Your skin is constantly renewing itself and shedding off dead cells. As you age, however, the rate at which your cells turn over slows down, resulting in a dull, dreary skin tone. Exfoliating, or sloughing, speeds up the process and produces a brighter, rosier complexion.
There are two basic ways to exfoliate: physical or chemical. Physical exfoliation involves using a grainy facial scrub or buffer pads. Be careful when selecting an exfoliating product, as it is very easy to go overboard and treat the skin too roughly. Stay away from products containing ground up nut shells or apricot shells, as these have jagged edges that could damage the skin. Try a product with exfoliating beads instead, which are round and much gentler. Exfoliate with a scrub or a buffing pad only once or twice a week.
Chemical exfoliation uses Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) or Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) to loosen and remove dead skin cells. With chemical exfoliation, less is more. Use these lotions sparingly, as it is very easy to irritate the skin. If your skin becomes red and flaky or stings excessively, reduce the amount of product you’re using or apply it every other day instead of daily. Alpha hydroxy creams and lotions may help with fine lines, irregular pigmentation and age spots and may improve the appearance of pores by dissolving dirt and oil. Beta hydroxy acid (or salicylic acid) tends to be gentler on the skin and also does a good job at improving texture and skin tone.
Don't Forget to Wear Your Vitamins
While scientists once thought that vitamin molecules were too large to be absorbed by the skin, vitamin-enriched skin care products are now commonplace.
Number one for effectiveness is retinol (a derivative of Vitamin A), which has a molecular structure small enough to reach the lower layers of the skin, where collagen and elastin are produced. Retinol improves skin tone, treats fine lines and wrinkles and improves texture.
Vitamin C is another complexion powerhouse. It helps minimize fine lines, scars and wrinkles. It has also been shown to reverse sun damage. Be very choosy when picking a Vitamin C product for your skin because the vitamin is very unstable and breaks down when exposed to oxygen, making it useless. Look for one in opaque packaging to minimize exposure to the elements and close the bottle tightly after use.
A derivative of Niacin called nicotinamide has been shown to improve the skin’s ability to hold moisture, while another derivative called niacinamide helps with hyperpigmentation or excess melanin in the skin. It is useful for fading age spots and fighting the signs of sun damage.