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Exfoliation

A Clean Slate

January 1, 2008


THE SCIENCE BEHIND TODAY'S PROFESSIONAL skincare products is key for skincare results that keep clients coming back. One crucial skin treatment that has been used for centuries, dating back to the days of Cleopatra, is exfoliation. This procedure produces immediate results by using several different types of organic enzymes, beads and droplets, fruit and vegetable extracts, and/or alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA). This combination can be safely used on most skin types on both the face and body, resulting in increased skincare benefits for your clients. As an added bonus for clients, most of the products used in the treatments smell great. Scents can range from essences of fresh licorice to pumpkin pie, creating a pleasurable experience for your clients while also sloughing away micro-damaged dead skin, turning over healthy cells, and increasing internal lipids that combat aging skin with collagen-building and antioxidant-protection capabilities.

Simply put, layers of corneocytes (flaky cells found on the surface) are tightly and stably bound to each other to form the membrane barrier known as the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of this complex immune organ. This thin but extremely tough barrier protects us against unwanted invaders that contribute to aging, acne, and pigmentation and is constantly in need of exfoliation to perform at its best. The skin sheds a layer each day, and seasonal changes increase the need for exfoliation. This, in turn, drives the demand for exfoliation treatments in your spa.

To understand why this layer of skin is in need of professional exfoliation treatments, you and your team are obligated, for the sake of your clients, to understand the dynamics of the skin, which is made up of both corneocytes and keratinocytes (the host cells). The structure of this defensive skin wall also includes well-built and strong protein "bricks," which are actually dead cells of the stratum corneum embedded in a matrix of intracellular lipid bi-layers. These bi-layers are the "mortar," holding the entire structure together. The corneocytes are flat pancake-like protein structures originating from keratinocytes. Due to the strong corneocyte barrier of these interlinking cells, the skin will become dehydrated, flaky, itchy, discolored, irritated, aged, and prone to cellulite if not properly exfoliated. It will also impede the ability of active ingredients to penetrate the skin.

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The Science Behind Professional Exfoliation

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Caring for skin to eliminate dead corneocyte deposits from the stratum corneum (SC) epidermis to uncover a new generation of skin requires inherent biological desquamation and professional physical exfoliation functioning in concert. Several skin care and chemical manufacturers provide various professional products in the form of diverse constituents and instruments including, but not limited to, chemicals, enzymes, microdermabrasion, cavitation, benzoyl peroxide, acids, masks, mechanical beads, and other desquamating facilitators. It is important that skin care professionals know what the safest products are to use during exfoliation procedures.

There is an actual science to professional exfoliation.

Maintenance of the skin’s barrier function by epidermal metabolism holds that the SC is not dead, but actually possesses a limited form of metabolic activity. Equally important, the SC is a biosensor that signals the underlying epidermis to respond to external stressors, such as exfoliation in the form of peels, enzymes, mechanical stimulation, cavitation, and so on. The skin is sectioned off into three layers: epidermis, dermis and subcutaneous layer. The epidermis is the outer layer and is made up of four distinct cell types including the keratinocyte, melanocyte, Langerhans and Merkel cells. These cells travel in constant movement to the SC termination point until they no longer possess their nucleus and organelles, leading to their death.

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Skin Exfoliation

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Exfoliation simply means the removal of corneocytes on the skin’s epidermis. This complicated immune organ sheds billions of skin cells daily; however, when this natural desquamation slows down or stops due to ultraviolet ray damage, dehydrated or oily skin, winter cold injury, genetics, or skin disorders, the end point is clearly identifiable ensuing in flaky skin, congested pores, and various inflammatory/non-inflammatory acne lesions, resulting in uneven, blotchy, and aged skin.

Exfoliants have been around for centuries and used to rid the epidermis surface of epithelial cell buildup to bring balance back to the skin. This integral exfoliation step in both professional treatments and homecare causes the skin to rid pore toxins, control acne breakouts, remove transient pigmentation, smooth wrinkles, and eliminate the thick, dry corneocyte barrier for better penetration of topicals to replace important indigenous nutrients for a prolific new generation of cell turnover, assembling a younger-acting epidermis. Today, there are many different skin exfoliants for face and body. They range from mechanical to chemical constituents.

Mechanical exfoliation techniques vary from mesh sponges, gauze, brushes, pumice stones, microfibers, exfoliation sheets, microbead facial scrubs, apricot or almond shells, sugar, salt crystals, corundum, pumice, loofahs, microdermabrasion, or mechanical brushes, just to name a few.

To identify some of the professional chemical exfoliant topicals available, there are salicylic, glycolic, lactic, citric, malic, pyruvic, and trichloroacetic acids, Jessner, enzymes, protease, and fruit enzymes.

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