What’s Facial Exfoliation? And Should I Do It?

When the term “exfoliation” is used in the context of skin care, it refers to the removal of a superficial layer of dead skin cells, which are sloughed off routinely every month when we are young.

As we age, natural exfoliation of skin cells can take twice as long, resulting in the accumulation of a layer of dead skin cells.

This thicker layer of dead skin can cause the complexion to appear dull, discolored, and broken out (resulting from clogged pores).

Exfoliation, achieved by either mechanical or by chemical means, can make your skin look brighter, smoother, and more even; however, if done too aggressively, it can cause micro-tears that compromise the protective skin barrier.

Benefits of Exfoliation

Removal of layers of dead skin cells can help to brighten your complexion, reduce redness, smooth rough patches, fade acne scars and dark spots, and stimulate collagen production.

Exfoliation helps to unclog pores, which prevents breakouts and increases the effectiveness of other skincare products by allowing them to penetrate more deeply into the skin. It also helps to loosen ingrown hairs when done prior to shaving.

Types of Exfoliation

  1. Mechanical (physical) exfoliation requires physical force to remove dead skin cells; it can be achieved by using a sponge, a brush, or mild abrasive particles to smooth and refine the skin.
  2. Chemical exfoliation is usually more gentle on the skin than mechanical exfoliation; it utilizes acids or enzymes to loosen desmosomes that hold the dead skin cells together, facilitating their removal.
    1. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are water-soluble and exfoliate the surface of the skin. They draw in moisture to help keep the face hydrated. Types of AHAs include lactic acid, glycolic acid, mandelic acid, and tarteric acid.
      1. Lactic acid is the most gentle of the AHAs, which makes it an excellent choice for sensitive skin.
      2. AHAs should be applied every three nights on clean, dry skin when you are beginning to use them.
      3. AHAs should be allowed to penetrate the skin for about 10 minutes before application of subsequent skincare products.
      4. Glycolic acid is stronger and quicker-acting than lactic acid; it is appropriate for normal or oily skin.

        The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution
    2. Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) are oil-soluble and re-open oil-clogged pores to treat blackheads and comedones. They have anti-inflammatory properties, which help to reduce some of their irritating effects.
      1. Salicylic acid is a common type of BHA.
      2. BHAs can be irritating and drying if high concentrations are applied to the entire face.
      3. BHAs should be used every third night on clean, dry skin.

        Neutrogena Rapid Clear
        Salicylic Acid
        Treatment Pads
    3. Retinoids
    4. Urea
  3. Certain skin types require specialized types of exfoliation:
    1. Oily, thick skin can tolerate more potent chemical exfoliants and mechanical exfoliants.
    2. Individuals with darker skin should refrain from the more aggressive forms of exfoliation, which can result in the formation of dark spots on the skin.
    3. People who have dry, sensitive, or acne-prone skin benefit from a mild chemical exfoliant as mechanical types may be too irritating.

Continue reading “What’s Facial Exfoliation? And Should I Do It?”

What’s a Retinoid? The Role of Vitamin A Derivatives in Skin Care

Retinol (Vitamin A)

The contemporary skin care market boasts thousands of products, each containing hundreds of active ingredients, offering a vast array of benefits.

Acne control, radiant skin, and less visible signs of aging are among some of the more popular claims made by modern products, and creams and serums containing retinoids are certainly no stranger to the spotlight.

Very few compounds have the ablility to reliably deliver the benefits of retinoids, yet even making a decision on what type of retinoid to use can be a daunting task in itself.

Retinoids are a class of chemical compounds that are derived from vitamin A; there are seemenly endless types and formulations designed for various purposes.

Retinoids bind to receptors within the cell that affect DNA regulation, and they are intimately involved in the mediation of cell proliferation and differentiation.

Retinoids are common active ingredients in both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription creams that bind to nucleic acid (DNA) receptors in the skin cells to:

  • Stimulate cellular turnover in the epidermis.
  • Thin the top layer of skin.
  • Promote collagen production/repair.
  • Prevent collagen damage/breakdown.
  • Decrease sebum (oil) production.
  • Help to clear debris and dead skin cells from pores.
  • Play a role in the prevention of skin cancers.

SkinCeuticals ACD

Classes of Retinoids

Some types of retinoids (i.e., retinol derivatives) must be converted (oxidized) to retinoic acid (the biologically active form) after they are applied to the skin in order to be effective.

Recalling one of my favorite college classes, organic chemistry (I know–I know…but it really was interesting…LOL), alcohols (e.g. retinol) are oxidized to form aldehydes (e.g. retinaldehyde), which are subsequently oxidized to form a carboxylic acid (retinoic acid).

Retinol (Vitamin A)
Tretinoin (Retinoic Acid)






Free radicals damage cellular tissue by “stealing” electrons from the tissues in order form stable compounds.  Retinoids are effective antioxidants, which donate electrons (become reduced) to free radicals, which accept the electrons (become oxidized) and form nonreactive compounds that compounds that do not damage cellular tissue.

The antioxidant (electron donor) reacts with the free radical (electron acceptor).

Retinol derivatives are commonly found in OTC creams, while retinoic acid derivatives (with the exception of adapalane) require a prescription. Continue reading “What’s a Retinoid? The Role of Vitamin A Derivatives in Skin Care”

The Best Moisturizers for the Face: A Few Good Candidates

La-Mer-Moisturizing Cream
Creme de la Mer
Moisturizing Cream
Special Edition Blue Heart Jar

Despite being among the most recognizable facial care products, many people are unsure of what type of moisturizer to purchase and exactly how to use it.

Moisturizers have been around for quite some time, and their popularity continues to increase, as both men and women are putting them to use at an unprecedented rate.

Dry skin can enhance the appearance of wrinkles and imperfections, so it is important to apply an appropriate moisturizer twice a day.  Moisturizers can markedly reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles almost immediately by increasing skin hydration, resulting in a more plump appearance. Ideally, facial moisturizers should:

  1. Reduce trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), which is water lost from the body (dermal skin layers) to the environment via the epidermis from diffusion and evaporation.
  2. Restore the skin’s lipid barrier by enhancing the skin’s own moisture-retaining processes.
  3. Absorb into the skin quickly to provide immediate hydration.
  4. Confer protection from UV light with an SPF of 30 or greater (when used as part of your morning skincare routine).

    La Prairie
    Skin Caviar Luxe Cream

Continue reading “The Best Moisturizers for the Face: A Few Good Candidates”

What About Eye Cream for Men?

Eye cremes are often a hazy, gray area for anyone, let alone for men. Some individuals are of the opinion that eye creams are really just face creams or moisturizers marketed in smaller jars carrying higher prices. The skin surrounding the eye is thinner than on the rest of the face, so it is usually the first area to show signs of aging, and it’s also more prone to irritation. Consequently, eye creams are usually lighter than facial moisturizers and contain less concentrated active ingredients so that they are less likely to irritate the skin.

Why Eye Cream?

Since the skin around the eyes is thinner (i.e., more delicate) than on the rest of the face, there is less collagen and elastin present within it. Furthermore, the skin around the eyes produces less sebum (natural skin oils) than the rest of the face, which results in the skin in this area being prone to drying out and creasing.

With the repetitive contraction of the eye muscles (e.g., squinting, laughing, and smiling), creases form in the skin, resulting in increased breakage of the collagen and elastin fibers.

Another causal factor is the general decline in elasticity and firmness of the skin that occurs with aging and damage from the environment. The delicate nature of the skin, especially with accelerated aging, makes this area especially prone to the development of wrinkles.

Maintenance of skin thickness and elasticity is crucial in order to delay the onset of these signs of aging. “Crow’s feet” are linear wrinkles in the skin around the corner of the eye that generally appear in the mid-30s and are one of the most common types of wrinkles around the eye.

Truth be told, I have quite a few friends who indulge in tanning and cigarette smoking, and they have developed some fairly impressive crow’s feet. This caused me to have an irrational fear of developing them prematurely; thankfully, it hasn’t happened yet.

Crow’s Feet

Continue reading “What About Eye Cream for Men?”

Best Skin Serum: Targeted Therapy

All sorts of things come to mind when we imagine the word “serum”; it often conjures images of mysterious liquids with potent and quasi-magical properties. In medicine, serum is actually just the liquid component of the blood, which is very rich in proteins. Skin serums are products that target specific skin types or skin problems; they are often very concentrated and nutrient-dense. They contain a plethora of smaller molecules that can penetrate deeply into the skin to deliver their active ingredients. Though the effects may be inconspicuous at first, habitual use of a face serum as part of your skincare routine can really make a difference in the long term.

Investing In a Serum

As many people familiar with skincare products are aware, skin serums tend to be expensive; small bottles line the glass shelves like miniature potions and elixirs on display. Many of these products package copious amounts of active ingredients into small bottles, which results in their being more costly than other types of skincare products


Creme de la Mer The Lifting Eye Serum

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