The dull complexion and poor skin texture can ruin a good skin day. A constant buildup of dead skin, oil, sebum, and pollutants can make the skin lose its luster and healthy appearance and make it prone to acne, clogged pores, and other skin conditions. Ayurveda considers exfoliation (removal of impurities and dead skin cells) an integral part of our well-being. Therefore, it is required from all of us to exfoliate, remove dead skin/other buildups and allow our skin to breathe, look healthy and glow. When done correctly, exfoliation can boost our skin's natural radiance and offer multiple other benefits. Wondering how? Read ahead!
What is exfoliation?
Every 30 days, our skin naturally sheds off dead skin cells to make space for new cells. While under ordinary circumstances, the skin sheds off easily, in some cases, old dead skin cells do not shed off entirely and create flaky, dry patches. Apart from this, there can be oil/sebum buildup on the outer layer of our skin, which along with dead skin cells, can clog pores.
Exfoliation is a process that removes dead skin/sebum/oil/dirt buildup from the surface and pores of our skin. It can be of two types, either chemical or physical. Physical exfoliation includes physically scrubbing the skin using a scrub or any other skincare tool. On the other hand, chemical exfoliation uses cleansers, peels, and face creams made using chemicals or enzymes that chemically break down the surface buildup.
Regular exfoliation and removal of the buildup of dead cells from the surface of the skin are very important as they can help improve overall skin health and complexion, stimulate collagen synthesis, and improve skin texture, and lymphatic drainage.
What does Ayurveda say about exfoliation?
Ayurveda recognizes the process of exfoliation as vital for the outer skin, internal body, and mind and is an integral part of deep-cleansing philosophy too. Ayurveda attributes multiple benefits to scrubbing/exfoliating. Traditional practices highlight that physical exfoliation can get rid of the buildup of hard and dead skin, maintain soft and healthy skin, reduce any scarring or pigmentation, reduce the buildup of toxins, and enhance the lymphatic system. Ayurveda also recognizes body brushing as it aids in the reduction of cellulite and cleanses the body. Exfoliation can also help stimulate multiple senses and can significantly improve mood and offer relaxation.
Regular skin exfoliation enhances the skin's youthfulness, texture, complexion, and radiance. It acts like a reset button when our skin feels congested and dull due to the accumulation of dirt, dead skin, and oil/sebum. Exfoliation is a vital step in a well-rounded skincare regimen, and it has multiple benefits1, as highlighted by Ayurveda and modern-day research. The following is the list of other potential benefits.
Proper exfoliation helps unclog pores and white and blackheads: Exfoliation and unclogging of pores can not only help in preventing blackheads and whiteheads but also helps in reducing acne2 and blemishes. Layers of dirt and dead skin cells can clog and seal our pores due to the secretion and accumulation of sebum and oil. This accumulation can lead to breakouts and other skin troubles. By exfoliating, you can remove these stubborn blockages3, unclog pores, and get rid of white and blackheads. Ingredients such as turmeric, licorice, walnut, orange, etc., can help with the exfoliation process.
Exfoliation can help skincare products penetrate deeper: Dead skin, accumulated oil/sebum, and dirt can act as a barrier between the skin products and our skin. By exfoliating our skin, we allow the pores to remain unclogged and allow the products we apply to penetrate the skin deeper. When the products reach deeper into the skin4, they work more effectively and offer better results. Using curd in making scrubs can help as it has penetrative properties and helps unclog pores. The lactic acid and AHA’s found in curd help exfoliate dead skin cells and give your skin a smooth experience.
Exfoliation improves skin tone and texture: Often accumulation of dead skin can cause hyperpigmentation, rough texture, dark spots, etc. By removing these dead skin cells, accumulated oil/sebum, and dirt, exfoliation can help resolve these skin issues and help in evening out the skin tone. By removing dead skin cells, exfoliation helps keep fresh and healthy cells on the surface, offering a clear and bright complexion5. Regular exfoliation and massage can also enhance the brightness and glow of our skin by improving blood circulation. Face scrubs made using saffron, cardamom, sugar, oatmeal, etc., have shown great potential in smoothening, firming, and brightening the skin. Scrubs are often infused with turmeric, sandalwood, etc., to offer glowing skin.
Exfoliation improves circulation and lymphatic drainage: Regular exfoliation can also help stimulate blood circulation6 to the skin’s surface and promote lymphatic drainage for overall cleansing. Thus exfoliation can help facilitate skin detoxification and cellular health and offer radiant skin. Ayurveda recommends adding Manjishthato scrubs as it helps in blood purification.
Exfoliation improves collagen production and slows signs of aging: Exfoliation can help stimulate collagen synthesis and improve the skin’s texture and health. By exfoliating, we create mild traumas on our skin that activate the fibroblasts and trigger the release of collagen production in our body, which slows down as we age. Thus with better collagen production, exfoliation can help make the skin look young, firm, and plump7.
The right way to exfoliate based on your dosha
Our dominant dosha affects our skin. Even though different skin type has different qualities and requires unique products and remedies, the one thing that all skin types share is that the skin constantly rebuilds itself by shedding and replacing skin cells. Therefore no matter what our skin type is, Vata, Pitta, or Kapha, exfoliation should be a part of our beauty regime.
Vata skin: The skin is generally dry, rough, and delicate. Therefore people with such skin should opt for exfoliating products that are soothing, hydrating, and not harsh on the skin. Vata skin type people can use a paste of one tablespoon of ground oatmeal, half a teaspoon of ground rose petals, and one teaspoon of sugar and water/rose water. Apply and gently work it into the skin and rinse off with warm water. Vata skin type people can also add sandalwood powder to the paste. Skin exfoliation is very vital for people with dry skin as it helps get rid of dead skin accumulation and helps promote healthy skin turnover. Moisturizing the skin after exfoliation is highly recommended.
Pitta skin: The skin is often sensitive, sweaty, and flushed; therefore, it requires exfoliating that offers soothing and cooling effects. Since people with Pitta Dosha have oily skin and are more prone to acne and rosacea, they must exfoliate their skin to trigger unclogging of pores and lymphatic drainage. Such people must use a paste made of one tablespoon of sugar and half a teaspoon of coriander powder, turmeric, and sandalwood (calms Pitta) with aloe vera gel and gently massage the paste, and rinse off with cool water. Spritzing cold milk or rose water after exfoliation is also recommended, as it offers a calming and cooling effect and reduces the heat generated by scrubbing.
Kapha skin: The skin is usually oily, cool, and soft. Therefore people with Kapha skin type should ideally use a paste made with honey and cornmeal to gently massage it and wash it off with warm water. Similarly, a paste of sugar, ginger, sandalwood powder, and water can also be excellent for Kapha skin. Dry brushing and regular exfoliating this way can help remove dead skin cells, oil, and excessive sebum.
Using the right exfoliation methods based on our skin type and doshas can help maintain healthy and glowing skin. According to Ayurveda and modern-day research, several natural products can help exfoliate and offer healthy and glowing skin. These products are natural and do not expose the skin to harsh chemicals that can damage the cells and lead to skin troubles.
Ashawat MS, Saraf S, Swarnlata S (2008) Comparative sun protection factor determination of fresh Aloe vera gel vs marketed formulation. Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Education and Research 42 (4), 319-322