Exfoliation (eks-foal-ee-AY-shun) is the process of removing superficial layers in the outermost skin layer called the epidermis (ep-ih-DERM-ihs). Just below the epidermis is a layer of cells that divide and move upward to replace those which have died. By exfoliating, you can spur the development of new cells and shed the old skin that may give the complexion a dull appearance. Since the rate at which skin renews itself begins to slow in your 30s, most healthy, older skin can benefit from occasional exfoliation. To slough off dead skin, you can use a washcloth, facial puff, or a cleansing scrub. Just be sure to go easy; harsh scrubbing can damage the skin and worsen blemishes in those prone to acne. If you use a scrub, choose one with artificially milled grains, not rough, uneven particles like those from apricot kernels. Uneven grains don't abrade the skin in a uniform manner. Also, never scrub when acne lesions are present. Those with dry or sensitive skin should use scrubs infrequently, if at all. In addition to physical methods, certain chemicals can also act as exfoliants, such as alpha- and beta-hydroxy (hy-DRAWK-see) acids in concentrations of 8 percent or higher. After exfoliating, always wear a sunblock to protect the skin.
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