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How to Exfoliate Your Way to Better Skin — Without Irritation

Like many things in life, cell turnover in our skin slows as we age, which is why top dermatologists recommend regular exfoliation for those who strive for a healthy glow. If you’re yet to incorporate the essential step into your routine — whether through a cleanser or treatment — keep scrolling to learn the secret to effective exfoliating, how it works, the different types of exfoliators and dermatologist-recommended tips on how to exfoliate without irritating your skin. 

What is Exfoliating— And How Does It Benefit The Skin?

To put it simply, “exfoliating is the removal of dry, dead skin cells that lie within the outermost layer of the skin,” says board-certified dermatologist Lian A. Mack, MD. “When dry or keratinized skin cells are removed, dullness disappears revealing underlying radiant, refreshed-looking skin.”

Furthermore, exfoliation plays an even more important role in maintaining good skin as we get older. “[The] top layer of skin, or epidermal, is typically regenerated every 28 days, and just as a snake sheds its skin, we shed the top layer of skin cells every 28 days,” says board-certified dermatologist Neda Mehr, MD, and medical director at Pure Dermatology Cosmetic & Hair Center. “However, as we age, the frequency of skin cell turnover decreases, and the need for exfoliation to maintain a youthful glow increases.” In particular, Dr. Mehr recommends those over the age of 25 to incorporate exfoliation into their skincare routine to help maintain proper skin cell turnover, which visually equates to a brighter and more even skin tone. 

In addition to external factors such as weather and irritating ingredients, Dr. Cheung says our internal health can also impact our lip health. In particular, she notes that inflammatory disease, yeast overgrowth, and deficiencies in zinc, iron, vitamin B and thyroid hormones can cause cracked lips. Cracked lips may also point to a more serious issue. "Sun-damaged skin can harbor precancerous lesions on the lips that mimic cracked skin," Dr. Cheung says. 

“These superfruits have built-in alpha-hydroxy acids that we routinely see in skincare to drive cellular turnover.”

4. Apply moisturizer immediately after

Although exfoliation is great for the skin, overdoing it can cause irritation and negatively impact the skin’s microbiome. This is why Dr. Mack recommends exfoliating no more than three times per week to help minimize the risk of irritation. 

5. Exfoliate at night

For those prone to irritation, work your exfoliating step into your nighttime skincare routine instead of the morning. Doing so, Dr. Mack says, will help reduce the risk of photosensitivity and hyperpigmentation.

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