We all want to have beautiful glowy skin that is silky smooth and a pleasure to massage serums into, but for many of us that doesn’t come naturally – this is where exfoliants come into play. By removing the dead layers of skin you can have a fresh and beautiful face to greet the world with.
Ten years ago it felt like the only exfoliants available were physical scrubs, now as chemical exfoliants have become much more popular it’s the perfect time to learn about all the different types available and work out which one you need for your skin.
RIP to the physical exfoliant of my early twenties, the Clarisonic brush, which recently announced they will be closing down. Also a swift kick into the bin for the St Ives scrub I keep finding in my friend Zana’s shower no matter how many times I tell her not to use it.
Physical exfoliants like scrubs or mechanised brushes are too harsh for your skin. Sure, there are outlying use cases, but is it really worth it to find out? No. Stop using them on your face.
Now I know, the term ‘chemical exfoliant’ sounds hella suspicious and as though you’re going to get a weird chemical burn from using it but the general premise is that they gently increase shedding of your dead skin cells, and when used correctly are harmless.
There are three main types of chemical exfoliants AHA, BHA and enzyme exfoliants, and they all serve different purposes, and I’ll try to keep it as simple as possible so you don’t feel overwhelmed:
AHA’s – Aging
Alpha-hydroxy acids, namely glycolic and lactic acids are arguably the most common chemical exfoliants. AHA’s stimulate collagen and they’re recommended for treating the signs of aging, including pigmentation (not melasma – that’s laser only), and for smoothing the skin’s surface.
BHA’s – Breakouts and/or Clogged Pores
There is only one type of Beta-hydroxy Acid – Salicylic acid. A BHA will act in a similar way to an AHA by helping to shed dead skin but it is less effective as an anti-aging exfoliant. What a BHA is great for is people with oily skin as it is oil-soluble which means it can penetrate oil-clogged pores. I use this mostly on my nose and chin because they are my oiliest spots and it helps to keep that under control. Results were visible on my nose within just a couple of weeks from daily 2% BHA use.
Enzyme Exfoliants – Sensitive Skin
There is some temptation within the beauty community to list enzyme exfoliants outside of chemical exfoliants, which makes no sense to me as they use chemicals to help shed dead skin in the same way as AHA’s and BHA’s do. Enzyme exfoliants are the most gentle version of a chemical exfoliant and are often recommended for people with sensitive or dehydrated skin.
If you give chemical exfoliants a go please tag us in your before and after photos on Instagram!
Want more? Click here for 5 Organic Skincare Products That Pack A Punch and here for Four of the a Best Face Oils to Nourish Your Skin.
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