You might be new to having a skincare routine as part of your daily getting ready/un-ready regime so you may or may not know that an exfoliant is a key component to achieving the skin you want.
Let’s jog our memories.
Why do we exfoliate?
To ensure that we have smooth, clean skin, it is necessary to remove the dead skin cells that naturally build up on the surface of our skin which can also help your skincare products like serums or moisturisers to be more effective as they are actually getting to work on fresh active skin and not the layer of dead skin on top. Exfoliating also helps with removing clogged pores that have an excess of oil in them or what we also know as sebum.
Depending on your skin type, you may or may not have an excess of oil build up but we’ll all have some level of dead skin build up that needs to be removed.
Now, this is where physical and chemical exfoliants really show their playing power because one is better for getting the deep-rooted build up that lies within our pores while the other is better for the superficial removal of build-up.
A physical exfoliant is as the name suggests – something physical or tangible that we use to exfoliate our skin.
This could be in the form of a tool such as a facial bristle brush or particles in an actual exfoliating product like a face wash scrub.
Typically, we are advised to use these up to twice a week to avoid stripping our skin of its natural oils therefore drying it out but also to not be too abrasive with our skin which could invite infection. A milder physical exfoliator would be our Makeup Remover Pads which can be used daily to remove makeup as it isn’t too abrasive and gives a much milder physical exfoliation.
These, like the name implies are products including certain acids. Coming in the forms of AHAs, BHAs and PHAs, these exfoliants use chemicals to remove unwanted dead skin cells on our skin’s surface. The word chemical exfoliation and acids can sound scary or damaging but they really aren’t as harsh or scary as they sound. Some of these “acids” come from fruit as explained below.
AHA – Alpha Hydroxy Acid: these contain fruit derivatives like pumpkin, kiwi or papaya and the acids that are related to these would be citric or glycolic acid which aim to even out the texture of our skin.
BHA – Beta Hydroxy Acid: an example of a popular one is Salicylic acid – this is an ingredient that dermatologists love because it’s an acne-fighting powerhouse. You’ll find that many product labels that have salicylic acid will boast that it unclogs pores and removes dead skin.
PHA – Poly Hydroxy Acid: a milder exfoliant that contains hydrating properties. This would be beneficial to those who have dry skin but still want to incorporate exfoliation as part of their regime.
The beauty of these exfoliants is that they come in an extensive range of brands, all at various price points that are accessible to everyone. The Ordinary has a particularly popular and well-loved glycolic acid solution that is super affordable.
So, which one should we use?
I believe that this is all based on personal preference. If you’re new to skincare, maybe see how you like physical exfoliants first. Play around with scrubs, facial tools, and tangible items to see how your skin likes/dislikes the various methods.
One of my favourite physical exfoliants is the St. Ives Apricot Scrub – it’s a tried-and-true product that I’ve used since I was a teenager. Another is the Neutrogena Kiwi Scrub. This one is a bit more abrasive, so I use it sparingly and I am careful with how I apply it to my skin.
As for chemical exfoliants, you must be careful with these because they can damage your skins protective barrier if used too often and in too higher concentration. I suggest doing as much research as you can on which acid maybe best for you and what percentage to start off with.
If you’re on a budget, check out The Ordinary – they are an affordable brand that pride themselves on removing unnecessary ingredients while focusing on curating a line that is accessible to all, while targeting skincare concerns with actual solutions and longevity.
All in all, have fun, be careful and love the skin you’re in, regardless!