Let’s talk about exfoliation, shall we? To avoid the dreaded tl;dr, I’m splitting this into two posts so I can get detailed without you glazing over. I’ll start with oily and combination skin, and the next post will be for normal/dry/sensitive skin.

First, a definition. Exfoliation is the process by which dead skin cells are removed from the skin’s surface. There are two types: physical and chemical. Physical exfoliation uses abrasive additives like microbeads, ‘polishes’ involving powdered pumice, clays, etc, and other ground up things we won’ t talk about because they are not good for your skin. Chemical exfoliation uses chemicals to release surface dead skin cells. There are two main types of chemicals used for exfoliation: alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic and lactic acid, and beta hydroxy acids like salicylic acid. Alpha and beta refer to the position of the hydroxy group on the molecule. AHAs are water-soluble, so they cannot penetrate the pore to remove excess sebum. They are the best treatment for removing blackheads. BHAs are oil-soluble, so they can enter the pore and remove excess sebum. They are not suitable for use on dry or sensitive skin, but are very important for folks with oily skin.

For folks with an oily skin type, exfoliation is super important. Oily skin is producing loads of sebum, and the skin thickens around the blemishes. Exfoliating helps to reduce that thickened skin and to remove excess sebum from the pores. HOWEVER, I cannot say this loudly enough: YOU SHOULD NOT BE EXFOLIATING EVERY DAY, PERIOD. For some reason, people feel that if a product is good it should be used all the time, every day, in every product. I get so mad at this behavior, I have to flip a few tables to cool down. Even if your skin is literally oozing oil, you still should not exfoliate every day. If it helps you to put down the fucking exfoliating products, remind yourself that overexfoliation causes inflammation, and inflammation causes premature aging of the skin and rosacea. Please do not fuck around and find this out the hard way.

For combination skin, exfoliate 1X a day 2-3X a week. For oily skin, you can exfoliate 1X a day, every other day. You may do this using either chemical or physical methods, but for severe, cystic, or hormonal acne, you need a product with a beta hydroxy acid in it.

Buckle up, it’s gonna get ranty in here. I have heard from many of you that a company is selling products that contain ~25% AHA and 1-2% BHA. I WILL MOM VOICE THE FUCK OUT OF YOU IF YOU USE THESE TYPES OF PRODUCTS. That is WAY too strong a concentration of AHAs for non-estheticians to be using, PLUS, AHAs and BHAs together have a synergistic effect, meaning together they are stronger than either of them individually. In the US, you are not allowed to sell a product containing that concentration of AHAs to the general public. I do not recommend using a product containing more than 10% AHA and 2% BHA. And never use them together unless your face is visibly oozing oil. The #1 most damaging mistake people with oily skin make is using too-harsh, too-strong exfoliation products too often. You WILL fuck up your skin by doing this.

I want to address the anti-acne ingredients that are adjacent to exfoliators, which are the retinoids. When you exfoliate, it tells the skin to make some new skin cells and send them on their journey to the surface. Retinoids do this too. Whether it’s prescription strength Retin-A, or OTC like Differin, or just regular retinol, these ingredients all signal the skin to turn over skin cells. However, the mechanism by which retinoids work is different from physical or chemical exfoliation. So, you can still exfoliate while using retinoids, but not as often. I suggest no more than 2X a week.

That concludes part 1 of my exfoliation info. I’ll post info for other skin types soon! #themoreyouknow

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