Skin Beautiful Dermaceuticals

Anti-Aging Routines. Step 1 – Exfoliate, Exfoliate, Exfoliate.

In Where Do I Start? An Introduction to Anti-Aging Skincare Routines, I briefly went over the 3 basic steps in any anti-aging routine. The steps are quite simple, actually: (1) exfoliate away the old (and old looking) skin, (2) remodel the skin, (3) target specific areas of concern and (4) protect the skin from further damage.

Today, I’ll be explaining step 1 — exfoliation. Most women understand the basic concept, but you may think of this as merely scrubs or an exfoliation cloth or mitt. Scrubs and mitts are what’s known as manual exfoliation. They will remove some dead cells from the skin surface, true, but they can’t do much more than that. You’ll get a very temporary sensation of softer, smoother skin, but the effects are very superficial and have no long-term effect on skin rejuvenation. They also can’t exfoliate significantly enough to remove old, pigmented skin or allow your specific treatment serums and creams to penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin.

Chemical exfoliation is what I’m actually talking about in step 1, and this is achieved through alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acid (BHA). Although I list exfoliation as step 1, in reality, it blends into step 2 because AHAs and BHA both have the ability to actually remodel the skin so that the new cells that rise to the surface actually act and look more like younger skin. That is what makes AHAs and BHAs so superior to simple manual exfoliation. For some women, if their anti-issues are minor, or for younger women looking to stave off the look of aging, you may be able to exfoliate and more right on to step 3.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids
AHAs are naturally occurring acids that were originally derived from the sugars in particular plants or animal products, like milk. (Please note that these acids can all be made synthetically now in a lab and Skin Beautiful Dermaceutical does nto use any animal or animal derived ingredients in any of our products.)  AHAs work at the very base of the stratum corneum, dissolving the cement that holds dead skin cells together. This dissolution increases cell turnover and influences the creation of a new stratum corneum in the skin. The result is skin that is more flexible, smoother, softer, and with a more even tone and pigment.

At lower strengths, AHAs also significantly improve the skin’s ability to hold moisture while removing superficial dead skin cells which prepares the skin for active treatment products (i.e., the treatment serums and creams that you use to correct and repair any specific issue such as deep lines or hyperpigmentation). At higher strengths, deeper dermal effects, such as increased collagen and increased skin thickness and plumpness are observed. Again, these are all the hallmarks of younger looking skin.

Glycolic acid, the most common alpha hydroxy acid found in cosmetic preparations, is popular mainly because it was the first alpha hydroxy acid to be discovered and is also the cheapest acid available. Unfortunately, the small molecular structure and rapid penetration of glycolic acid also make it the most irritating of the group. Many women cannot tolerate the strengths necessary to achieve the highest skin remodeling effects due to the irritancy (read: burning, stinging, irritated skin).

Lactic acid, originally derived from milk sugar, is a natural humectant that draws and holds water in the upper layers of the skin. Alpha hydroxy acids as a whole can increase the skin’s ability to trap water due to an increased production of natural skin moisturizers (hyaluronic acid), but lactic acid’s extra humectant properties make it even more ideal for treating drier skin types or for those living in low humidity climates. Lactic acid’s larger molecular size also makes it much less irritating than glycolic acid. Additionally, because lactic acid is naturally found in the human body, it is not likely to cause an allergic reaction in those with reactive skin. Lactic acid is ideal for those with slightly sensitive, dry skin or allergy-prone skin. It is also well known to be particularly beneficial in treating pigmentation.

Originally derived from bitter almonds, Mandelic Acid is a relatively new acid with a significantly larger molecular size than the traditional glycolic acid. This makes it excellent for those who have always considered themselves sensitive to AHAs. It also works well for ethnicities that are traditionally unable to use gylcolic acid due to irritation and discoloration issues.

Mandelic Acid is also very effective for hyperpigmentation problems, making it the acid of choice for those suffering with age spots, sun damage or melasma. Mandelic Acid is the only AHA which has the ability to penetrate pores. Not only can it clean out pores, but it also kills any bacteria inside the pores. Because of these benefits, some women find Mandelic Acid highly effective for blemishes and adult acne, although I personally find BHA to be superior for this use if one has a significant issue and/or needs daily pore cleansing to keep skin clear and blemishes at bay. (More about this below.)

Beta Hydroxy Acid
Beta Hydroxy Acid is the trendy new term for Salicyclic Acid. Most people associate Salicylic Acid with acne, which is proably why BHA is more popular term now, but the truth is that BHA is an extremely effective acid for anti-aging and skin rejuvination and its benefits far exceed blemishes and breakout-prone skin, although it’s still great for that use, too.

The exfoliating action of BHA is similar to that of AHAs, but it is highly oil soluble and has the ability to penetrate and clean out pores — much more so than Mandelic Acid. What’s more, salicylic acid doesn’t generally sting and has anti-inflamatory properties (it’s related to aspirin), so many people with sensitive skin or even rosacea can use BHA if it’s buffered and not greater than 2% potency. So while BHA is extremely effective at decreasing the number of blackheads and whiteheads and keeping acne at bay, it is also an exceptional and, in lower strengths, gentle, exfoliator for skin rejuvination for the reasons stated above.

What does this mean? It means that, when properly formulated, BHA can effectively do all the things that AHAs do such as softening and smoothing skin, reducing fine lines and discoloration, and making sure your treatment products can effectively penetrate to the deeper layers of the skin. If you have clogged pores or adult acne — which generally require daily exfoliation, and you are also concerned about anti-aging issues, BHA is usually my first recommendation for an exfoliator. In fact, it’s my personal favorite exfoliator as I tend to suffer from clogged pores and daily buildup of dead skin cells.

The Importance of pH and Free Acid Values
Here is where we get technical! The pH and free acid values of exfoliators were two of the reasons I started my own skincare line. Frankly, I was annoyed with the fact that most exfoliators on the market are not formulated in a way that ensures you’ll receive the most benefit from the product (or even the stated benefit of the product). There are companies that do tell you the % of acid and the pH value, but they’re far and few between and most are still using glycolic acid, which I already knew didn’t agree with my skin — or the skin of many other women out there. When I formulated my two exfoliating products, Refining Micro Peel Pads and Gentle Daily Peel, I wanted to make sure they actually did what I claim they do. After all, isn’t that why you buy a product in the first place? So let’s look at these two things more carefully.

Although Alpha Hydroxy Acids and Beta Hydroxy Acid are both exceptional skin rejuvinators and anti-aging products, the free acid value is absolutely critical in obtaining the desired results. The free acid value is the pH of the exfoliating product before any buffering agents have been added. A product with no buffering agents will have a pH of 1.9. This is called an unbuffered acid and is typically used only by health care professionals, although many people without sensitive skin and stubborn acne can use unbuffered BHA without issue.

In general, and especially for women with mature skin, buffering products is necessary to avoid irritation for at-home use. However, only a slight buffering is needed to achieve this goal. By way of comparison, a buffered AHA product with an 8% acid content, but a pH of 4, will have a free acid value of only 4.7. This is extremely important when comparing products as the benefits to skin derived from a free acid value of 4.7 are much lower than those derived from a product with a free acid value of 8. In short, don’t be fooled by products that claim a very high percentage of acid, but are really buffered products. That is, if they disclose the information to you…

To make matters worse, BHA is not effective at all if the pH is more than 3.5. There are very few products that include BHA in an effective pH range; rather, most are so highly buffered as to render them almost useless. (You can actually test the pH of any product you have with pH testing strips.)

A 2-4% free acid value is generally the threshold minimum for any beneficial effect to take  place. The following chart indicates free acid values and the derived skin benefits. The higher free acid values retain all the benefits of the lower free acid values:

* 2-4% – smoother, softer, more even skin due to removal of superficial cells, with a moderate increase in glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) and improved moisturization

* 4-8% – moderate increase in squamous cell turnover with a significant increase in GAGs

* 8-12% – significant increase in squamous cell turnover with moderate increase in collagen deposition.

* 12-15% – significant increase in collagen deposition along with thicker, less fragmented elastic fibers

* 15-20% – a more uniform melanin pattern and reversal in basal cell atypia

Also, although the chart does not specifically state so, the effect of exfoliation and squamous cell turnover is to remove pigmented skin cells as well. If the new cells which replace the old ones are not pigmented (due to the use of treatment products that lighten and brighten skin), then exfoliators will eventually remove the pigmented skin and reveal even-toned, younger-looking skin. Similarly, if products are being used to encourage healthier cell formation or behavior in any way, then again, when the old cells are exfoliated, the healthier, younger looking skin cells will rise to the surface.

Skin Beautiful Dermaceutical’s Refining Micro Peel Pads contain a total of 15% AHAs at a pH of 2.5. This provides you with the highest benefits referenced above, which means you can expect the very highest in skin remodeling and rejuvenation — i.e., younger looking skin. This product can actually rival prescription Retin-A, but without the irritation. You can expect significantly softer, smoother, plumper skin with more hydration, less lines and a more even skin tone.

BHA doesn’t conform to the above chart exactly. It tends to run a bit higher on benefit per acid % than AHAs do,  however, a 2% BHA at a pH of 3.2 will put you around the 4-8% noted above in the chart. Of course, you get the pore refining benefits of BHA that AHAs cannot as readily provide. Our Gentle Daily Peel contains 2% BHA at a pH of 3.2. What does that mean for you? This product will also provide softer, smoother, more even skin, but with less effect on deeper wrinkles and collagen formation. However, it will provide the additional benefit of being able to use it every single day if dead skin build up and/or clogged or enlarged pores are issues for you.

How Do I Decide Which Exfoliator Is Right For Me?
Good question! It all depends on your skin type and the issues you are trying to address. As mentioned above, Skin Beautiful Dermaceuticals carries two exfoliators, our Refining Micro-Peel Pads and Gentle Daily Peel.

The Refining Micro Peel Pads contain 15% Lactic and Mandelic Acids (both AHAs) at a pH of 2.5. This is some pretty strong stuff! It works great for sun damaged skin, hyperpgimentation and even deeper wrinkles. This product is going to provide some serious skin remodeling over time. (See that chart again.)

Although more significant skin remodeling (younger looking skin) can be seen with the Refining Micro-Peel Pads, the stength means you probably won’t be able to use it every single day. That is perfectly fine for purposes of anti-aging, but if you suffer from a lot of dead skin build up (dull skin, makeup doesn’t go on easily after a day or two post-exfoliation, etc.) or clogged pores and breakouts, you may find you need daily exfoliation. That’s where the Gentle Daily Peel comes in.

Gentle Daily Peel is exactly what the name implies — gentle. You can use it every single day without issue.  It also contains skin soothing ingredients like Tamarind Extract and an excellent, non-GMO sourced humectant called Zemea. But don’t let the gentleness fool you. This is a potent exfoliator/skin rejuvinator, too. In fact, you’ll get all the benefits offered up to the 8% free acid value listed in the chart earlier in this post.  And because it’s a BHA, it is extremely effective for keeping pores clean and tight and keeping acne or breakouts at bay. This is actually the exfoliator I use most often because my skin tends to build up rather quickly and I’m prone to clogged pores.  Even though I suffer from hyperpigmentation issues, this is still my go-to exfoliator; my lightening products make sure the new skin cells that form are even toned and then the BHA makes sure those new cells actually get to the surface in a speedy fashion.

But it’s not necessarily an all or nothing option, either. Some women get more creative that that. You can use the Refining Micro-Peel Pads on your cheeks and forehead a few times a week and use the Gentle Daily Peel on your nose and chin every day. Or you could use the Refining Micro-Peel Pads twice a week for intensive skin remodeling and the Gentle Daily Peel on the other days. There is no wrong or right way to go about this. Experiment to find out what works best for you!

As always, if you have any questions, you can always contact us.

We will be very glad to help you!

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