Healthy, new skin cells start out as rounded, plump, fluid-filled structures, moving from the lower layers of your skin up to the top (stratum corneum). They are bright, and reflect light (as represented by the pearls).
The closer these 'pearl' cells migrate toward the top, they begin to lose their hydrated center & rounded shape, becoming thinner and irregular in shape, dry, darker, and light absorbing (as represented by the raisins).
The top layer of the skin is known as the stratum corneum. It becomes like a sticky layer of cornflakes. A collection of dull, light-absorbing, gluey gunk. This congestive layer on the top serves an important protective function - BUT - in most people there is too much build-up, and it results in a condition known as congestion.
Dead cells carry no moisture.The skin becomes very dull and uneven in color. The congested layer exacerbates the hills and valleys in the tissue making wrinkles more prominent. Lack of hydration in the layers of the skin exacerbates problems such as inability to shed properly, increased sensitivity & inflammation, and impedes necessary, healthy-giving repair functionality. This outer layer is meant to serve as protective barrier. It requires hydration and essential fatty acids to stay healthy and function properly. All of the components the skin needs to stay healthy declines with age.
Facial skin does not receive friction like most of the body does from rubbing against clothing, or being brushed as in hair. A little stimulation is good, and studies have shown the proper stimulation can help improve the growth of collagen in the skin. The wrong kind, or too much exfoliation can damage skin and cause problems with the skin's barrier function, such as increased sensitivity, broken capillaries, and stimulate increased hyperpigmentation.
And, it breaks-down your skin structure faster. As we age, all the components of healthy skin take longer & longer to build back up... sometimes some of the components and functionality is gone, and can't be 'turned-on' or restored naturally. That's where professional therapies and products with results-oriented actives come into play.
Most people don't understand what exfoliation is, and how it varies from person-to-person. Lack of exfoliation, wrong products/over-use/too many products (makeup, moisturizers, sunscreen, etc.) along with lack of hydration and essential fatty acids, creates problems in the skin. Scrubbing your skin is not complete exfoliation. Incorrect exfoliation damages the skin and disrupts the protective barrier and its microbiome. Proper disengagement of the dead stratum corneum is something that has to be carefully determined based upon your age, skin condition, skin type, ethnicity, health, and product use. It is a science, and should never be over-done! I can educate & provide you with the proper modes of exfoliation for your particular skin - both professionally in-spa, and with customized home-use products.
Yes, it is possible have beautifully smooth skin without 'scrubbing'.
No, "I just can't (chemically) peel it all off, or microdermabrade it all off". That is foolish, temporary, may not be appropriate for your skin type & condition, and does not provide deep-pore cleansing. Peels and microderm abrasion have their place, but are not the 100% solution. They do not remove wrinkles - they aid in the removal of dead surface tissue which may lessen the look of wrinkles and fine lines. Too much of these therapies can be more aging and detrimental, than health-giving.
Congested skin is markedly inclined to break-out easier. Congested skin cannot absorb anything properly... You are wasting your money on products if you are expecting results by applying them to congested skin.
The BENEFITS of proper EXFOLIATION & HYDRATION stimulates your skin to produce collagen and elastin (provided all other necessary components of skin health are in place). It glows, and reflects light like a child's skin. It is more plump, the tone & color are more uniform, makeup goes on smoother, dark spots may brighten up, and circulation & overall health of the skin improves.
The left/top image demonstrates dehydrated, congested/built-up dead skin. It is lacking water, and may be also lacking oil. Notice the flattened, darker, irregular shaped epidermal cells, and the dead layer on the stratum corneum (the top-most layer).
The right/bottom image demonstrates properly exfoliated, hydrated skin - it is brighter, the cells are more plump, and the stratum corneum is happy and balanced.