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Chemical or mechanical exfoliation
We can support's skin natural exfoliation process in various ways, for example with mechanical or chemical exfoliation.
Desquamation (shedding of skin cells thus exfoliation) is an important part of the skin's natural regeneration or renewal process.
Already in our twenties, this process slightly, however increasingly starts to slow down (Kligman 1983). As a result, the cells on the surface of our skin (corneocytes) become bigger (Kligman 1989) and a little disorganised. This leads to a duller appearance (loss of radiance) and a more rough texture of our skin.
A very comprehensive comparison of both methods:
The word "acid" unfortunately sounds very harsh and skin-unfriendly. Many acids are actually skin's own, like for example lactic acid is a skin's own natural moisturising factor (NMF) and so is hyaluronic acid. The level of NMF's decrease as we age and our skin my lose the ability to maintain well hydrated. Many years ago the benefits of lactic acid were capitalised by using baths filled with donkey milk. Citric acid is commonly used in skin care products and toners to balance skin's pH. Gluconolactone is only gradually penetrates skin and is very gentle.
It's unfortunate that "acids" have such a negative connotation, as our skin (healthy and problematic) can benefit if we use them regularly. Moreover, I prefer this method over mechanical exfoliation for all skin types, however particularly if you have dry skin, acne- or redness prone skin, sensitive skin or mature skin.
The risk of exfoliation is over-exfoliation. Over-exfoliation is damage of our skin barrier and the symptoms are very comparable to dry or (hyper) sensitive skin symptoms, which are: redness, irritation, tightness, excessive dryness, dry patches, flaking skin, uncomfortable stinging, or even burning sensation. Whenever you experience one or more symptoms of over-exfoliation, it's recommended to reduce the number of times you exfoliate and support the skin barrier repair with a moisturiser.
Hope you enjoy healthy skin & take care.
Understandably we want to get rid of pimples as soon as possible and sometimes apply harsh products to our skin in order to shrink them.
Depending on which ingredient is used, you might inflict injury to the skin and it's barrier which is very comparable to a mild burn. There is even a phenomenon called "toothpaste burn". During the healing process there is a risk of scarring. A study published by Tan J. et al in JJD 2017 shows that up to >87% of patients with mild to moderate acne reports atrophic scarring (sunken scar) to some degree.
A healthy skin barrier and well hydrated skin will support a the healing process. However, as the barrier is impaired and the skin dried out, the skin's regeneration and healing process will take longer.
Therefore be careful with "shrinking" pimples. The same applies for "popping" pimples, as this method by definition will cause injury to the skin. Picking and squeezing pimples will further irritate the skin tissue and delay proper healing. The risk of scarring is increased when the tissue is inflamed. A recent study of prevalence and risk factors of acne scarring confirmed that there is a relationship between the time between onset and effective treatment. Acne scars can be more difficult to treat than acne! It's better to seek expert advice if you have problematic skin.
Relation skin pH and ageing process
A high pH value contributes to premature ageing skin!
A study published in British Journal of Dermatology showed that women with an alkaline stratum corneum (outer layer of the skin) developed more fine lines and crow's-feet (wrinkles at the outside corner of the eyes) than those with acidic skin over an eight-year period.
This might be in part because an alkaline epidermis (top layer of the skin) tends to be drier and more fragile than an acidic one. Irritants can enter the skin and water can evaporate more easily. People with hydrated skin showed a 50% lower rate of wrinkling than those with dry skin. If the acid mantle is not intact, it can make skin more susceptible to inflammation (inflammaging) and lowered enzymatic activity, which again increases the risk of development of signs of ageing. Last but not least, alkaline skin is more prone to sun damage thus photo-aging, because its protective barrier has been weakened.
pH balance is fragile. I just mentioned that alkaline skin tends to be drier, however it’s also known that the oils secreted by our skin impact skin’s pH by increasing it. This is one of the reasons that oily skin types can be more prone to acne, as the skin’s pH influences it's microflora. That's a topic for another blog post.
You’ve maybe seen some of my previous posts on skin’s pH and it’s actually one of my major topics. This is because healthy skin starts with an optimal pH balance. Click below in the featured categories on “Skin pH” if you like to learn more about pH. If there is a specific topic you are interested in missing, please place a comment below and I will see to it that I address it.
Facial toners redundant?
Recently I've read an article in which facial toners were called a redundant step in the cleansing routine. They would not serve any purpose anymore and would be “old-fashioned". I disagree, and will explain why.
Particularly when you prefer wet facial cleansing (water has a pH of 7-8), your skin’s pH goes up and you may consider using a toner to bring it back to normal (~5) before using a moisturizer or serum. This also applies if you use an alkaline cleanser or micellar water. It is common that products which are suitable to be used around the eyes, like micellar water, are adapted to a more “eye-friendly” and less “skin friendly” pH of ~7. Skin prefers a pH of ~5.
In my humble opinion, toners are a very important step in every a.m. and p.m. skin care regimen for both healthy and particularly problematic skin types. They refresh, remove left-over debris and make-up and moreover instantly rebalance skin’s pH value. A balanced pH value is the cornerstone for healthy skin. An optimal pH supports skin's microbiome (microflora or "ecosystem") and barrier function. Furthermore, the use of a toner usually helps the penetration and thus efficacy of your care product!
Alternatively, you can use “chemical” exfoliating lotions or pads which contain AHA (glycol, citric and lactic acid), BHA (salicylic acid), PHA (gluconotactone), etcetera. Just be careful using them around the eyes or even avoid this area.
Hope you enjoy healthy skin & take care.
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