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Next to chugging water and watching how many skincare products you put on your face, you may think exfoliating is a staple of a regimen for a glowing complexion. When your skin is already red, though, exfoliating doesn't always solve the problem. In fact, exfoliating may just make things worse. As a beauty-savvy gal, you have to figure out what's causing the redness before you start sloughing off cells.
Exfoliating is simply taking off layers of skin cells that are dead or dying. With these cells removed, your skin looks less dull. Routine exfoliation is thought to improve skin tone because it encourages healthy new skin cells to come to the surface. Dermatologists also credit exfoliation for keeping pores clear and open so that whiteheads, blackheads and pimples don't form.
When Exfoliation Helps
When redness is caused by acne, exfoliating can remove excess dirt, oil and other gunk that gets trapped in the pores. With pores clear, infection and irritation is less frequent. The result is even skin tone. Exfoliation also sometimes helps when redness is caused by dryness. It allows you to remove the dry skin so you can properly hydrate the layers underneath. If you're plagued with redness in a scar, exfoliating gradually removes the layers of skin where the collagen has haphazardly formed and appears reddish.
When Exfoliating Does Nothing
In some cases, the reason a gal's face gets red goes much deeper than the skin. Some diseases, such as lupus, as well as hormonal problems can make the skin flush abnormally. For this type of redness, you have to treat the underlying condition to get your skin to clear up. In other cases, the redness occurs because you have an allergy to a cosmetic or cleansing product. Removing the allergen is the only way to fix this. Finally, exfoliating too often or too vigorously can irritate your skin, and before you know it, you're approaching lobster-red territory. The best remedy is to limit your skin regimen to gentle cleansing and a perfume- and dye-free moisturizer for a week or two.
Exfoliating techniques can be manual or chemical. Manual exfoliating means physically removing the skin with mild facial scrubs, washes or masks. For deeper exfoliating, microdermabrasion and dermabrasion by a dermatologist are choices. Chemical exfoliation usually uses acids to slough off the cells. Two examples are applying lemon juice, which has salicylic acid, or milk, which contains lactic acid. Stronger acids are found in commercial products used in chemical "peels." Generally, mild exfoliation two or three times a week is sufficient to even out skin tone without damaging the skin.