Scrubs & Exfoliation
Have you ever noticed just how many facial scrubs there are on the market? Hundreds...from expensive to cheap. So how do you know what to buy and what to use? Well, again, a bit of education is in order. Let's look at just what it is that you're trying to scrub off and how what you use affects the results you're trying to achieve.

As you discovered from Skin 101, the outer-most layer of the epidermis, the Stratus Disjunctum, is a layer of dead cells that have already "done their job". They were born deep in the epidermis, replicated themselves, began their journey to the surface and have been protecting our insides for a couple of weeks now. Left to their own devices and under ideal conditions, this layer of cells would eventually sluff off leaving the "new" protective layer below to come busting through. But the fact of the matter is that they don't all come off at once leaving patches of dead cells mixed with patches of new cells. This causes both a blotchy appearance and one that is less than radiant.

This is where the exfoliation and the facial scrub comes in. Exfoliation or the uniform removal of dead skin cells can take two forms; natural and chemical. Now, while some would argue that true exfoliation is separate and apart from scrubbing citing a deeper subculture like "AHA" and "BHA", for our purposes, we'll include AHA and BHA in the Chemical form of exfoliation and topical scrubs in the natural form of exfoliaiton. Chemical removal is a much more radical form of "resurfacing" the skin and is usually effected in a doctor's office. It involves chemicals that can also harm the cells underneath but it does give us a fresh, new start as the pictures to the left attest. But if you've been relatively careful with your skin, either typically or after you've undergone a chemical peel, chances are a natural facial scrub in your own bath area once or twice a month will do the job quite nicely.

What we have to be concerned with most in "exfoliating" our skin is the damage we can do to the new skin cells which lie just under the layer we're trying to remove. Ideally, in a natural scrub, we want friction, not cutting action, to remove the dead skin layer and we want liquid as a lubricant. Let's look at two exfoliants, side-by-side. One is a professional skin care exfoliator and the other is a cheaper, drug-store version. To the naked eye, they look the same but under the microscope, they're vastly different. And the difference has to do with their individual crystal composition.

When we remove our outer skin cells, we want to leave the new, fresh, healthy skin cells which lie just underneath alone, unblemished to come shining through to form the new surface. It is to these cells that we will eventually apply natural, organic makeup to enhance our beauty. As you can see from these electron microscopic images, there is a vast difference in "scrubs" or "exlfoliants". On the left is a common exfoliation compound found in drug- and department stores. We can't tell you what brand it is for obvious reasons but suffice to say you probably either have used it or are using it now. It's packaging is pretty and it's promises are many. The problem lies in both the size of the crystals and the edges that you see there. It's these sharp edges that do the damage to the skin cells underneath. As you rub, they not only slice away the dead skin cells, they also cut into the healthy cells just below the surface; the cells that you're trying to nurture.

An electron microscopic picture of a natural, organic exfoliant, however, reveals that the individual particles are much smaller, much finer with softer edges. This type of exfoliant tends to "polish" off the dead skin cells rather than slice them off. In doing so, the exfoliated cells will adhere to the fine exfoliant particles and be washed away with the final rinse revealing clean, clear, healthy, unblemished cells underneath. In short, natural, organic compounds that are finely processed are the best exfoliants for the skin. The processing takes longer as the grinding process reveals a finer and finer compound and the natural ingredients compliment the skin but, as you might imagine, fine exfoliants cost more than their drug-store counterparts.

But let's remember, cheap exfoliators aren't always cheap. As with the exfoliators above, you can't tell the difference looking at them side-by-side. And when you put them in a nice package or tube with a sexy model on the front and up the sale price, the average customer feels that it must be "the good stuff" and thinks, "If I use this I'll look like her!". Well price and packaging are no guarantee. Only the ingredients will tell you so my advice, unless you want to undo all the work you've put in so far, is to know what you're looking for. As for me, I'll always go with professional products from suppliers like Studio Direct. Again, it may sound like a shameless plug but the fact of the matter is that I don't get paid to tell you about the company, I just use their products on my million-dollar performers and I don't worry.