Natural exfoliation is the simple process of removing dead, dry skin cells to reveal the healthy new skin beneath the surface. Exfoliating the skin stimulates circulation, helps unclog pores, smoothes skin texture and improves the ability of the skin to absorb moisture. Because it stimulates cell turnover and collagen production, regular exfoliation can even result in more youthful looking skin. (Note: Those with rosacea or hypersensitive skin should not exfoliate.)
Three primary methods of natural exfoliation are exfoliating skin scrubs, fruit enzyme exfoliants and alpha-hydroxy acids.
Based on sugar, salt or finely ground grains, nuts or seeds, exfoliating scrubs remove dead skin cells through abrasion. All of these ingredients are effective as a body scrub, but salt is too abrasive and drying for facial skin. Avoid using scrubs that contain pulverized nutshells or fruit pits, which can have sharp edges, on delicate facial skin as well. Whatever type of scrub you choose, use a light touch to avoid irritating sensitive skin.
Natural enzymes found in papaya (papain) and pineapple (bromelain) act as exfoliants by dissolving dead cells on the skin’s surface. After just one treatment, your skin will be noticeably softer and smoother. Papaya and pineapple enzyme masks and peels are usually gentle enough for all skin types, but can occasionally irritate sensitive skin. Fruit enzyme exfoliants can be used as part of a weekly facial treatment or daily to help rejuvenate mature skin.
Alpha-hydroxy acids are gentle acids derived from foods, such as citrus fruits (citric acid), sour milk (lactic acid), grapes (tartaric acid), sugar cane (glycolic acid) and apples (malic acid). Applied to the skin, they loosen the “glue” that binds the surface layer of skin cells together. This stimulates the shedding of old, dead cells and stimulates the formation of new cells. When used consistently, alpha-hydroxy acid treatments improve skin texture and color, reduce fine lines and age spots, and make pores appear smaller.
Laurel Vukovic writes and teaches about herbs and natural healing from her home in southern Oregon. She is the author of 1001 Natural Remedies (DK, 2003) and Herbal Healing Secrets for Women (Prentice Hall, 2000).
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