Your skin naturally sheds dead cells every day, which helps to keep it smooth and fresh looking. But after the age of 35, the dead cells that make up the outer layer of your skin are not shed as rapidly as when you were younger. As dead cells accumulate, they make your skin look dull and dry and you lose the healthy, radiant look that characterizes youthful skin. You can greatly improve the appearance of your skin by regularly removing the top layer of dead skin cells, a process called exfoliation. Exfoliation is accomplished by using grainy scrubs that physically remove dead cells through gentle abrasion, or fruit-enzyme skin peels or alpha-hydroxy acid skin peels, which dissolve the top layer of dead skin cells.
Natural scrubs are made from finely ground fibrous plant material such as oatmeal, corn meal, almonds, and apricot kernels. Be cautious when using grainy scrubs, because many are too harsh to use on the delicate skin of your face. For a gentle scrub that will not irritate your skin. Although many grainy scrubs are too abrasive to use on your face, they are perfect to use as an allover exfoliator for your body. Your body builds up dead skin cells just as your face does and benefits from a weekly exfoliating treatment.
Fruit-enzyme peels are made from fruit or vegetable enzymes that exfoliate the skin in approximately 20 minutes without scrubbing. Many contain green papaya, which contains the protein digesting enzyme papain. Dead skin cells are composed primarily of protein, and enzyme peels digest the dead skin cells on the surface of the skin without harming new cell growth. Enzyme peels are gentle exfoliators and leave skin noticeably smoother and softer after only one treatment. They can be used as part of a weekly or monthly facial treatment and can even be used daily as part of a program to rejuvenate aging skin.
Alpha-hydroxy acids are natural exfoliators derived from foods such as citrus fruits (citric acid), sour milk (lactic acid), grapes (tartaric acid), sugar cane (glycolic acid), and apples (malic acid). These gentle, natural acids work by loosening the “glue” that binds the outermost layer of surface cells together, which increases the shedding of dead skin cells and encourages the formation of new skin cells. The idea of using the natural acids found in foods to renew the skin is not new-Cleopatra bathed in buttermilk, and red wine has been used for centuries as a skin wash. Alpha-hydroxy acids improve skin texture and color, reduce fine lines and age spots, and make pores appear smaller. Although you will usually notice smoother skin after the first treatment, you’ll need to use alphahydroxy acids on a regular basis for two months or longer to see a significant improvement in skin texture and diminishment of fine lines. There are a variety of natural products available, and most contain between 5 and 15 percent alpha-hydroxy acids. Products that contain higher percentages of alpha-hydroxy acids will create faster results, but often cause stinging or tingling sensations when applied to the skin. These reactions are not usually a cause for concern, but severe stinging or redness indicates an undue sensitivity or allergic reaction and you should try a different product with a lower concentration of alpha-hydroxy acids.