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High-tech Nature Takes on Healthy Exfoliation

By: Paul Cain, PhD
Posted: June 11, 2008, from the October 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

Every day the skin is assaulted by damaging influences. Some are external, such as sun and air pollution. Others are natural influences, such as aging, fatigue and gravity, or health-related causes, such as diet and stress. As a result, the skin sheds about 80,000 cells each day. These dead skin cells, left on the surface, slow down healthy cell renewal, increase the depth of wrinkles and create a dull, sluggish appearance.

The simple act of exfoliation can counteract the effects of all of these influences on the skin by removing damaged cells on the surface, which allows new live cells to replace the old. Because exfoliation helps to accelerate cell regeneration, the more you effectively exfoliate, the younger the skin looks and the better your skin care products can penetrate deeply.

Some history

Exfoliation is not a new concept. The first known use of dermabrasion as a skin care technique dates back to the ancient Egyptian kings and queens, who used alabaster and pumice to smooth and soften their skin. Some years ago, the term “exfoliation” became a buzzword in the modern-day skin care industry—the fastest way to achieve smoother, younger-looking skin.

The 1960s saw the introduction of mechanical exfoliators that utilize abrasive agents with sharp edges to actually scrape and cut the skin. Apricot seeds were employed first, followed by granulated peach kernels, corn cob, silica, walnut shells and sugar, as well as brushes, sponges and loofahs. This resulted in pulled, torn, stretched, abraded and traumatized skin that was covered with microlesions.

European skin care companies also offered their own professional gommage products at the time. With a strong botanical orientation, they tended to use milder particles as exfoliants, such as almond meal and the newer scientifically size- and form-controlled polyethylene chips, which produced less destructive results.