Exfoliating daily is a practice that can improve the appearance of the skin. Exfoliating works by increasing the rate at which dead skin cells are shed from the surface of the skin. This shedding of dead cells is a natural process but slows with age, and is sometimes too slow in people prone to acne and breakouts. Exfoliating daily can maintain improvements in skin appearance and reduce the occurrence of breakouts.
The skin exfoliates naturally on its own, but exfoliating daily ensures that it happens quickly enough. For children, teens, and people in their twenties, new skin cells appear at a higher rate, so dead cells are shed more quickly too. Over time though, damage from the sun, hormonal changes, and aging slow down the skin-shedding process, and the production of new skin cells also slows. This can lead to undesirable changes in skin's texture and appearance. By removing "old" cells, the skin naturally looks younger.
Chemical exfoliants like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) are often used as ingredients in soap, cleansers, and creams. These are the best choice for everyday use, as they are gentle and don't damage the skin. AHAs like glycolic acid and lactic acid are water-soluble exfoliants best used for dry skin and people who don't usually have breakouts. BHAs, like salicylic acid, are oil-soluble and better able to penetrate pores than AHAs. Therefore a BHA is a better choice for exfoliation when oily skin and recurrent breakouts are problematic.
Another benefit of exfoliating daily is that moisturizers will be better absorbed afterward. This can smooth wrinkles, reduce the roughness and dryness of skin, and make it more pliable. All of these benefits contribute to younger-looking skin. Exfoliation can also stimulate collagen production, a protein vital for healthy skin.
Most people are able to tolerate exfoliating daily with over-the-counter AHA and BHA-containing products. If mild dryness or sensitivity occurs, skipping a day will probably relieve the problem. AHAs and BHAs can increase the skin's sensitivity to sun damage, so using sunscreen becomes even more important. The recommended order of application is to use an exfoliant, followed by a moisturizer, then sunscreen.
Using a microdermabrasion product at home is another way to exfoliate the skin, but it isn't recommended for daily use. This process involves scraping off dead cells with a rough, abrasive cloth or cream. This is a much more thorough procedure, so overuse can easily cause raw skin or worse. Begin using microdermbarasion at weekly intervals and in small amounts to find the right balance.