Shed the Dead! What is exfoliation and why is it essential to healthy, beautiful skin?

 Are you and your skin dreading the approach of Winter?  Even at this stage of Fall, many of us begin to notice a change in our skin’s hydration and appearance.  Our gorgeous Summer glow quickly becomes replaced by a dull, tight, and lackluster complexion.  But, there is a crucial step in your skin care regimen that can turn your skin around and get it glowing again, regardless of the season. Let’s take a look at what exfoliation is and how it can ensure healthy, smooth, and vibrant skin all year round!

 Did you know that human skin naturally exfoliates itself to some degree?  This cycle is called desquamation, and it represents the amount of time it takes a freshly divided skin cell to make its way to our skin’s surface and flake off.  Unfortunately, this cycle slows down dramatically as we age and can lead to cell build-up on our skin’s surface and leave us looking grey and feeling rough and dry.

 Do you have children?  If so, have you noticed how quickly their skin heals?  The desquamation cycle of a child can be as rapid as one week as they are growing!  That’s why their little complexions are so soft and glowing.  Compare that to an average adult cycle of 3 to 4 weeks, longer when we enter our sixties and beyond.  With each passing decade, our desquamation cycle extends, and the skincare step of exfoliation become increasingly crucial to the health and appearance of our skin.

 So, what exactly IS exfoliation?  In simple terms, exfoliation is anything you introduce to your skin that detaches dead skin cells from the surface.  There are two primary forms of exfoliation—physical and chemical.  Physical exfoliants knock, bump, buff, scrape or grind off dead skin cells.  Examples are your Clarisonic face brush, any scrubs you may use at home, or a professional treatment like DermalInfusion, laser resurfacing, or dermablading. 

 Chemical exfoliants are very different than their physical partners because they rely on a chemical reaction to detach dead skin cells from your skin’s surface. Various chemicals or acids may be used to target specific damage on your skin selectively, but while physical exfoliants provide immediate results, chemical exfoliants take time.  Examples of chemical exfoliants are the glycolic acid in the cleanser you use at home or the chemical peel you may schedule with your licensed aesthetician!

 There are benefits to BOTH types of exfoliation.  Physical exfoliants are an excellent option for oilier skin types and those who want an instant, “smoothing” pick-me-up.  But, if you suffer from sensitive skin or rosacea, the increased circulation that physical exfoliants cause on your skin may not be appropriate.

 Chemical exfoliation tends to be a far more versatile way to rejuvenate and smooth your skin.  Different acids can be customized to treat your specific concerns.  For example, if you suffer from dehydrated and sun damaged skin, your licensed aesthetician may recommend a product or peel that includes lactic acid, as this acid loves to target pigment and is very hydrating.  On the other hand, if you suffer from acne, she may recommend a product or peel with salicylic acid, as this acid loves breaking down oil and bacteria and can get deep within a pore to prevent future acne.

 When planning for a professional chemical peel, it is vital to design your peel with your social schedule.  Contrary to what you may expect, a chemical peel takes up to 3 days to work its way deep into your skin.  After this time, your skin will start to flake as dead, and damaged cells begin to detach.  Depending on the strength of your chemical peel, this process can last up to 7-10 days.

 It is crucial that your licensed aesthetician has the proper training and medical supervision to perform chemical peels, as complication can arise when performed incorrectly.  You will also be advised on appropriate skincare before and after your treatment to ensure safe and effective results.  Regardless of the season, you will be required to wear an SPF of at least 30 for the days following your treatment.


The licensed aestheticians at Clinical Skin Therapeutics have all been certified to perform the chemical and physical forms of exfoliation services we offer.  Schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss what method and options are best for you to Shed the Dead this October!

Clinical Skin Therapeutics

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