfoliant than retin-A and is much less likely to cause irritation.

Chemical exfoliants act deeper than physical ones and may be able to stimulate cell and collagen production. AHA in heavy wax or creams can be counterproductive, since that glues the skin cells back onto the surface and does little good. Ensure that the concentration of AHA is between five and 12 per cent; any more can burn, any less is not effective. AHA lotion makes skin especially sensitive to sun, so apply it before bed, not just before you go out the door. Use a sunscreen of at least sun protection factor (SPF)15 to protect your skin after exfoliation.

Physical methods of exfoliation include masks, toners, peels, abrasive sponges and scrubs. Many of these can be highly abrasive and irritating for your skin. Masks, peels and scrubs often contain ground up nuts or fruit pits or bits of volcanic rock. These can all have sharp edges that can leave tiny scrapes and cuts on your face. If you have oily or blemish-prone skin, you especially want to avoid this kind of irritation, since this stimulates the nerves attached to the oil glands in your face and causes them to increase oil production.

Scrubs with a very fine grain, but without waxes or creams, preservatives (often included in scrubs with honey or fruit pits), coloring agents or fragrances, are the best physical method of exfoliation. An inexpensive but effective exfoliant is baking soda. Baking soda has just enough abrasion to slough off dead skin, but is gentle on your skin and rinses off completely. Even gentle baking soda can be overdone, so don't scrub too hard or too long. Don't use it more than two or three times a week. If irritation or tenderness occur, reduce frequency or scrubbing time.

People with dry skin will probably want to add a couple teaspoons of baking soda to their cleanser, but people with oily skin will likely find that it works better to use the baking soda after the cleanser, with just a little water to dampen it.

Exfoliants of any kind have to be used consistently and indefinitely to have the full long-term effects. Combine the regular use of an exfoliant with a complete health and beauty program. Help your skin look its best by drinking plenty of water during the day and include essential fatty acids as an important part of your diet, since these work from the inside to help your skin look its best.

Your skin is the largest organ of your body; its care is important for your health and your looks. Take care of it for the long term so it can take care of you.

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