Out with the old; in with the new: It’s the perfect January skincare mantra. If extreme weather or too much holiday fun has left your complexion dull and dry, one of the fastest and most effective ways to make a change is to exfoliate — that is, to remove old skin cells, revealing newer skin underneath.
Exfoliating helps with cell turnover, the natural shedding of dead cells that slows down as we age. If these cells accumulate, skin can feel rough and look dull. Exfoliation helps remove some of that debris, so skin is smoother and reflects light more evenly.
There are two different ways to accomplish this instant New Year’s transformation: Mechanical exfoliators polish away dead cells using granules, such as sugar or salt crystals. Chemical exfoliators, which include glycolic acid, lactic acid and salicylic acid, dissolve the bond between old cells and the newer ones underneath.
So which exfoliation method is better? Rodan + Fields founders Dr. Katie Rodan and Dr. Kathy Fields recommend both. “We’re fans of both gentle chemical and mechanical exfoliation, with the key word being ‘gentle,” they explain in their book Write Your Skin a Prescription for Change. “In our experience, it takes the perfect combination of the two to dissolve the bonds between cells without irritating skin and to sweep away dead cells, leaving skin soft and smooth.”
The Doctors’ advice: “Don’t overdo it.” If you don’t exfoliate regularly and want to start, or if you’ve only used one kind of exfoliator and would like to add the chemical or mechanical product you’re missing, give your skin time to get used to it:
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