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What is Chemical Exfoliation & What Happens If Someone Over Exfoliates Or Under Exfoliates?

What is Chemical Exfoliation?

Sun exposure and aging slows down the process of skin cell regeneration, which happens every month.

Exfoliation is a quick way of removing dead skin cells. It helps brighten up the skin and fades up the scars.

It can be done in two different ways i.e. physical exfoliation and chemical exfoliation.

Chemical exfoliation involves different acids and is one of the most popular exfoliation methods chosen nowadays. Chemical exfoliants are the acids that come in various concentrations and helps get rid of dead skin cells.

The weaker formulas can be purchased over the counter while the stronger ones that need to be applied by the dermatologist are the chemical peel. These peels break the bonds that hold the skin together. As these bonds break the top layer of the skin shed and the regenerated skin is revealed.

There are combinations of few acids used to treat a certain condition. Few combinations are as follows:

  • A combination of Azelaic acid, citric acid, glycolic acid, malic acid, mandelic acid, retinoic acid, and salicylic acid are used to treat acne.
  • Dark spots are treated with a combination of Azelaic acid, carbolic acid, citric acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, lactobionic acid, mandelic acid, retinoic acid, salicylic acid, and tartaric acid.
  • Ingrown hairs are treated with glycolic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid.
  • Sun damage is treated with azelaic acid, carbolic acid, citric acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, mandelic acid, retinoic acid, and tartaric acid.
  • Scarring is treated with azelaic acid. Carbolic acid, glycolic acid, malic acid, retinoic acid, and salicylic acid.
  • Regular peeling helps the skin look smoother and toned, clogging the pores and making the signs of aging less apparent.

How Does Physical Exfoliant Differ From The Chemical Exfoliant?

  • Physical exfoliants manually remove the dead skin while in the chemical exfoliation the skin layer goes off on their own.
  • Physical exfoliation can be too harsh when taken in the form of scrubs, brushes, and in the form of procedures such as dermabrasions.
  • Also, physical exfoliation does not reach the deeper layers and is less effective than chemical exfoliation.

Different Kinds Of Chemical Exfoliation

There are three main types of chemical exfoliations. Higher the concentration and lower the pH, the more intense is the exfoliative effect.(1)

Alpha Hydroxyl Acids (AHAs)

AHAs include glycolic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, and malic acid. These acids come from fruits but can also be prepared synthetically.

They have an ability to dissolve in water and therefore work on the skin surface improving the skin texture.

Glycolic acid and lactic acid are most commonly used in the skincare regimen.(2) The concentration of 5 and 10 percent is considered most effective.

They are mostly used to improve skin tone and mild discoloration areas.

Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHAs)

Being oil soluble, BHAs can penetrate the pores and work well for skin surfaces as well.

These acids work in deeper layers of the skin and benefits skin texture, unclog pores and remove acne-causing sebum.

Salicylic acid and tropic acid are the two examples of BHAs.

BHAs are mostly used for oily and acne-prone skin due to their pore unclogging properties.

Polyhydroxy Acids (PHAs)

PHAs and AHAs work in a similar way, the difference being, PHAs don’t penetrate to deeper layers.

PHAs are known to be less irritating than other chemical exfoliants.(3)

Certain PHAs like gluconolactone and lactobionic acids have additional hydrating and antioxidant benefits.

Those with sensitive skin can opt for PHAs which is less intrusive.

What Happens If Some Over Exfoliates Or Under Exfoliates?

If the skin is under exfoliated it would be seen as rough-textured, dull in complexion, there would be dead skin build-up.

Over exfoliation leads to irritation which includes inflammation and dryness. There may also be breakouts and peeling. In such a case, it is important that you stop exfoliation until the skin fully heals.

Chemical exfoliation is an easy way for an effective glow if done properly under the guidance of a good dermatologist. Remember to start with low concentrations and gradually increase the concentration if your skin is happy and showing results.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 4, 2020

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