Exfoliation – A Patient's Guide to Medical Information, Summer-Fall 2007
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Exfoliation – A Patient's Guide to Medical Information, Summer-Fall 2007

Exfoliate Your Way to a Brighter You


Exfoliation may just be the key to brighter, healthier and younger-looking skin.

We asked Dr. Lisa Kellett to explain:

What is exfoliation? 
One must first understand the structure of the skin. The outermost layer of the epidermis (stratum corneum) is mainly composed of dead skin cells which have lost their DNA, and winch consist primarily of a basket-weave–like mesh of keratin protein. These cells slough off on their own to be replaced by new cells. Exfoliation accelerates this natural cell turnover by removing the keratinized cells. While the main benefit of exfoliation is cosmetic, to brighten and rejuvenate the appearance of the skin, there are cases where it is medically advantageous. For example, exfoliation may help increase the absorption of topical treatments for conditions such as psoriasis.

What is the correct way to exfoliate?
Ideally, one wants to strike a balance between removing dead cells without irritating the skin. This can easily be accomplished by using some of the products that are available on the market such as cleansers, microdermabrasion scrubs (winch can be used once or twice a week) and topical alphahydroxy acid creams. Commercially available exfoliants are mild enough for regular use when following the manufacturer’s directions. However, even a washcloth or loofah sponge can be used to exfoliate the skin as long as one is gentle. It is also important to choose a product destined for the area you wish to exfoliate: a facial exfoliant will be much milder than one for the heels of your feet. Overly aggressive exfoliation by any of these methods can lead to skin damage.

What can a dermatologist do? 
Your doctor can offer more aggressive treatments, e.g higher concentrations of topicals such as alpha hydroxy acid peels, or more mechaincal approaches, e.g diamond or crystal microdermabrasion, all of which require application by a skilled professional. It should be noted that these more aggressive treatments are generally better tolerated by mature skin which has a lower rate of cell turnover than younger skin and thus a greater buildup of keratinized cells.

How can one choose the right system?
Almost anyone can exfoliate, even people with sensitive skin or with a preexisting skin disorder such as rosacea, as long as they use a very mild exfoliant. Consult a dermatologist to decide which system is right for you. Exfoliate your way to a brighter you!

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