25 March 2015

Exfoliate with care, dermatologist urges

Exfoliation removes the topmost layer of dead skin cells and can be done by applying acid that dissolves the cells (chemical) or by using a brush or scrub to physical remove the cells (mechanical).


If you plan to exfoliate, get some professional advice first, a dermatologist suggests.

Your skin's unique needs

"Before you exfoliate, you really need to understand your skin and skin type," Dr. Mary Lupo, a clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, said in an American Academy of Dermatology news release.

"A board-certified dermatologist can help you choose the exfoliation option that's best-suited to your skin's unique needs," she added.

Exfoliation removes the topmost layer of dead skin cells and can be done by applying acid that dissolves the cells (chemical) or by using a brush or scrub to physical remove the cells (mechanical).

Read: 200 mobile apps related to dermatology

People who might benefit from exfoliation include those who've experienced premature ageing because of sun damage and those with non-inflammatory acne, which is acne with only blackheads and whiteheads, Lupo said.

Not all are safe and effective

If you have dry or sensitive skin, use milder chemical options, such as salicylic acid peels administered in a dermatologist's office. People with oily, thicker skin may be able to use stronger chemical treatments, such as an over-the-counter salicylic acid wash, or mechanical treatments such as a motorised brush or scrub, Lupo said.

Read: A wet shave

Your skin type and the strength of the treatment method determines how often you should exfoliate. People with dry or sensitive skin may need to limit at-home treatments to once a week, while those with oily, thicker skin may be able to exfoliate as often as once a day, Lupo said.

Be careful when buying exfoliation products in stores and online because not all of them are safe and effective, she warned.

Before you buy, confirm that a product is from a recognised, reputable company, Lupo advised. When purchasing over-the-counter chemical products, choose those with low acid concentrations – no higher than 10 percent glycolic acid or 2 percent salicylic acid, she said.

Read more:

Don't be skinned alive - choose professional skin treatments

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Image: Woman exfoliating from Shutterstock

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Skin expert

Dr Suretha Kannenberg holds a degree in Medicine and a Masters in Dermatology from the University of Stellenbosch. She is employed as a consultant dermatologist by Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Academic Hospital, where she is involved in clinical duties and the training of medical students and dermatology residents. Her areas of interest and research include vitiligo, eczema and acne. She also performs limited private practice work in the Northern suburbs of Cape Town in general and cosmetic dermatology.

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