You have probably exfoliated more than once, either your face or your whole body. If so, you will have experienced the pleasant feeling of silky skin. However, despite the fact that many brands and cosmetologists recommend performing 1 or 2 exfoliations per week, more and more specialists point out that exfoliation is not only unnecessary, but could actually harm us.
Corneocytes are cells found in the stratum corneum of our epidermis and play a very important role in the skin ‘s barrier function. They are commonly known as“dead cells“. As you know, the skin is the largest organ we have and one of its functions is to protect our body from external aggressions. The skin barrier protects us from environmental pollution, allergens and germs that could penetrate our body, causing infections and inflammatory conditions. The skin also acts as a waterproofing, body temperature and moisture regulator. It goes without saying that it also acts as a sunshade against UV rays so that the radiation does not penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin.
What are “dead cells”?
Corneocytes, also known as keratinocytes, have no nucleus and are flat. They are mostly loaded with keratin, which is a protein, but also contain lipids and water. In cosmetics they are known as“dead cells“, which translates into superficial flaking of the skin that we often remove through peels. Since they have no nucleus, they are cells that cannot be attacked by external pathogens.
These cells intertwine with each other in the deepest parts of the epidermis and gradually move towards the surface, weakening their bonds until they appear as loose units capable of absorbing up to 3 times their weight in water.
It takes 21 to 28 days for the skin to renew itself naturally. Through this process, surface corneocytes are shed from the stratum corneum and make way for new cells.
Many cosmetologists advise practicing 1 to 2 weekly exfoliations to remove dead skin cells. In this way we would accelerate the natural cell renewal process and stimulate the production of collagen and elastin.
There are several methods for exfoliating the skin:
- Mechanical or physical exfoliation: it can be performed with the help of mittens, microfiber brushes, konjac sponges. We can also apply peelings, gommages or masks containing microgranules that drag the corneocytes, detaching them from the most superficial layers. These suspended particles or microgranules can be of natural origin (such as sugar, tiny seeds, salt, etc.) or derived from petroleum. You should know that the latter are highly polluting, as they are microplastics, the purification plants do not manage to filter them and they end up in the sea, directly affecting aquatic organisms.
- Chemical-enzymatic peel: AHAs(alpha hydroxy acids) are applied, which perform a microabrasion on the skin capable of easily removing dead skin cells.
The pros and cons of body and facial exfoliation
While it is true that the skin automatically looks much brighter and cleaner, exfoliation has other consequences that cosmetology does not talk about very often:
- Stress on the skin: the physical exfoliating action can generate micro cuts and small lesions on the skin that can facilitate the entry of pathogens that can cause infections.
- We weaken the skin’s barrier function, which I have already mentioned, so that our body is more unprotected from environmental aggressions.
- Loss of filaggrin: the removal of corneocytes or dead cells leads to the loss of filaggrin, a protein that promotes the skin’s natural hydration.
When it is best to exfoliate:
Although I have listed a few good reasons to forgo exfoliation, the truth is that there are certain situations in which a good exfoliation, whether physical or chemical, is crucial to restore the skin to the health it needs. If you live in highly polluted areas, regular exfoliation can enhance the cleansing of the skin to remove debris that accumulates on the epidermis. It is also advisable after the summer, to remove dead cells after the most intense sun exposure.
Scrubs are so simple that you can prepare them yourself.
All you need is sugar, salt, finely ground nut shells or tiny seeds, such as poppy seeds, which you can mix with a moisturizing cream or a little oil. The size of the granules will be determined by the part of the body you need to exfoliate. For example, the face needs to be very small, you may even have to grind them with the help of a coffee grinder. A good exfoliant for the face is powdered sugar.
Once you have made your mixture, apply it to the area to be treated with gentle circular movements for a few minutes. Then rinse with warm water and enjoy the result.