Exfoliation is, without a doubt, the most important step in any good skincare regimen. It is the second step in the Lexli four-step system and is key to the exceptional results that Lexli customers experience.
Exfoliation is the removal of superficial dead layers of skin cells and debris, known as keratin. When we’re young, our skin stays plump and healthy thanks to the growth of new skin cells and ample collagen production. As we age, the dead keratin layers thicken as natural cellular turnover slows, resulting in decreased collagen production. This leads to characteristics often associated with “sensitive skin,” an increase in fine lines, poor skin texture, and more.
Exfoliation breaks up the keratin layer and stimulates the production of collagen in the dermis to replenish and rejuvenate the skin. To accomplish true exfoliation, consider use of AloeGlyC® Lexli’s flagship product. This leave-on cream exfoliant rivals a doctor’s office peel, but without the common side effects of burning, redness and flaking.
The two main skin layers of importance in skincare are the epidermis, the outer layer of skin and the dermis, which lies beneath and is considered the skin’s “factory.” The epidermis is comprised of several sub-layers, the outermost of which is called the “keratin” layer and is comprised of dead skin cells. The dermis is important in that it is where skin proteins, including collagen and elastin, are produced. When skin becomes damaged – due to both internal and external factors, the dead layers of keratin begin to build up. Because skin is living tissue, it participates in a negative feedback loop to keep itself in balance. Through this process, as the keratin thickens, the dermis thins so overall skin thickness remains constant. This thinning of the dermis has detrimental consequences for the skin, among which are a decrease in the production of collagen, which gives skin its strength and flexibility. Therefore, it is understandable that skin damage and the build up of dead skin layers not only make our skin look unappealing, it also makes the overall condition of our skin unhealthy.
Among the most common side effects of unhealthy skin are those conditions that many categorize as “sensitive skin.” In reality, skin sensitivity is simply the body’s demonstration that our skin is not functioning as it should. Because the dermis, its protective layer, has thinned, skin cannot tolerate the various products we put on it. Through regular exfoliation, sensitive skin characteristics will diminish, if not completely subside.
There’s no question that exfoliation is beneficial in improving skin health. Through the removal of the top layer of dead skin cells, the dermis thickens and begins producing more collagen. The result is skin that is more elastic, less sensitive and generally, more healthy looking.
There are two methods by which exfoliation can occur – mechanical or chemical. Because the keratin layer is extremely hard to remove, exfoliation cannot be conducted by use of granules or microbeads found in topical skincare products, no matter how convincing the product marketing may be.
Without even realizing it, most men exfoliate their faces every day through the simple act of shaving. The scraping of a blade against the skin removes the dead skin layers. Observe the face of a middle-aged man who shaves regularly and you’ll notice there’s a disparity in the quality of the skin on the forehead compared to that around the jaw line. On the forehead, you’ll most likely see wrinkles and other telltale signs of skin damage while the shaved area looks smooth and damage-free.
While mechanical exfoliation is effective, it isn’t very practical. To reap the benefits, in-office procedures such as microdermabrasion, dermabrasion or laser resurfacing are required. There is no suitable at-home maintenance available . Because the keratin layer is constantly trying to thicken, effective exfoliation is required on a daily basis. Exfoliate just once a month and you’ll notice the skin looks great for a short period of time. However, the dermis soon begins to thin, giving the keratin the opportunity to thicken.
The only effective way to exfoliate daily is through chemical means. Chemical exfoliation requires the use of acid to dissolve the dead keratin tissue, thereby making it slough off. Of course, in-office chemical peels are quite efficient at removing this layer. However, it isn’t realistic for average individuals to do an acid peel at home. To achieve proper exfoliation, a good deal of acid is needed. At-home use of products using the appropriate acid concentration would most certainly result in burning.
A product’s pH, measures its level of acidity. At the very least, your exfoliant must be more acidic than skin’s natural pH of 6.5 to be effective. The lower the pH number, the more acidic or effective the product is.
Acidic and basic or alkaline are two extremes that describe the properties of a chemical. Mixing acids and bases can cancel out or neutralize the extreme effects of the other. To measure the acidity or alkalinity (another term for basic) of a given chemical ingredient or product, the pH scale is utilized. pH stands for power (p) of the hydrogen (h) molecule, due to the element’s role as a determinant of acidity or alkalinity. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14 with a pH of 7 being neutral. A pH less than 7 is acidic while a pH greater than 7 is alkaline.
The pH scale is logarithmic and, as such, each whole pH value below 7 is ten times more acidic than the next higher value. For example, a pH of 5 is 10 times more acidic than a pH of 6 and 100 times (10 x 10) more acidic than a pH of 7. The same holds true for pH values above 7, each of which is 10 times more alkaline than the next lower whole value. For example, a pH of 9 is 10 times more alkaline than a pH of 8 and 100 times (10 x 10) more alkaline than a pH of 7. Therefore, you can imagine that a pH of 1 is extremely acidic. In-office peels conducted in medical offices generally have a pH around 2.0.
The importance of a product’s pH is due to its correlation to the skin’s pH. Human skin has a pH in the acidic range, varying from 5.5 to 6.5 depending on the individual and the area of skin tested. The value of the surface pH is determined by acids present in the outermost layer of skin. External factors, such as perspiration, tend to make the skin more acidic, thereby lowering the number value of the skin’s pH. The higher the skin’s pH number value (less acidic it is), the greater its sensitivity reaction to acidic compounds, which often represents as burning or redness. The lower the skin’s numeric pH value (the more acidic it is), the less sensitive it is to such compounds.
Of all the exfoliating acids available, no other family of ingredients has had as strong an impact as alpha-hydroxy acids. Known simply as AHAs, alpha-hydroxy acids are naturally occurring acids derived from fruits and vegetables. In addition, some actually occur in human cells. AHAs have been used for many years to treat conditions such as acneic skin, oily skin, sun damage, dryness, hyperpigmentation, and as a preventative for these conditions. AHAs are theorized to work by loosening the bond between dead stratum corneum cells, thus dissolving a part of the surface intercellular cement that holds keratin together.
Within the AHA family there are a variety of acids that are commonly used in skincare products and chemical peels including:
- Lactic acid – derived from milk
- Tartaric acid – derived from grapes and passion fruit
- Malic acid – derived from apples
- Glycolic acid – obtained from sugarcane or rhubarb
- Citric acids – derived from citrus fruits
Glycolic acid is the smallest, molecularly, of all the AHAs. It has been widely researched and, because of its size, penetrates between cells more readily than the other AHAs. For that reason, it is favored in exfoliation.
There are several essential benefits of AHAs, each of which helps the skin maintain a more youthful appearance while increasing its overall health.
- They can effectively remove the skin’s build-up of dead cells, thus helping to smooth dry, sun damaged or aging skin. This reduction in skin roughness helps wrinkles appear shallower.
- AHAs can remove cell build-up inside the hair follicles and help to loosen clogged pores, comedones and other impactions in oily areas. Continued use helps keep dead skin from accumulating on the follicle wall, thus preventing impactions that can lead to inflammatory acne lesions. This feature makes AHAs excellent ingredients for treating acne-prone and oily skin.
- As AHAs exfoliate the skin, they stimulate cell renewal. Therefore,
younger, fresher cells are brought to the skin’s surface more quickly. Additionally, this process increases the production of intercellular lipids, thus improving the skin’s barrier function and overall hydration.
- Through the process of exfoliating with AHAs, hyperpigmented cells are removed which results in a reduction in splotchy and discolored skin. When AHAs are used in conjunction with melanin suppressors, such as emblica fruit extract or kojic acid, not only are the hyperpigmented cells removed, the cells’ ability to produce melanin is also impaired.
- The use of AHAs is not limited to the face. They may be used on any area of the body to remove dead skin cells while helping improve the retention of moisture. This fact allows AHAs to be used in the treatment of conditions such as eczema and icthyosis. Furthermore, AHAs are helpful in removing calluses on feet, elbows, and hands.
- While AHAs and BHAs are utilized in many products, they are most effective when found in those that are left on the skin instead of washed off.
All products fall somewhere on a bell curve. The bell shape itself represents the human population and takes into consideration the varying tolerance that each person has for a particular product or ingredient. According to the bell curve, a product is going to be useful for a portion of the population and have no effect on others.
In the case of an over-the-counter exfoliant, manufacturers don’t want to fall on the tail end where people may be harmed by the product, which is what happens if too much acid is added. To avoid this, most companies have shifted their product far to the left on the curve. In other words, the product is effective for some people and ineffective for most. Of course, this can be done by using a weak acid, but it can also be done by using a sufficient amount of acid in conjunction with a buffer that eats up the hydrogen ions. What’s left is a product that falls around a 4.0 on the pH scale but can be marketed as having, for example, 70% acid. This latter approach is favored by many companies because it makes the product more marketable.
Therefore, just because a product contains, say, 30% acid, doesn’t mean it features a pH of 3. The only true way to measure how effective an exfoliating product will be is by measuring its pH. It’s necessary to simple ignore any messages about acid percentage because it really means nothing to the product’s performance.
Because daily exfoliation is necessary, but in-office treatments are not practical or safe for consumers on a frequent basis, the need has remained for an effective daily exfoliation product. In 1996, Dr. Abdullah recognized that no exfoliating product had leveraged aloe in its formulation. Given aloe’s superior anti-inflammatory abilities, it seemed logical that generous amounts of acid together with aloe would ensure enough hydrogen ions (acid) to dissolve the dead keratin layer while preventing burns. Thus, he formulated Lexli Aloe-based AloeGlyC® Renewing Exfoliant, which utilizes pure pharmaceutical-grade aloe and glycolic acid in conjunction with antioxidants, including vitamins C, A and E. Because AloeGlyC is unlike any other exfoliating product, it is patented.
AloeGlyC’s effective pH of 2.1 to 2.3 is nearly the same as that of in-office chemical peels (2.0). The product’s effective pH is approximately 10 times stronger than Retin-A, which requires a prescription and bears a pH of 3 to 4. Most over-the-counter chemical exfoliating products have a pH between 4 and 5.