Exfoliation 101 with Clinique's Guiding Dermatologist

Q. What are the benefits of daily exfoliation versus exfoliation treatments?

Generally we recommend relatively gentle exfoliation twice a day with the appropriate Clarifying Lotion. Keep in mind that it's better to adjust the strength of the exfoliation than to change the frequency. In other words, it's better to exfoliate twice a day using mild or moderate exfoliation than to exfoliate once a week with an extremely harsh process, like a very rough scrub, for example. Exfoliation is comparable to exercise; it's better to follow a custom fit, moderate program on a regular basis, than to overdo it, randomly. If your skin is accustomed to daily exfoliation, it's OK to exfoliate more aggressively on occasion, either at home or at the dermatologist's office (daily training versus an occasional marathon).

Q. How can exfoliating daily help your skin look younger?

Daily exfoliation improves the surface appearance and function of the skin. Studies show that exfoliation increases epidermal turnover rate, resulting in a clearer, smoother, more even-toned skin which has greater translucency, than skin which is not exfoliated on a regular basis.

Q. What are the benefits of chemical vs. physical exfoliants?

Chemical exfoliants may have an additional beneficial action, such as acting as an anti-bacterial. Chemical exfoliation is also easier to control. However, both types will benefit the skin.

We have found salicylic acid, a chemical exfoliant, to be the absolutely best exfoliator for over-the-counter use. There are so many benefits to salicylic acid: it is a gentle, effective, non-allergenic exfoliator. It has anti-microbial properties. Salicylic acid slows down or interrupts the mechanisms that contribute to the skin looking aged. It's time-proven. Another advantage of salicylic acid as an exfoliator is that it's not a photo sensitizer. Some exfoliators can make your skin a bit more sensitive to sunlight, salicylic acid will not. In 40 years, we have never seen an allergic reaction to salicylic acid.

Q. What is the history of salicylic acid?

The benefits of salicylic acid were first recognized over 2,000 years ago when ancient healers found that bark stripped from a willow tree and steeped on hot water could alleviate the pain of a tribe member suffering with a headache, toothache or even a fever, which at that time could be a potential cause of death. If a high fever could be lowered before it killed the patient, it would allow the body time to heal and overcome the infection. From this early understanding - that there was something in willow bark - chemists, thousands of years later, were motivated to isolate and identify salicylic acid.

As you may be aware, the first "wonder drug," aspirin, was synthesized by chemical modification of salicylic acid. Very shortly after, physicians, primarily those in Europe, began incorporating salicylic acid into skin care treatment. Remember, this was over a hundred years ago - neither antibiotics nor cortisone had yet been developed. Salicylic acid was truly the first miracle drug. Doctors of that day found that it was very useful for treating a wide range of skin maladies such as bacterial infection, fungus infection, psoriasis and acne - so they incorporated it into many interesting products.

Salicylic acid has been used in dermatology for the past 150 years. It has been Clinique's signature ingredient for more than 30 years - and will continue to be so in the future. In our opinion, no other exfoliating agent is superior to salicylic acid.

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