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Love Your Skin with Ebele Ugochukwu: Everything You Need to Know About Exfoliation



Ebele UgochukwuExfoliation is the process of removing the top layer of your skin either mechanically or chemically.
Our cells are in a constant state of renewal; from new cells to old then they die are eventually shed. Without proper exfoliation, these dead cells can accumulate on the skin surface not only creating a dull lack lustre quality to the skin, it can also trap dirt and debris in between. It is essential to remove this dead cell layer regularly to allow new healthy cells to rise to the surface thereby giving the skin a health glow and natural radiance.

Human skin is made up of an upper layer called the Epidermis and a lower deeper layer called the Dermis.

The new younger cells are below and the older dying cells are above. So the idea is to ensure that the new cells rise to the top regularly with no impediment.
Mechanical exfoliation is achieved by applying a mildly abrasive agent to the skin in a regular, rhythmic pattern for about 90seconds or more. This type of preparation is commonly referred to as a scrub; abrasive agents used include sugar, salt, crushed almond or walnut shells, coffee grounds and jojoba beads to name just a few. Mechanical exfoliation can also be achieved to some extent with brushes, special sponges and other electronic devices.
Chemical exfoliation is using a mildly corrosive agent to melt off the top layer of the skin by breaking down the bonds between the cells. Alpha hydroxyl acids (AHA) (these include glycolic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, mandelic acid) are most commonly used for exfoliating creams. Other exfoliating chemicals include Beta hydroxyl acids (BHA), enzymes and Retinol.


The life cycle of our skin cells.

So to put it simply mechanical exfoliators scrub/scrape off while mechanical exfoliators melt off.
It has always been widely advised to exfoliate 2-3times per week however, it is more than likely that the main target of that message is the Caucasians; indeed, majority of the skin care resources available are referring to Caucasian skin.
To better understand why the needs of Caucasian skin and skin of colour differ, it is important to highlight a few differences between these two skin types.



Scientists have discovered structural differences in Black, White and Asian skin in terms of thickness, water content and lipids.

In order not to get to too technical, I will mention the major differences;

• The Stratum corner of Black skin has more layers and stronger cells than in white skin.

• The epidermis of black skin contains less glutathione (a co-enzyme involved in intracellular oxidation reduction reactions). Inhibition of epidermal glutathione system leads to darker skin and the presence of glutathione leads to inhibition of melanogenesis (production of the pigment melanin which gives skin its colour.

• Black skin has larger melanosomes (melanin producing cells) than white skin.

• Black skin has a higher electrical resistance than white skin which suggest greater thickness and cohesion.

• Black skin has larger and multinucleate fibroblasts (a cell in found in connective tissue which produces collagen and other fibres) which is the reason we are more prone to scarring and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

• Black skin and Asian skin have thicker and more compact Dermis which is the reason we have fewer wrinkles as we age.

• Black skin has larger mast cell granules (cells that gather at the site of inflammation to begin the healing process) than white skin. This is also why we are more prone to keloid formation.

• Black skin sheds its outer layers more frequently than white skin.

Please note that anywhere you see the term ‘black skin’ it is not referring to dark complexioned people but instead referring to every human being of African Descent originally irrespective of whether you are fair, medium or even mulatto.

It is quite obvious that the care of black skin versus white needs to be a bit different to cater for each specific skin care requirement.

For black skin the most important routine is EXFOLIATION. From the above you can see that not only is black skin thicker, it also desquamates (cell turnover) more frequently. Black skin can be scrubbed daily without any adverse effects due to the reasons already mentioned. However, you must be careful about the scrub you use.

Second to drinking water, exfoliation is the most important thing for maintaining good skin for people of colour.
Daily Exfoliation will make your skin smoother, fairer, brighter, softer.

Imagine a carpenter with a piece of wood, the more he sand papers it, the smoother and lighter it becomes.
It is best to combine both chemical and mechanical exfoliation to get the best results. And alpha hydroxyl acids are also excellent for maintaining the youthfulness of your skin.

Please note that it is not every scrub that can be used daily. For example, the crushed almond or walnut shells used in Apricot facial scrub is not for daily use. The shells can cause micro cuts on the skin surface, Note also that it is inadvisable to use body scrubs on your face. Facial scrubs are specially formulated because the face has special needs when compared to the rest of your body.

Good examples of daily facial scrub in no particular order include;
• Dermalogica daily exfoliant
• Aveeno Radiant skin brightening daily scrub
• Olay skin smoothing cream scrub
• S.Studio ‘Scrub Away My Troubles’ daily scrub (the range also includes excellent chemical exfoliating lotion)
• Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating cleanser
• Neutrogena Pore Refining exfoliating cleanser
• The Body Shop Aloe Gentle Exfoliator
• Biore free your pores pore unclogging scrub.

You can augment the effect by using any exfoliating cream of your choice; just look out in the ingredients for Alpha hydroxyl acid AHA or beta hydroxyl acid BHA or retinol.

Please note the following when using any kind of chemical exfoliating lotion/cream;
• Product is best applied only at night.
• you have to avoid the sun as much as possible
• be disciplined with your use of sun screen daily
• Always let your facial therapist know especially with the use of retinol; she has to be extra cautious during treatments.

If you’re not a skinaholic, the least you can do is exfoliate daily, drink a lot of water and use your sunscreen.
For my fellow skinaholics, I know I don’t need to tell you twice, adjust your game if you need to.

Till next time, keep putting your best face forward!

Dr Ebele Ugochukwu obtained her medical degree from the University of Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria. She later obtained a diploma in practical dermatology from University of Cardiff Wales. She is the MD of Sleek Studio Ltd, a company that specializes in the sales and marketing of Sleek Makeup from the UK and the company owned skin care line. She has experimented extensively with different skin care formulations and brands. Her qualifications and years of experience has led to her interest and devotion to cosmetic dermatology. Dissemination of Healthy skin care practises is the goal of Dr Ebele and she intends to achieve this by providing training, workshops and seminars to educate the Nigerian public.


  1. Ejiro

    June 8, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Am a skinaholic, I love me some good skin, I even do research but the money to take care of a good skin na die, I really can’t wait to invest properly on my skin. Can’t finish my pocket money on the skin alone na, good write tho

    • English miss

      June 8, 2016 at 2:57 pm

      Which one be ‘I love me some good skin’? Smh

    • Jade

      June 8, 2016 at 9:36 pm

      I used to buy high end products, thought it will work better. I spent money on dermatologist, her treatment worked but didn’t have money to continue. I’ve been using less expensive simple products consistently.
      Exfoliating did wonders on my skin. I use simple Apricot scrub mixed it with lemon or papaya water. Sometimes coconut oil. I use the mixture on my body too. I even tried it on my stubborn stretch marks. I believe stretch marks is genetics, bcos I’m slim and been having since I was a teen girl. My mom is slim too but she had it too before having children.
      I use pure cocoa butter(someone suggested it on here when I complained). It’s not completely gone but it’s made a lot of difference.
      I love the different shades of black skin. I love it.

  2. bruno

    June 8, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    deard DR. ebele I have been wanting to tell u this, u look like black Cindy from orange is the new black.

    • Ada_ugo

      June 8, 2016 at 4:23 pm

      she really does!

  3. Moyo

    June 8, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    Dr Ebele, thank you for this article. however I need your advise, after your last article I tried steaming my face a couple of times and followed up with St Ives Apricot scrub and I ended with a severe breakout of acne and blackheads. Is this normal. I have very oily skin and noticed that the scrub was oily unlike before when I used to get a good scrub and my face will be clearer. what happened, was I reacting to the steaming or was the product bad (fake)

    • Anon

      June 8, 2016 at 10:29 pm

      When you steam, your face becomes sensitive and needs to be calmed after. Apricot scrub is abrasive and you aggravated your skin by using it. After steaming I use bentonite clay as a mask and then calm it with Shea Butter. I have oily skin too. Awaiting Ebele’s input too. Nwanyi Nimo.

    • Because I care

      June 9, 2016 at 12:07 am

      I agree with Anon. I think your skin probably got too sensitive after steaming. So, using apricot scrub immediately afterwards simply irritated it even more especially because Apricot scrubs are a bit harsh on the skin even though they work well. I love my apricot face scrub but I make sure I use it only once a week to avoid irritation. I also recently bought a natural face scrub called mineral face scrub on this website Apparently, the products are new and were recently just released. I have used it twice now and boy!!! I am in love already. It is mild but scrubs my face really well without making it extra sensitive. I loved how my face looked on both times I used it. The website says it can be used everyday so this is going to be my to-go daily face scrub for now. I am also avoiding anything harsh on my face. I steam 1ce in 2 weeks using argan oil and make sure I do nothing else besides regular face cleansing on those days. And so far, it has worked for me.

  4. Sai sai

    June 8, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    Please don’t wait till you gather money, start now..brown sugar + honey + lemon Juice + Coconut oil(optional) or olive oil (optional too) will save you the plenty money you plan to invest on your face in the future…the good thing about this recipe is it can be used as an exfoliator for your face, chapped lips and your whole body..
    You can Google it too for clarification
    ?yea you are welcome

  5. Beckie

    June 8, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    U gave us possible options for exfoliators for face,
    Please do u have any recommendations for quality exfoliating products on the body…

    • Adaure

      June 8, 2016 at 11:48 pm

      I learnt about using blended raw rice mixed with honey, few drops of almond oil, and lemon juice from an Ig page called @goodskinguru which i have been following for almost 6 months now. I use this scrub twice every week only at nightime and have been doing this for the past 4 months with incredible results. My skin is undeniably soft and smooth. All my friends ask me what I use. You can give it a try too or check out their Instagram page for other natural scrub recipes. Thank me later *wink

  6. Chiomah

    June 8, 2016 at 7:38 pm

    Nice and informative!

  7. Bimbo

    June 8, 2016 at 7:47 pm

    Hi Moyo, steaming your face before exfoliating is good but change the scrub to any of the ones she listed . also try a mask of pure honey and lemon after exfoliating . it heals acne and blackheads.

    • LEM

      June 9, 2016 at 11:07 am

      @Bimbo, where can I get pure honey in lagos? Can the one’s bought in stores substitute or is it better to use pure honey? Thanks

  8. Adwoa

    June 9, 2016 at 11:11 am

    Hello Dr. Ebele, thank you for this very informative article. I have learnt alot from it. However, may I kindly point out that there were one too many grammatical and syntax errors which required a double and sometimes triple read before I got the meaning. If you do not mind, you can hire me as your proof reader. My services will be for free. No charge whatsoever.

  9. Ebele Ugochukwu

    June 9, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    hello everyone, @Bruno and ada_ugo, yes oh, I noticed the resemblance myself. @Moyo, like I said in my article, I strongly discourage the use of apricot facial scrub on the face frequently; please change to something else…however do note that when you exfoliate/steam initially, you have a lot of impurities rising to the surface of your skin and this is a good thing because it means you are on the road to flawless skin, so don’t be discouraged…continue with your routine and you will see marked improvement but with a different daily scrub please. also it is best to exfoliate before steaming not the other way around.
    @beckie, here are a few good body scrubs; Body shop cocoa butter body scrub, Origins Incredible spreadable smoothing salt scrub, Body shop salt scrub, St.Ives exfoliating body scrub. However, you can just take a tub of salt or sugar into the shower and get to work with your loofah, you will still achieve the same results.

  10. shady

    June 10, 2016 at 9:39 pm

    @ebele thanks for your reply . Pls is it ok to use over the counter honey as part of my beauty regime just in case I don’t have access to pure honey . Some people suggest argan oil is that the same as Moroccan argan oil used for hair.

  11. Ebele

    June 11, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    @shady, pure honey is always best as over the counter preparations may have additives that will prevent you from benefitting from the natural goodness of honey. I don’t know where you live but in Nigeria it is fairly easy to get pure natural honey. However, if over the counter is your only option, make sure it is organic.
    Moroccan oil and Argan oil are the essentially the same thing; the oil is prepared from the kernels of the Argan tree fruit that grows almost exclusively in Morocco. I hope I have been able to help.
    @Adwoa, apologies forgot to include you in my last response; thank you for your constructive criticism; all comments are welcome whether negative or positive.

  12. Omodolapo

    July 5, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    I usually develop cystic acne whenever I steam my face. So I do not do that anymore. I exfoliate with scrubs once a week, BHA 2ce a week, I use different face masks from clay mask to a mix of honey and coconut milk mixed with some drops of tea tree oil to prevent acne. I noticed that my facial skin looks and feels better whenever I use natural products. I have recently discovered the amazing benefits of coconut milk and coconut oil and I can’t get enough of these 2.

  13. mamacita

    July 29, 2017 at 8:02 pm

    Thank u so much the good doctor. I was exfoliating 3 times a week before your article, I was cute maybe even pretty. Since I read your article and started daily exfoliation, I’ve become beautiful. As in, people tell me several times a day that I’m beautiful, guys stare at me and I stop please this facial mask thing, is it important too?

  14. Sleepiewillow

    September 22, 2017 at 8:26 am

    Lemme just add that bha is good for those struggling with blackheads, acne, acne scarring and hyper pigmentation from acne because it is able to penetrate the skin and exfoliate from within. Aha is for those with skin texture, dry skin and sun damage. Also avoid overexfoliating, touching your face too much.

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