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originally posted October 3, 2018
updated September 14, 2020
The truth is, I don’t exfoliate. Why should I?
Exfoliating the skin may remove some dirt and dead surface skin, but is it good for me? I have healthy skin and intend to keep it that way. The 15-20 surface layers of my skin maintain hydration, the skin’s most crucial function. Each cell, surrounded by lipids, or fats, make me virtually waterproof.
For that reason, I can swim in the ocean for hours and nothing passes into or out of my skin. Each skin cell contains compounds that act as sponges, and draw water from the deeper skin layers up to the surface. Basically, my skin moisturizes itself – so does yours! Consider that some people never moisturize. My dad is one of them, yet his skin remains in place; it doesn’t chip or fall in pieces to the ground.
Exfoliation has side effects
Getting back to exfoliation, why should I remove the very layers of skin my body requires to maintain adequate skin hydration? I need them. Yes, exfoliating removes some dirt, oil, and makeup from my skin, but so does a mild cleanser. And a scrub may remove dead surface cells, but again, so does a mild cleanser. Unfortunately, the exfoliant may also remove the important layers of skin that keep my skin hydrated.
While I like the way my skin feels to my touch after I exfoliate, little, if any, scientific evidence exists to prove it’s actually good for me. I’m one of the lucky ones; I have fair skin that could likely tolerate a relaxing exfoliation treatment at my local spa. Those with darker complexions and/or sensitive skin may experience irritation and inflammation from the procedure. These people may experience a post inflammatory pigmentation reaction or a darkening of the skin, a not uncommon side effect.
Nope, not for me
All that said, some people love exfoliation treatments and swear by the results. I get that – and understand we all need to make our own decisions. But no, exfoliation is not for me.
About the Author
Fayne Frey, M.D., is a board-certified clinical and surgical dermatologist practicing in West Nyack, New York, where she specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer. She is a nationally recognized expert in the effectiveness and formulation of over-the-counter skincare products. Dr. Frey is the Founder of FryFace.com, an educational skincare information and product selection service website that clarifies and simplifies the overwhelming choice of effective, safe and affordable products encountered in the skincare aisles. Dr. Frey is a fellow of both the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.