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What Is Micro-Exfoliation?

By Jillian O Keeffe
Updated May 21, 2024
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Exfoliation is the process of removing the top layer of skin of the body with an abrasive material. Micro-exfoliation is one form of this process, where the abrasive substance contains tiny particles. The beauty industry sells micro-exfoliation as a salon procedure and also as creams or cloths for home use.

The human body has an external layer of skin cells that are no longer alive. These dead cells protect the skin underneath from environmental damage, but also can leave skin looking dull. Micro-exfoliation products are used to rub off this top layer. The results can make the skin look smoother and more youthful. Most often, the treatment is designed for the skin on the face and neck, but salons and commercial products may also target areas of the body such as the back, the chest or the hands.

Any abrasive substance can form the basis of a micro-exfoliation product if a manufacturer can make the particles small enough to rub off portions of the skin's superficial layer. Some product manufacturers use particles in a rounded shape, designed to help prevent unnecessary damage to the layers of skin underneath. Damage and side effects can sometimes occur, including redness and soreness in the targeted area. Micro-exfoliation can be popular for those who wish to appear younger, customers with problem skin, and those with sun damaged skin.

Micro-exfoliation is similar to another cosmetic procedure called micro-dermabrasion. This is primarily a salon-based treatment that uses strong abrasives like aluminum oxide. Micro-exfoliation products tend to contain abrasive substances in smaller sized particles like rice bran or baking soda. Salon treatments may also incorporate additional steps prior to the exfoliation, such as a vacuuming of the skin which may help increase the blood flow to the face.

Home versions of micro-exfoliation are available in cloth forms and as creams. Rice bran is a popular ingredient in creams, and the cloth forms contain certain forms of plastic that rub off the dead skin cells without the need for an exfoliating wash. Although home exfoliation kits may be less aggressive than some salon treatments, users may still have to take care when using them, as the skin around the eyes, for example, may be damaged easily by the abrasion process.

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