The Not So A"peel"ing #Truth #About #Exfoliation
Exfoliation. As an adult, you’ve probably come a long way from the days of rubbing your skin raw with that infamous apricot scrub, trying to scour away every impurity and imperfection. You’ve likely moved on to more “sophisticated” means of exfoliation, ones that promise to go deeper, speeding up cell turnover within the dermis to reveal fresher, younger looking skin. AHAs. BHAs. Glycolics. Retinol. And if you’re really determined, laser peels. But have you ever stopped to consider there may be a price to pay for forcing your skin to renew itself before it’s ready?
Your cells are preprogrammed to replicate themselves a finite number of times (about 50-70 to be exact). Within the DNA of each cell are what are known as “telomeres.” Telomeres are strings of protein that protect the cells' chromosomes. Each time a cell replicates itself, the telomeres become shorter and shorter. Eventually the telomeres are worn down completely, at which point the cell dies. When cells die, other cells replicate themselves to replace the dead cells. This is all a normal and healthy process.
Problems arise, however, when excessive division of skin cells is encouraged through the use of peels, lasers and other aggressive forms of exfoliation. Skin cells need to be fully mature before they replicate themselves, because mature cells are stronger and better able to protect themselves against environmental elements and other aging factors. When too many cells are reaching the end of their life span prematurely because of the increased rate of cellular division that over-exfoliation causes, there are not enough mature cells to replace the cells that have died. As a result, young cells that are not fully developed yet are forced to replicate themselves. This may appear as “fresher, younger skin” on the outside, but below the surface trouble is brewing. These immature cells are not yet strong enough to protect and repair the molecules that make skin strong and resilient and will therefore age faster. In other words, less wrinkles today could equal more wrinkles tomorrow!
Additionally, as you know, your body is an amazing machine with a vast number of automatic processes to protect itself. When a cell suffers DNA damage from, say, that day at the beach you forgot to reapply sunscreen, it will not replicate on its own until it has repaired itself. However, when you are forcing excessive cellular division as described above, cells that have not had time to repair themselves may have to divide anyway. Can you guess what happens when you make a copy of a cell with DNA damage? That’s right, it makes another cell with the same DNA damage. This time, however, the damage is embedded in the DNA and cannot be repaired. And eventually THAT cell will divide, making yet another copy of the damaged cell. And so on and so on. Accumulated DNA damage is the cause of wrinkles, age spots and yes, even cancer.
The goal, therefore, is not to promote increased cell turnover, but to promote HEALTHY cell turnover. Skin care product that support the skin’s own protective lipid barrier, while also delivering antioxidant ingredients such as Vitamins C and E, green tea, niacinamide, and grape seed extract to defend against free-radical damage to cells, will allow cells to achieve their full natural cycle of around 30-40 days before regenerating. Healthy skin that is cared for properly will naturally exfoliate itself by shedding the topmost layer of dead skin cells. Skin that is thick and oily, however, may need some help with exfoliation, but a gentle manual or enzyme-based exfoliant that removes only the dead cells on the very surface will do the job. Microdermabrasion may seem to be a tempting means of exfoliation to get that "fresh" appearance without going into the deeper layers of skin, however it greatly compromises the skin's lipid barrier and causes an extreme amount of trauma to the skin that can eventually result in chronic inflammation, hyper-pigmentation and broken capillaries.
It is best to consult with a knowledgeable (and conservative) skin care professional to help you determine how often your skin needs exfoliation, as it is highly individual.
Long live healthy skin!