Travel to Wellness Magazine, Spring/Summer 2014, Exfoliation

What’s one of the best things you can do for your skin at this time of year? Dr. Diane Wong, MD and Medical Director at Glow Medi Spa in Toronto, says it can be summed up in just one word: Exfoliation. Here are her thoughts and advice on the subject.
by Anne Dimon

Why is exfoliation so important at this time of year?

Following the colder months, the skin is typically left with residual dryness and can look dull and lifeless.

What are the benefits?

Exfoliation removes the dead cells on the surface of the skin and allows healthier skin to shine through. Because exfoliation stimulates the skin’s natural cellular turnover and leads to increased collagen stimulation, it is also good for aging or sun-damaged skin. The process helps even-out skin colour, smooth fine lines and improve skin texture. Exfoliation also helps skin care products penetrate to the underlying tissues of the skin, allowing them to work better. Exfoliating can also be the key to preventing acne breakouts. When dead cells are removed by exfoliation, the pores can then “breathe” and eliminate clogged debris. This lessens the risk of bacterial growth and breakouts. For active acne, she recommends calming the skin – prior to exfoliation with products specifically designed for irritated skin.

With make-at-home products, what is important to keep in mind?

Even with refrigeration, harmful bacteria and other micro-organisms in home-made scrubs can harbour and grow and may be harmful to skin, so use these products as soon as possible. Not everything that is rough should be used as an exfoliant. Almonds and oat bran are not recommended, for instance, because particles are too big and might irritate skin. Finer particle scrubs such as those made with strawberries, sugar or pumpkin are better suited for sensitive skin as they are made up of smaller granules. More textured scrubs, made with organic brown sugar, for instance, may be suitable for a rougher, thicker skin because of the larger granules, making it a more abrasive treatment. Sea salt is another exfoliation option but should be used on body only, not the face.

If buying exfoliation products off the shelf what should consumers
look for?

Products with glycolic acid or retinol are great exfoliants but are not always tolerated by very sensitive skins, and may need to be introduced gradually. A gentler alternative is a product with lactic acid as an ingredient. Do-it-yourself hand held devices should be used cautiously to avoid the possibility of excess redness or broken capillaries. Such mechanical exfoliation may not be suitable for very sensitive skin or red, irritated skin.

At the medi level what are the options?

Exfoliation at the medi level can be broken down into mechanical and chemical. A mechanical exfoliation procedure (the most popular is micro-dermabrasion), incorporates a device that has a roughened surface to gently scrape off the old, dead surface skin. The results are generally immediate but care must be taken to avoid breaking small capillaries which may lead to residual redness. Chemical exfoliation works to break down and remove dead skin with varying intensities of active solutions such as lactic acid, glycolic acid, salicylic acid or a combination of ingredients. Results may not be immediate and there may be mild flaking or peeling which can occur for a few days following the treatment. All skin types can be treated with peels as long as the peel is properly selected, customized and applied by an experienced medical skin care therapist. Most in-office exfoliation treatments result in no down-time.

What should we avoid post exfoliation?

For chemical and mechanical exfoliation, direct sun exposure should be avoided for one to two weeks following an in-office exfoliation treatment and sun block should be applied regularly.

How often should we exfoliate?

Dr. Wong suggests gentle exfoliants be used at home once or twice a week. For specific skin issues ( i.e. hyper-pigmentation, sun damaged and superficial acne scars) spa treatments can be booked once every two weeks initially, and then for general maintenance of all skin types, once a month at the most, and seasonally at the least.

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