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Skin Refreshers

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It's not very often that you get a second chance at something, but healthy glowing skin can be yours again and again!

Exfoliation refers to the process of removing the dead cells from the surface of the skin and exposing healthy new skin. The process occurs naturally every 28 days, but the cycle is influenced by age, sun damage, poor diet and insufficient exercise. Exfoliation is not a purely cosmetic procedure, however, as skin works to purge toxins from the body. If the pores are clogged with dirt and debris then impurities can be trapped. This forces the kidneys and liver to work harder to eliminate the garbage, and eventually they become exhausted.

There are basically two methods of exfoliation. Mechanical exfoliation refers to using something rough like an abrasive sponge to slough off dead cells, while chemical exfoliation involves using a chemical product to remove the cells.

Although the name sounds intimidating, chemical exfoliants often utilize vitamins to achieve their effect. Vitamin C, for example, allows cell generation that in turn helps to remove old cells. Vitamin B3, or niacinamide, helps to speed up epidermal turnover, while Vitamin A (retinol) is useful as an antioxidant. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are naturally occurring acids found in fruits, vegetables and milk. Most commercial AHA products are derived from milk, citrus fruits, apples, grapes and sugar cane. They work to normalize cell renewal and encourage the formation of healthy skin by peeling away the dead cells.

Products that use an AHA formula claim to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. However, if you have sensitive skin, you might find that AHA products are too irritating for you, as they can cause blisters, dry patches and redness. Instead, you may want to try beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). Derived from wintergreen leaves, willowtree bark, berries, papaya and pineapple, BHAs don't penetrate as deeply as AHAs and work by digesting the bonds that attach the dead skin cells to the live ones. BHAs clear away dirt and oils that can clog pores and help to prevent acne eruptions. BHAs also seem to work better at smoothing skin. Chemical products may be irritating for sensitive skin and should not be combined with a mechanical exfoliation such as loofah, a scrub or a peel.

If you have mature or oily skin, you might prefer using the more familiar "scrub" product. Look for those that contain crushed walnut, almond or oatmeal. Avoid crushed apricot pits as the grains are too sharp and can cut the skin. Try to find products that contain beneficial essential oils. Passionflower and black currant, for example, help to firm skin and reduce lines.

If you want to make your own scrub, combine one tablespoon (15 milligrams) cornmeal and one tablespoon (15 mg) mashed pineapple with one teaspoon (five millilitres) water (for oily skin) or one teaspoon (five ml) olive oil (for dry skin). Over a sink, apply to your face in a circular motion, always avoiding the eye area. Remove with a warm, wet facecloth. If you prefer, add one tablespoon (15 mg) of raw oatmeal to your regular moisturizer and massage into your face in a circular motion. Rinse with cool water after five minutes.

Although the skin on your face is the most visible, don't forget that you are encased in about 20 square feet of it! Lathering up in the shower with a coarse washcloth or loofah does wonders for your body skin. And believe it or not, shaving helps to refresh skin. Giving yourself a gentle scalp massage in the shower should dislodge flakes there. Follow by brushing with a natural bristle brush daily.

Whatever method you try, don't overdo it. Your skin should never hurt, sting, burn or feel raw afterwards. Exfoliate once a week for dry and sensitive skin and up to three times a week for oily skin. You'll need to exfoliate less in winter than in summer, when you are likely to produce bacteria-friendly oil and sweat. In the end, just a few minutes and a good exfoliation technique will help you put your best face forward.

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