Cell turnover is an ongoing process. The skin cell forms at the bottom of the epidermis, rises up through that layer, dies, and is shed. It’s nudged free by wear and tear and replaced by a newly arrived cell that has completed the same process. As all of the body processes slow beginning at about age twenty, so does cell turnover. In youth the cells journey from the bottom of the epidermis to shedding, which takes about 28 days. By the time you’ve reached late middle age, it takes about 7-10 days longer. A week and a half doesn’t seem like much, but to a dead cell hanging tenaciously to the skins surface, its time enough to become dried out and crinkle around the edges. That’s why mature skin often feels so rough to the touch. And the irregular surface created by these flaking cells also reflect light differently, so skin appears dull and sallow, with fine lines standing out among the miniscule cracks in the surface. Skin cells are a little like the leaves on a tree. If I pick a fresh green leaf and put water on it, the natural moisture-holding molecules in the leaf won’t let anything penetrate. The water will bead up and run off, and the leaf is smooth and pliable for a while. If I put the stem in water, some of it will enter the leaf, keeping it fresh and green a little longer. Eventually, though, it will dry out.
That’s what happens to the dead skin cells that pile up on the surface of your skin. For a while the natural moisture factors that surround them keep them supple. But eventually, exposure to the environment takes its toll. To keep that barrier strong, you have to remove those dead cells. Exfoliation makes up for nature’s slowdown by chemically or mechanically removing the topmost layer of those dead cells. To replace the shed cells, the epidermis then steps up production of new ones. The body’s natural effort to keep up with this increased shedding creates healthy cells more quickly. I believe that using an exfoliating agent to increase cell turnover to a more youthful rate is one of the best things you can do to improve your skin’s appearance. It’s also the step that gives you visible results most quickly. That’s because removing those rough cells improves skin color and texture almost immediately.
Exfoliation also temporarily improves circulation, so your skin appears brighter. I think skin literally glows immediately after an exfoliating treatment. People with acne may be surprised to see that not only do their fine lines and wrinkles disappear with regular chemical exfoliation with hydroxy acids, but they have fewer pimples as well. Hydroxy acids normalize the skin cell formation and shedding process in the hair follicles. The abnormal production of skin cells is one of the factors that causes blackheads and whiteheads, the precursors of acne, to form. Within a few weeks of using a hydroxy acid, you’ll notice less clogging of the pores and fewer breakouts.
If you choose your skin care products wisely, you can sustain the rejuvenating effects indefinitely. You can accomplish a little exfoliation when you wash your face using a cleanser that contains gentle abrasive materials such as jojoba beads or cornmeal and/or hydroxy acids to remain on your skin. And you can give your skin a serious turnover boost with a treatment product that contains one or more hydroxy acids once a day or several times a week. To jump start the process or to occasionally get a dramatic improvement you can use an exfoliating facial. And an esthetician can safely use a more concentrated solution hydroxy acids that are available in most treatment products for consumer use. A dermatologist can use an even more powerful glycolic acid formula to actually peel the top layer of skin.
We recommend the following Murad exfoliating cleanser:
- AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser: Cleanse and smooth texture. This gentle but efficient exfoliator works two ways. Salicylic, Lactic and Glycolic Acids encourage clarity and brightness by dissolving skin cell buildup. Jojoba beads further polish and retexturize. Part of the Murad Age Reform line of anti aging and anti wrinkle skin care products designed for genetic aging.
- Skin Smoothing Polish: Powerful exfoliating scrub removes embedded impurities, without stripping skin of natural moisture, revealing a more vibrant complexion.
- Transforming Powder: Dual-action cleanser and exfoliator in a unique, water-activated powder which transforms to effectively cleanse and exfoliate without over-scrubbing.
|Article by Howard Murad, M.D., FAAD, a world renowned skincare expert and founder of the Inclusive Health movement. Read more about Dr. Murad.|