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Sharp Health News

Can exfoliating make me look younger?

July 26, 2017

Can exfoliating make me look younger?

Fun fact: The skin on your face regenerates every 27 days. So it stands to reason that keeping it clean and moisturized will help this process along. But is cleaning and moisturizing enough? For younger-looking skin, should you be exfoliating, too?

Exfoliating — the process of removing dead cells from the skin — can be anything from a simple scrub to a prescription cream. And yes, it can make a difference.

“The trick is finding the method that’s best for you,” says Dr. Mona Mofid, a board-certified dermatologist affiliated with Sharp Community Medical Group.

“Make sure it’s done right, at the right frequency — and steer clear of advertising promises,” she says. While it can’t reverse aging, exfoliating can help by:

1. Speeding up the skin renewal process
When new cells replace olds ones, your skin appears smoother and fine lines are minimized. It also helps ease discoloration.

2. Cleaning and minimizing pores
Clogged pores appear larger, so clearing them out helps diminish their appearance. It also helps reduce blackheads and acne.

Ways to exfoliate
While many women enjoy regular spa facials, exfoliating can easily be done at home — from pharmacy products to high-end electric brushes. Whichever method you choose, exfoliation can leave your skin more vulnerable to the sun. So always follow up with a good moisturizer with a high SPF.

The two main exfoliation methods are:

1. Mechanical: Tools and products that use friction

Scrubs — Products infused with scrubbing beads go beyond regular cleansers by dislodging dirt and dead cells. Some are more gentle than others, so you can choose a product that caters to sensitive skin.

Electric brushes — These trendy tools use a rotating brush to dig deeper than rinsing can. Like scrubs, those with sensitive skin can choose a gentler brush, while those with thicker skin can pick rougher bristles.

Washcloths — Simple cotton or loofah-like cloths work best for those with sensitive skin or acne-prone skin. Wash in a circular motion with a mild hydrating soap.

2. Chemical: Topical treatments with exfoliating ingredients

Over-the-counter products — Retinols, alpha-hydroxy acids (such as glycolic acid) and beta-hydroxy acids (such as salicylic acid) can be found in many pharmacy products. Consult a pharmacist or dermatologist for help on the best one for you.

Prescription-strength products — Retinoid creams work harder than over-the-counter options, but must be prescribed by a doctor. Consult your dermatologist if over-the-counter options aren’t doing the trick.

Frequency matters

“Advertising can sometimes lead people to believe in a daily necessity for exfoliation,” says Dr. Mofid. “But it’s just not true.”

In fact, exfoliating too frequently can do more harm than good. Over-exfoliating can shed new cells with the old ones, leading to redness and irritation. And for those prone to breakouts, over-exfoliating can break down your skin’s natural barrier, making acne more prominent.

Your safest bet is to test your options and start small. Use a gentle scrub or over-the-counter product once a week, and if you feel your skin needs more, use it more often or try a stronger option. If you’re not sure what’s right for you, consult your dermatologist for the best plan of action.

The most important thing to remember is that nothing can truly reverse the signs of aging. But proper skin care can go a long way. “Be gentle with your skin,” says Dr. Mofid. “And use sun protection every single day. Even if you think you aren’t getting much ultraviolet light exposure, you are.” And nothing can age the skin like the sun can.

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