The short term effects of these treatments are very pleasing to clients, which is why so many people pay lots of money for them. But are these procedures actually doing anything to slow down aging in the dermis, where aging of the skin actually occurs? Do they actually benefit the skin’s health? Or are they actually doing to the skin what we are all trying so hard to prevent: speeding up the aging process, instead of slowing it down.
Dr. Ben Johnson, MD believes that the skin care industry’s current obsession with exfoliation is doing just that: exacerbating the aging process by destroying the skin’s natural barrier, the epidermis. His book, Transform Your Skin Naturally: Groundbreaking Alternatives to Exfoliation and Other Damaging Antiaging Strategies, discusses how these current skin care practices are doing more harm to the skin than good in the long term.
The epidermis must be repaired, not removed.
Dr. Johnson has a very accurate understanding of how the skin actually functions. Most skin care professionals and cosmetic dermatologists believe that the accumulation of the dead cells in the stratum corneum (top layer of the epidermis) are what give people a dull, aged appearance and worsen the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. They believe that these cells must be removed in order to reveal the new, youthful cells underneath.
The build-up of dead cells is not a flaw in the design of the skin; is absolutely essential to its protective barrier function. What these professionals neglect to realize, is that the stratum corneum serves a very important role in protecting the skin (and the entire body) from UV radiation and other environmental aggressors, preventing infection, and serving as a barrier to prevent fluid and blood loss. Over-cleansing and exfoliating the skin also strips the skin of the protective lipids and enzymes that make up the barrier.
The lower layers of the epidermis are very important to protect and preserve, because they house many of the skin’s most important protective features. The basal layer, which is the lowest layer, is where melanocytes are located. These are the cells that create melanin, which is the pigment that gives our skin and hair their color. Melanin does not merely exist for aesthetic reasons; it protects our body from free radical damage caused by the sun and other environmental invaders. Exfoliation can cause the melanocytes to overproduce melanin pigment if they believe the skin’s barrier is compromised. This causes hyperpigmentation, otherwise known as age or sun spots. Exfoliation can also cause irreparable damage to the melanocytes, and make them cease to function. This causes hypopigmentation, or areas of lightness on the skin.