Your skin is not only a cover, but also the largest organ in your body. Like the rest of your body, it constantly regenerates and replaces dead cells for the duration of your life. It is also porous, so as cells die at the surface, they can be trapped by the oil of your skin. “A buildup of dead skin cells can be a contributor to conditions such as clogged pores, blackheads, and the dulling of your skin’s natural color,” shares Jenna Balke, medical aesthethician and licensed laser technician at Sanova Dermatology in Pflugerville, Texas. These problems can be prevented by exfoliation. This is the removal of these dead skin cells in one of two ways:

  • Mechanically, accomplished by scrubbing with a product such as a special exfoliation sheet, sponge, or cloth, assisted by an abrasive medium such as pumice or salt crystals. Many lasers and devices at your dermatology office can also help to speed up the skin cell turnover process.
  • Chemically, with the use of skin-friendly acids such as salicylic, malic, enzymes, as well as alpha or beta hydroxy. This can also be done via chemical peels and other in-office treatments.

“As beneficial as exfoliation is, it is also just as critical to not do it to excess,” warns Balke. After all, it is the act of causing abrasion to your skin. Excessive exfoliation can result in dry, red, and tender skin, which will be more susceptible to infection and other complications.

So how often should you exfoliate? It will heavily depend on three major factors:

“The most anyone should be exfoliating is three times per week,” suggests Balke. “Naturally, if your skin is sensitive and prone to irritation, you should definitely limit it to once or twice per week, and take care to use lighter pressure and a gentler exfoliator such as sugar if you do it mechanically,” she continues.

Your skin’s oil has many benefits. However, it can also act as a trap for dead flakes. So if your skin is oily, you should exfoliate more often.

Warmer climates tend to accelerate the building up of dead skin. If you live in an area with no real winter, you should exfoliate your skin at least twice per week, provided your skin is not so sensitive that it cannot handle it. Avoid the sun immediately after exfoliation.

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