Exfoliation can be a great assist to aging or acneic skin. As skin ages, cellular turnover slows, so skin can begin to look dull and rough. A natural process that takes two weeks for babies takes three to four weeks for teens. Once past your teens, your skin renews itself about every 30 to 40 days but gets even more sluggish after 50, renewing itself only 45 to 90 days.
Studies have shown that skin prone to acne has inherent problems with optimal desquamation, one example being overly sticky skin cells that refuse to naturally de-glue and fall off, a condition called hyperkeratinization.
Before turning to exfoliation, it is imperative to make sure you are doing everything to support the skin’s own processes for balancing cellular turnover. Make sure the skin is well hydrated, since a lack of water can deactivate certain enzymes in the skin that help slough dead cells off.
Internal and external hydration are equally important. Externally the skin is best hydrated by a combo of hydric and lipidic moisture, not just one or the other. Internally, drinking a ton of water (More than you do naturally. Aim for 3-4 liters a day and magical things – like your poop changing shape – will happen.)
EAT GOOD STUFF
Your diet also plays a role. Your body requires a number of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients for optimal skin health. Vitamins and minerals are cofactors for numerous processes in the skin, including the manufacture of collagen.
Some vitamins and minerals have been more clearly linked to skin cell turnover, among them Vitamin A – especially in it’s retinoid form (as opposed to beta carotene, of which only a very small percentage is converted into retinoids by the body).
The best way to get retinoid vitamin A is by consuming animal liver. If you’re not a huge liver fan, you can get dehydrated liver tablets or get clever in the way you prepare the liver – pates and sausages are best for transforming the taste. If you’re a vegetarian, your best bet is to eat eggs and dairy, as well as consider a fish liver oil supplement.
However, in addition to eating good nutrition, it is important to make sure your body is actually absorbing it, so be sure to take your vitamins properly. Examples: oil soluble with fatty foods, certain minerals interfere with each other’s absorption so avoid taking at the same time, etc.
Make sure your stomach, intestines and liver (drinking water really helps the liver!) are all working because if not, nutrients will not be absorbed! Some people find taking enzymes aids with digestion and nutrient absorption. Certain ways of cooking and preparing food also do. Soaking and sprouting legumes, grains and nuts unlocks nutritional potential. Lightly cooking or steaming veggies actually makes them easier to digest, and juicing provides a concentrated burst of nutrients in an easily digestible format.
Consider cutting out sugar for many reasons. Just a few:
Aging: Sugar accelerates the breakdown of crucial structural proteins in the skin, like collagen and elastin. Yes, translated that means with a high sugar diet, your skin will age faster.
Acne: Consuming sugar starts a hormonal cascade in the body that creates prime conditions for adult acne. Sugar also feeds Candida yeast in our gut which can cause Candida overgrowth. Candida overgrowth can cause acne and throw hormones out of balance.
With a high sugar diet, you may THINK your skin has desquamation issues, when in reality, it is the sugar that is the cause of the congestion and/or dullness.
TOUCH AND MASSAGE
Did you know that massaging the skin has many benefits in addition to increasing circulation? It also stimulates lymph flow which helps with detoxification. It stimulates sebum, which helps with skin hydration and cleansing. Don’t worry if you have oily skin – massage will not make it oilier BUT it may help change the composition of the sebum or even balance out your overproduction. Most importantly for the topic at hand, massage aids with desquamation and helps the skin slough off dead skin cells.
Massage has the additional benefit of destressing and creating a moment of meditation, and this allows the skin to work more efficiently.
GET GOOD REST
Do not discount the importance of sleep – that is when skin does its “maintenance work” like detoxification and also turning over new skin cells for a fresh complexion.
AND THERE’S MORE
Environmental factors (like too much sun exposure), hormonal factors (like imbalances in androgens, estrogens or epidermal growth factor) can also impede the skin’s natural desquamation process. These hormones can cause skin cells to overstay their welcome, and begin to obstruct the skin’s pores, causing the creation of a microcomedone, the precursor lesion to all types of acne blemishes. The best way to begin to balance hormones is by making lifestyle and diet changes and a qualified naturopath or holistic physician can help you figure out which hormones are out of whack and how to restore balance.
Ok, so you’re doing all that and still find that your skin is dull, rough or congested? Stay tuned for our next post on skincare exfoliation hacks, specifically for the season of Fall!
Actionable: But really, have you done ALL this? Pick at least one new thing to test for 2-4 weeks and observe how your skin responds. See results? TELL US In the comments so others can be inspired!