The 411 on Exfoliating | MAYhem #7

I remember a time when I only thought you could exfoliate your skin by using abrasive scrubs – how young and naive I was. Exfoliation is the key to beautiful glowing skin because it sloughs off dead skin cells and allows for better product absorption. The questions most people ask me are: how often should I be exfoliating, and what type of exfoliator should I use? I always say this truly does depend on your skin type and concerns. For most people exfoliating 2-3 times per week is more than enough, however for me I exfoliate more frequently as I suffer from congested skin. There are several types of exfoliation methods: chemical, enzymatic and physical – which can be a bit confusing, but I will explain all.


Chemical Exfoliants

Chemical exfoliators will dissolve dead skin cells, and although they can sound scary they are a lot more gentle on the skin than a physical exfoliator (scrub). Chemical exfoliators are great to get rid of congestion, brighten the skin and assist with anti-ageing. You can get chemical exfoliators that contain AHAs and/or BHAS. AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) are water soluble and exfoliate the surface layer of the skin. On the other hand, BHAs (beta hydroxy acids) are oil soluble, anti-bacterial and can dig deep into the pore to clear congestion which is great for acne prone skin.

AHAs – Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Mandelic Acid, Malic Acid, Citric Acid, Tartaric Acid.

BHAs – Salicylic Acid.

Products: Dr Dennis Gross Peel Pads, Pixi Beauty Glow Peel Pads, Drunk Elephant Glycolic Night Serum, Radical Peel Pads, Alpha-H Liquid Gold, Skinstitut L-Lactic Acid Cleanser, Go-To Skincare Exfoliating Swipeys.

Enzymatic Exfoliants

An enzyme exfoliator is a little bit more gentle than a chemical exfoliator and is a great way to introduce yourself to exfoliation. Enzyme exfoliators will reveal bright skin, however they will only exfoliate the very outer layer of the epidermis. If you are suffering from congestion or acne then a chemical containing BHAs is the better way to go.

Products: African Botanics Buchu Botanical Enzyme Polish, Mario Badescu Enzyme Cleansing Gel, Radical Express Delivery Enzyme Peel.

Physical Exfoliants

These are your ‘traditional’ methods of exfoliation that use micro beads/granules to exfoliate the surface layer of the skin. Use these products with caution as they can cause micro tears in the skin if used too intensely. If you suffer from acne or sensitive skin a chemical exfoliator is a better option for you – the micro beads can spread bacteria and cause irritation.

Products: Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant, Josie Maran Argan Exfoliating Cleanser, Chantecaille Bamboo and Hibiscus Exfoliating Cream, Goldfadden Doctor’s Scrub.

If you like the feeling of a physical exfoliator but want some chemicals or enzymes in there too then try these options: Kate Somerville ExfoliKate, Colbert MD Intensify Facial Discs, REN Micropolish Cleanser.

Am I over exfoliating? 

Sometimes we can get a little too addicted to the benefits of exfoliating – I know I do. If you are over exfoliating you will generally find your skin becomes shiny after it is freshly washed and dried and maybe even red, tight and sensitive too. Over exfoliating can be dangerous as it can disrupt the skin’s acid mantle which is vital to a healthy complexion. So speaking from experience, be sensible with your exfoliation routine!


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