Anatomy of the Skin
The epidermis is the outermost layer of skin and is composed of different types of cells. The keratinocytes are cells made up of keratin protein located on the surface of our skin. They don’t have a nucleus, and therefore, are considered “dead.” That’s why we call them “dead skin cells”.
Our skin sheds about five billion skin cells a day. New skin cells are round and plump and can be found in the basal layer of the skin. As they move toward the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the epidermis), they become flatter. This process is called desquamation. In teenagers, the desquamation process may take up to 12 to 19 days. In older adults, it may take 60 to 90 days. The longer the process, the flatter the cells get when they arrive at the surface of the skin. That’s why skin gets duller as we age. Irregular desquamation disorders include eczema, psoriasis and dandruff.
When dead skin cells accumulate on the surface of the skin, they need to be removed or dissolved. That process is called exfoliation (or refinement). Exfoliation creates a smoother, more even skin surface and helps the skin absorb moisturizers, serums and masques more easily. It may also activate the production of collagen fibers. Exfoliants are useful to remove debris like oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells, which helps clear up acne-prone skin.
Enzymes are complex organic substances produced in plants that speed up chemical reactions in cells. Enzymes are either proteolytic, which means they break down proteins and keratin; or they are lipolytic, which means they break down desmosomes (lipids that hold the skin cells together). Our co-founder and master aesthetician loves chemical peels because they dissolve dead skin cells themselves. They do the work for us. Our Enzyme Peel contains mango and papaya enzymes to remove damaged keratin and reduce oxidative stress.
We also use bio-fermentation to obtain the glucosamine hydrochloride (HCl) we use in our Collagen Booster. Glucosamine HCl has been shown to stimulate the skin’s own production of hyaluronic acid. Ideal on sensitive skin as it allows for healthier desquamation of skin cells without the stinging or irritation that can result from using acids.
While we’re taking a closer look at our Collagen Booster, you’ll notice that it also contains gluconolactone - a polyhydroxy acid (PHA) derived from glucose (naturally found in fruits and other plants). If you’ve heard of PHAs before, you’re probably a big fan of Korean skincare. PHAs are considered to be the second generation of liquid exfoliants. Why? Because unlike other acids, they are gentle enough for people with sensitive skin. You can learn more about gluconolactone on our blog What is Gluconolactone?
Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) can help dissolve the lipid barrier between skin cells and have a smaller molecular size, so they penetrate the skin more readily. This makes them highly effective. Not surprising they have been used for centuries. Cleopatra bathed in milk (lactic acid) to keep her skin soft and smooth. Hint! Hint! Our Enzyme Peel contains vegan lactic acid to help reduce wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. This bright orange peel is also filled with L-tartaric and L-malic acids, both organic acids found in wine. Together, they provide gentle exfoliation and promote cellular renewal.
Our Moji Toner contains glycolic acid, the smallest AHA, derived from sugar cane used to dissolve dead skin cells and reduce the curvature of the hair, thus lessening the chance of shaving bumps.
Beta-hydroxy acids (BHA) loosen up buildups of dead skin cells in the follicles, leaving the skin feeling healthier and clearer. There’s a misconception that salicylic acid is beneficial for acne skin only. While BHAs are often found in acne products, those concerned with aging skin would also benefit from a cleanser (like our Bare Bar), as it helps with cell renewal. To learn more about beta-hydroxy acids, check-out our blog Spotlight on Salicylic Acid.
Acids, enzymes, botanicals, no matter what you use, be careful not to exfoliate too much as it can increase skin sensitivity, dryness, inflammation, free-radical damage and break down your skin barrier integrity.
What’s your favorite exfoliant?