Exfoliants in cosmetic products

To have a clear and smooth skin, exfoliation is an essential step. It is a beauty routine to be adopted as soon as possible since it allows to eliminate efficiently the dead cells accumulating on the surface of the skin. Thus, exfoliating the skin means freeing the pores to promote oxygenation of the skin and the evacuation of sebum. But that's not all, by detaching the dead cells from the epidermis, the absorption of moisturizing products and cell renewal will be promoted! Among exfoliating products, the choice is varied: natural exfoliating products, synthetic agents, exfoliating accessories or even chemical agents, they can all be used for exfoliation. However, it is necessary to adapt the technique according to the type of skin or the area in question, face or body...

What is an exfoliator and why should I exfoliate?

An exfoliant is a cosmetic product with the purpose of eliminating excess dead cells present on the skin; but if you know those little whitish flakes that stagnate on the surface of the epidermis... Because of these, the skin appears drier, devitalized, dull and the pores, themselves, are clogged by the accumulation of dead cells, sebum and impurities. Clogged pores can lead to skin infection and consequently to inflammation, pimples and even ingrown hairs, depending on the area.

It is then important to exfoliate the skin to free the skin pores and thus :
  • Improve oxygenation of the skin
  • Facilitate sebum removal.
  • Facilitate penetration and absorption of moisturizers.
  • Accelerate cellular renewal and therefore slow down cellular aging and therefore the appearance of wrinkles
daily cleansing of the skin, followed by a good moisturizing.

What is cell renewal?

All living beings are made up of cells, the biological structural and functional unit fundamental to our organism. Cells specialize according to the physiological role they will hold in the organism.

is also entitled to its own cells, and among them: the . The latter are located in the basal layer, deepest in the epidermis and are responsible for cell turnover. Indeed, the epidermis is continuously regenerating and this turnover is possible via the division of keratinocytes that subsequently migrate to the skin surface. When they reach the stratum corneum, they transform into the famous forming a natural protective barrier of the epidermis. The accumulation of the latter will gradually lead to their detachment, this is desquamation.

And it is there that the
comes into play... It allows you to renew your skin more easily and avoid the obstruction of skin pores by excess dead cells!

How to exfoliate?

How is exfoliation practiced? Face, body, does each part of the body exfoliate the same way? How often should you exfoliate? Oily, combination, damaged or dry skin, same conditions?

Generally speaking, exfoliation is a process that should be done gently while respecting the top layer of the skin, the famous epidermis. Exfoliations that are too aggressive or too frequent damage the integrity of the skin barrier and thus leave the skin more fragile and sensitive to external aggressions... And there are some! It starts with your tap water whose composition and pH are not really adapted to our skin. The climate, whether it's the wind, the cold, the sun, all attack the skin, drying it out and dehydrating it... Not to mention the famous pollution and its batch of dust, impurities and other toxins that the skin absorbs and stores in its pores. This is why exfoliation must always be followed by a good moisturizing, one cannot go without the other!

The face as well as the body need to be exfoliated. And yes cell renewal and dead skin is a process that concerns the whole body. However, between the face and the body, certain distinctions must be made, as the skin on the face is often much more sensitive. It is important to respect your skin by choosing an exfoliating product adapted to the part of the body or face to be exfoliated.

Which exfoliator should I use for my face?

To exfoliate the skin of the face, it is theskin type that you absolutely must consider. This one allows to determine on the one hand the choice of the exfoliant and on the other hand the frequency of exfoliation.

  • For normal to oily skins, it is advisable to exfoliate on a weekly basis with very fine-grained exfoliating agents such as rhassoul clay or green clay.

Example of use: make a homogeneous paste with Hamamelis hydrosol and Rhassoul clay. Exfoliate with your hands through a circular massage.

  • For dry skins, exfoliation once or twice a week can be done with fine exfoliating agents such as baking soda or even apricot kernel powder.

Example of use: mix in the palm of your hand vegetable oil and baking soda. Exfoliate with your hands through a circular massage.

  • For overly irritated and sensitized skin, exfoliation is not recommended.

Which scrub for my body?

  • For body scrubbing, mechanical scrubbing performed weekly can be a solution. Thicker grained exfoliating agents can be used such as sugar, salt, walnut shell powder or exfoliating gloves and sponges.

Example of use: mix in the palm of your hand a tablespoon of vegetable oil and a teaspoon of sugar. Exfoliate with your hands through a circular massage or with an exfoliating glove.

  • Special case of horn and calluses

Certain parts of the body such as the heels, knees or even elbows react to the daily trauma they undergo. This results in thicker and harder skin... In this case, exfoliation can be done daily until improvement using mechanical exfoliating agents and accessories such as gloves or exfoliating sponges. Pumice stone is also a possible solution, more adapted to heels, used on the skin previously softened and moistened in warm water.

Two exfoliation processes: Scrubbing, Peeling, what are the differences?

Scrubbing: mechanical exfoliation process

The elimination of dead cells and impurities can be effective via a mechanical process, that is, by applying an exfoliant possessing agranular texture in a circular massage. Mechanical exfoliation reactivates the blood microcirculation thanks to the granulometry of the exfoliant rubbing the skin. In this way, it participates in the oxygenation of skin tissue and cell renewal. The mechanical exfoliants are different depending on the nature and size of the grain. They can come in the form of powders of fruit pits or seeds, salt, sugar, clays, activated vegetable charcoal, baking soda, etc... Mechanical exfoliants can also come in the form of accessories, we think here of exfoliating gloves and sponges.

Peeling: chemical exfoliation process

Skin exfoliation can also be done via a chemical and/or enzymatic action. For so-called superficial peels, chemical-type exfoliants act by destabilizing the adhesion of dead cells to the skin and their cohesion with each other. Thus, their elimination is facilitated. They are generally used for the face.

Peels can be superficial or deeper depending on the nature of the exfoliant used and/or its dosage. However, this process requires several steps: preparation of the skin, peeling in several sessions, and post-peeling. These different steps require the advice of health professionals such as a dermatologist.

Scrubs: examples of mechanical scrubs

Natural agents

Among them, we find vegetable powders, seeds or fruit seeds, clays or ingredients that you inevitably have at home: salt, sugar, baking soda ... These are perfect ingredients, 100% pure and natural, to make yourself a scrub. They can be various and varied and allow all to exfoliate the skin, either of the face, or of the body, or both according to their granulometry.

Some examples:

- Apricot kernel powder

- Rose powder

- Coconut pulp

- Pomegranate seeds

- Almond powder

- Plum stone powder

- Grape powder

- Strawberry seeds

- Walnut shell powder

- Bamboo beads

- Bamboo sap powder

- Maple sap

- White clay kaolin

- Green clay

- Sugar

- Salt

- Bicarbonate of soda

- Active vegetable carbon

Some will be softer and reserved for facial skin for example white clay kaolin, and others, such as walnut shell powder or sugar, have coarser grains for a powerful body scrub for example.

The criteria to check:

  • quality: an exfoliating ingredient must be 100% pure and natural
  • the granulometry: this corresponds to the diameter of the grains of powder, it indicates the size of the grains and thus enables you to target their uses
  • the culture and the process of obtaining

Synthetic agents

Until 2018, nothing prevents us from avoiding cosmetic products whose name "Polyethylene" appears in the list of ingredients, the famous INCI list.

Exfoliating gloves and sponges

which can be presented as a first option. The advantage? They are suitable for all skin types and you can find them anywhere for sale. They are rather adapted to the massage and exfoliation, light and soft, of the body.

The famous hair glove or kessa is a glove with a rough surface used to make a scrub, traditionally in the East with black soap. Originally, this glove was made from animal hair, but nowadays it is more made of viscose from plant fibers. Moistened, the horsehair glove or kessa is used as a body scrub preferably or delicately on the face.

The one that combines exfoliation and ecology: the Konjac sponge. It is made from the roots of the plant of the same name found mostly in South Asia. It is then 100% natural and biodegradable. It is used both on the body and the face, obviously in a softer way on the facial skin. Konjac sponges sometimes combine clays, vegetable charcoal or natural extracts in their composition.

Peeling: examples of chemical exfoliants

Fruit acids

Fruit acids are molecules naturally found in fruits widely sought after for their chemical skin exfoliating action. They exist in the most well-known form called AHA for Alpha Hydroxy Acids or alpha-hydroxy acids. These are carboxylic acids i.e. molecules that include a carboxyl group (-COOH). The main carboxylic acids, mostly derived from fruits or plants, are :

  • lactic acid, found in tomatoes, honey and milk
  • glycolic acid, present in sugar cane, apricots, grapes or beets
  • citric acid which, as its name indicates, is used in the composition of lemons, oranges and currants
  • malic acid, which is also found in currants and apples
  • mandelic acid, present in bitter almonds
  • tartaric acid, present in grapes

Obviously, as acids, they allow to rebalance the pH of a solution for example. But it is for their exfoliating property that they are interesting here... The links between dead cells or corneocytes depend on several mechanisms. They are influenced firstly by the links between the corneocytes themselves and secondly by the environment present between the corneocytes called intercorneocyte.

Exfoliating property of AHAs

The corneocytes have chemical species in their cell membrane, some of which are negatively charged and others positively charged. Thus, forces of attraction and connection are established between these opposite charges, between the various corneocytes. In the intercorneocyte space, enzymes intervene whose role is to fix the groups, linked to the negative charges, on the surface of the corneocytes. And, finally, it is at this level that the AHAs intervene! They will in fact compete with these famous enzymes. Thus, who says competition, says substitution of the enzymes and who says substitution of the enzymes says zero fixing of the cells between them. The cohesion between the dead cells is weakened, the desquamation is then facilitated! Tada!

AHAs intervene at a second level by influencing the composition of the intercorneocyte space (between the corneocytes). The acidic pH of AHAs dissolves components that serve as attachments between cells. This is another way to detach the corneocytes from the epidermis...

Moisturizing property of AHAs

Studies have also demonstrated a certain capacity of AHAs to regulate the hydration of the epidermis. Depending on the acid, water retention capacities have been observed: they have real water-binding properties that allow them to increase the hydration of the epidermis.

Actions of AHAs on cellular aging

Certain scientific studies have highlighted other very promising effects of AHAs, encouraging further studies on this subject. To date, AHAs have clearly played a beneficial role in cell renewal, improving skin elasticity and reducing the brown spots that often appear with aging.

Fruit enzymes

Fruit enzymes are exfoliating agents generally associated with fruit acids. The best known and used are :

  • papain in papaya
  • bromelain in pineapple
  • the ficin in the fig
  • pumpkin enzymes

Their mode of action? It is the proteolytic action of enzymes that is interesting here. Proteoly-what? If we break down this word it simply means to lyse proteins, that is, to dissolve proteins by the action of an enzymatic agent. Fruit enzymes will then dissolve proteins but, which ones? You know the famous keratin that you hear about at every turn? Well, it's a protein. It largely gives the epidermis and therefore the skin its protective function. The dead cells that we want to exfoliate are filled with keratin. Under the action of the fruit enzymes, the dead cells will lose cohesion and detach one after the other: this is the enzyme-accelerated desquamation.