In my last post I discussed how stem cell skin care is a pseudo fountain of youth that's an ineffective anti-ager and potential health hazard. Also, in another recent post I explored my journey to making UV-damage reversing skin care because UV-damage leads to aging, so reversing UV damage is a logical anti-aging maneuver. However, achieving and maintaining healthy, youthful skin is not a one-step solution and is the reason why we need multiple products and multiple steps in a proper daily anti-aging skin regimen. Therefore, the fountain of youth is not a single product, but a regimen that consists of certain key steps with particular skin care items. In this post I am going to discuss an important and overlooked anti-ager that is a crucial step in my "fountain of youth" skin care regimen: daily chemical exfoliation.
Chemical Exfoliation Has An Unjust Bad Reputation
Chemical exfoliation sounds scary. It evokes images of red, inflamed, blistered faces reminiscent of burn victims, and let me assure you, this is not an accurate representation of proper exfoliation nor is it the proper way to exfoliate. The harsh mental associations from improper exfoliant use has given chemical exfoliation an unfair and misguided reputation, and is the reason why so few people exfoliate daily despite the tremendous anti-aging benefits.
Chemical Peels Are Too Harsh
Jessner peels and other harsh exfoliators get all the notoriety, but I am not convinced of their safety or effectiveness long-term. With these treatments you are literally giving yourself a chemical burn which is something one would think to avoid at all costs in any other area. However, skin care seems to get a pass because it may mean that a line or two may get erased. I swear that there are people out there who would pour battery acid on their face if I told them it may make them look a year younger.
Inflaming Your Skin is Bad. Always.
I am of the mindset that if your face is red and inflamed by the end of a treatment, then your body is "rejecting" that treatment, and that you didn't do something to benefit your health, despite what the person you just paid to do that to your face says. The inflammatory response is elicited when something unwelcome has been introduced into your body, and the inflammation is there to bring your body back to homeostasis. So why go to an esthetician who gives you a harsh peel which makes your face look worse than it did when you came in? Didn't you go there with the intention of making your skin look better? My thoughts are, if it makes your skin red, then your body does not want it, and therefore it is bad for your health. And if it is bad for your health, then it is not anti-aging is it? Its pro-aging. We do not need to take such harsh measures with our body. It isn't good for us, and it contributes to the aging process.
Don't Look For Quick Fixes in Skin Care
I am not a fan of quick fixes because those are the skin care industry's version of a "get rich quick" scheme. Biology is a slow process. The body does not change overnight through use of topical products, so any immediate changes that you see are going to go away once you wash off the product. If touted benefits can be "washed off" then the product just gave the illusion results, which probably required harsh ingredients to do so. You need to view your skin's health just like successful businesspeople view their business: as a lifelong commitment. The most successful businesspeople like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates achieved their success slowly and through hard work. You should achieve great skin the same way: through careful research of the right products that slowly and gradually work with your skin to obtain optimal health and radiance. One of the best ways to get rich slowly with your skin is with daily chemical exfoliation with gentle alpha hydroxy, beta hydroxy, and poly hydroxy acids formulated in a product with a mild yet effective pH.
The Benefits of Daily Chemical Exfoliation
- Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) are natural humectants(4, 5), which means they attract water to the skin. Specifically, humectants draw water to the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of the epidermis, preventing dryness and maintaining moisturized skin. Research has also found that lactic acid stimulates ceramide synthesis in the skin ( 3) . Ceramides are a type of lipid in your skin, and by having lactic acid synthesize ceramides, your skin has an improved lipid barrier which prevents water loss.
- Examples of my favorite AHA's for daily chemical exfoliation: Lactic Acid, Apple Cider Vinegar, and Malic Acid
- Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that has been scientifically shown to improve breakouts in acne-prone skin. A large portion of over the counter acne products contain salicylic acid due to its effectiveness.
- Daily chemical exfoliation smooths out the skin by removing dead skin cells, which makes your skin an unsuitable environment for bacteria to grow. Conversely, physical exfoliants (scrubs, polishes, cleansing brushes, microdermabrasion, etc) create microlacerations on skin's surface which provide a home for bacteria to embed themselves, which can lead to acne.
- Malic acid has natural anti-bacterial properties and has been shown to be an effective treatment for urinary tract infections (1).
Promotes Stem Cell Growth
- Alpha hydroxy and poly hydroxy acids increase the production of new skin cells by removing the top layer of dead skin, which clears space for new skin cells. When we chemically exfoliate we are accelerating the production of new skin cells by stimulating stem cell growth. The result is fresh, young skin and a bright complexion.
Stimulates Collagen Growth
- The promotion of skin cell growth naturally causes an increase in the the collagen layer in the stratum basale
Removes Fine Lines and Wrinkles
- Studies have found that lactic acid is an effective, non-invasive way to remove fine lines and wrinkles. Furthermore, lactic acid was found to be gentler and more effective than glycolic acid for the improvement of fine lines and wrinkles (6).
Improves Signs of Photodamaged Skin
- AHAs such as lactic acid and BHAs such as Salicylic acid have been found (in scientific settings) to alleviate many of the hallmarks of spending too much time out in the sun: wrinkles, sun spots, rough skin, sallowness, and loss of collagen (2, 7)
With all of these benefits, the real question is, why wouldn't you exfoliate everyday? Check out my next article which will explore choosing the right chemical exfoliant.
1. Jensen, H.D., Struve, C., Christensen, S.B. and Krogfelt, K.A., 2017. Cranberry juice and combinations of its organic acids are effective against experimental urinary tract infection. Frontiers in microbiology, 8.
2. Kligman, D. and Kligman, A.M., 1998. Salicylic acid peels for the treatment of photoaging. Dermatologic surgery, 24(3), pp.325-328.
3. Kraft, J.N. and Lynde, C.W., 2005. Moisturizers: what they are and a practical approach to product selection. Skin Therapy Lett, 10(5), pp.1-8.
4. Lynde, C.W., 2001. Moisturizers: what they are and how they work. Skin Therapy Lett, 6(13), pp.3-5.
5. Middleton, J.D., 1974. Development of a skin cream designed to reduce dry and flaky skin. J Soc Cosmet Chem, 25, pp.519-534.
6. Prestes, P.S., Oliveira, M.M.M.D. and Leonardi, G.R., 2013. Randomized clinical efficacy of superficial peeling with 85% lactic acid versus 70% glycolic acid. Anais brasileiros de dermatologia, 88(6), pp.900-905.
7. Stiller, M.J., Bartolone, J., Stern, R., Smith, S., Kollias, N., Gillies, R. and Drake, L.A., 1996. Topical 8% glycolic acid and 8% L-lactic acid creams for the treatment of photodamaged skin: a double-blind vehicle-controlled clinical trial. Archives of dermatology, 132(6), pp.631-636.
8. File:Acer griseum2.jpg. (2014, December 1). Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. Retrieved 06:43, June 21, 2017 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Acer_griseum2.jpg&oldid=141136074.