C&H Weekly

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Exfoliation: Friend or Foe?

It is common for patients to come to an appointment and, based on what they have read in magazines or what they have been taught about skincare, they are very focused on exfoliation. They are often surprised to hear that, in some cases, exfoliation is one of the worst things you can do!

What is exfoliation? Exfoliation is the process of assisting the body in shedding the dead skin layer. Without assistance, this shedding happens naturally over time, at different rates in different people.

How can you exfoliate?

  • Mechanically – using a cloth, ‘Buf Puf’ or a pumice stone.
  • Chemically – using products such as some alpha and beta hydroxy acids. A topical vitamin A or a retinoid do a very nice job in the long-term – people who include them in their skincare regimen likely don’t need any additional mechanical exfoliation.

When is it a bad idea to exfoliate? In the cases of dry skin, eczema or laser, exfoliation can be troublesome because, in each of these scenarios, the skin barrier is dysfunctional. With dry skin or eczema in particular, exfoliation will only make the condition worse in the long-term, even though it might temporarily get rid of the scales.

Who can benefit from exfoliation? Patients with extremely oily skin and a tendency to have clogged pores may benefit from gentle exfoliation. Also those patients whose buildup of dead skin cells looks has made their skin look dull may notice some benefit.

The Bottom Line – Most people think they need to exfoliate, but it is usually only the occasional patient that can really benefit from it. Not sure? Talk to your dermatologist about what the best skincare plan is for you.

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