Healthy skin has a natural cycle of renewal, which begins with fresh new cells formed at the lower levels of the skin (the epidermis) and proceeds with their migrating upwards to the stratum corneum, or surface layer. As these cells move upwards through the layers of the skin, they progressively morph into different shapes in a process called “differentiation”. Starting off as plump, juicy cells and slowly flattening and drying out in the differentiation process, they dump their contents, which include lipids and proteins that support the production of Natural Moisture Factor, into the skin tissue and keep the body's largest organ hydrated, healthy and beautiful.
Finally, at the end of their journey, these cells come to rest at the skin surface, creating a strong barrier composed of hard, formerly cellular, now essentially dead, shells, called “corneocytes.” There they protect the living tissue below from microbial attack, environmental assault, mechanical damage, and dehydration. Ultimately, the corneocytes will flop off of the skin in a process called “desquamation”, making room for the next generation of migrating cells to take their place.
As we age and/or the skin becomes unhealthy and under conditions of poor nutrition, this process of renewal slows down and becomes inefficient. Differentiation processes likewise become sluggish and disrupted, resulting in less Natural Moisture Factor production, leaving the skin dry, dehydrated, and with a weakened barrier. This is where exfoliation comes in.
Exfoliation is the artificial or EX-ternal process of desquamation. When done properly, exfoliation signals the skin to return to a healthy, youthful renewal cycle. It’s a lot like going to the gym - when you lift weights and feel that burn, you’re creating mild trauma to the muscles to encourage growth. Disturbing the skin cells with exfoliation works in the same way exercise disturbs the muscle cells - both result in growth and repair!
Fun fact: the burn you feel from working out is due to lactic acid - the very same kind used in topical exfoliation.
Recent studies have shown that proper exfoliation not only speeds up the desquamation process but also thickens the epidermis and even the dermis, resulting in healthier, more resilient skin.
….and, that’s the Truth. ~Ben
Skin Renewal Series: The Case for Exfoliation