Exfoliation: Mechanical vs. Chemical

Mechanical exfoliation involves the use of scrubs that clear away dead surface skin cells by using crystals (e.g. magnesium oxide), jojoba beads, or even baking soda (found in some types of microdermabrasion creams and microdermabrasion machines). Mechanical exfoliation causes a sloughing effect on the skin by loosening up then removing the outer layer of the stratum corneum. This type of exfoliation can be very effective if you suffer from blackheads as it helps to unclog blocked pores. It should be avoided if you have very sensitive skin as it can irritate the skin. Chemical exfoliation is usually a better option for sensitive skin types.

Chemical exfoliation involves applying a solution on to the skins surface as a means to achieve skin renewal. Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) like Lactic Acid, Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA) like Salicylic Acid and Vitamin A based products, Retionol (Vit A) are some of the most common ingredients used for chemical exfoliation. It is thought that AHA’s primarily affect the skin by normalising cellular turnover in the epidermis. This stimulates the formation of healthy skin, which includes sloughing of the stratum corneum.

Studies have shown that Lactic Acid not only assists with the desquamation of dead skin but it also has additional effects which include an increase in dermal Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs-Natural moisturisers) an increase in ceramides (epidermal Barrier Lipids) and improved water barrier properties. Salicylic Acid (BHA) differs to the AHAs as it is able to penetrate sebaceous substances in the follicle and help exfoliate the pore. Salicylic Acid has a much stronger effect on acne prone skin and also offers anti-inflammatory properties.

At our clinics we offer both methods of exfoliation. Depending on your skin condition being treated and your skin type will determine which method of exfoliation will give the best result. Sometimes, mechanical exfoliation (i.e. microdermabrasion) and chemical exfoliation (i.e. lactic acid peel) can be used in combination which we call a Power Peel. This utilizes both actions and allows for greater exfoliation and better penetration of the AHA’s/BHA’s. An exfoliation treatment like this will only take 30 minutes.

An initial skin consultation and skin analysis with one of our Dermal Clinicians is the first step to then advise of the best skin exfoliation program for you.

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