We've all seen celebrities with their perfect skin and wondered "How I can get that look?" An easy way to get smoother and healthier skin is to exfoliate it regularly. You can do this either by chilling at the spa or by buying products at a local store.

Cosmetic exfoliation includes all techniques that remove the top layers of dead skin — because who wants too much dead skin on their body? It also removes dirt and other nasty things trapped in your skin.

There are two main types of exfoliation: mechanical and chemical.

Mechanical exfoliation involves physicaly scrubbing your skin with something that will rub off the dead skin, like a pumice stone used on your heels. Facial scrubs are usually gentler than those for the body. Mechanical exfoliants often have little hard grains in them. These are used to help remove dead skin on your face.


If you have the money and the time, microdermabrasion performed at a spa or clinic is a great way to remove that top layer of dead skin. It is also called particle resurfacing, power peel, derma-peel or Parisian peel. In this method, tiny but very hard sand-like particles (aluminum oxide) are sprayed onto the skin, blasting away the dead skin.

Did you know? Proponents of microdermabrasion claim that it will reduce fine lines, wrinkles, pore sides and coarse-textured skin.

There are two types of microdermabrasion: superficial (this means near the surface, or shallow) or deep. Because deep microdermabrasion disrupts deeper into the skin, it also disturbs some living skin cells. Of course then it is more risky than the shallow type, which only removes the nonliving 3-5 microscopic layers of the epidermis, or skin.

Microdermabrasion isn't cheap, however, and can cost $100-$150 per for a 20-30 minute session. Usually, these sessions are done as a series of 6, spaced about 7-10 days apart. That's at least 600 dollars right there! Wow.

How about a chemical exfoliants? These are usually called chemical peels and can have enzymes or natural acids such as alpha-hydroxyacids (AHA) or salicylic acid (BHA) that react with and slough away the dead skin layer. Chemical exfoliants act only superficially and are usually gentle enough to be used daily. Just remember to check the packaging before using.

So how exactly does exfoliation give you celebrity skin?

Well, after exfoliation removes the top layer of dead skin, the underlying layer of "living" skin cells generate new cells that move to the top. Only these cells are re-grown in a more organized way, giving a healthier layer of skin. Also, because you're uncovering a "new" layer of skin it will probably give you an immediately noticeable "glow" that eventually fades.

How often should we exfoliate our skin?

Usually, the softer or gentler the exfoliant, the more often you can use it. For coarse scrubs that are quite grainy, it is recommended that you don't exfoliate more than once a week.

Did you know? Exfoliation is not for everybody, especially if you have sensitive skin, skin with acne breakout, dry skin or skin that looks red or flaky.

The kind of exfoliant you use depends on your skin type. If your skin is more dry or delicate, choose a gentle exfoliating scrub that will not irritate the skin. If you're not sure the product is right for you, you can always check by applying on your inner elbow where the skin is quite tender and will react with the product. Choose a different product if your skin becomes irritated after the test.

Did you know? It is important to protect your skin after exfoliation.

Use sunscreen and avoid waxing or shaving after exfoliation to ensure your skin stays healthy and smooth!

Learn More!

What is exfoliation?

What is microdermabrasion?

Types of exfoliants

How often should I exfoliate?

Article first published on October 23, 2009.

Photo credit: iStock

Amy Le

I am currently a student studying pharmacy at the University of British Columbia. In my spare time, I enjoy playing ultimate frisbee, reading, drawing and going on hikes or trails where I can capture the breathtaking scenery on my camera! I love teaching about science through the outreach programs Let's Talk Science provides. As Bill Nye the Science Guy would say,Science Rules!

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