Exfoliation is possibly the most difficult of the basic skincare processes. Washing your face seems self-evident, and moisturizing your skin is a no-brainer. But exfoliating requires a little bit more effort and is a little less intuitive. However, it’s necessary to buff away dead skin cells to keep skin smooth and bright, as well as to keep pores unclogged.
Most people believe that exfoliation must be physical—a gritty scrub similar to what you may have used previously. While these scrubs do help to smooth the skin, it’s difficult to get the right balance while applying them.
To begin with, scrubs vary greatly in terms of grittiness. Some are too harsh to use more than twice a week, while others are so delicate that they can be used every day. Additionally, not every corner of your face requires the same amount of buffing, and you can’t always tell by looking at or touching your skin.
The recommendation across the board seems to be switching to chemical exfoliants. Chemical exfoliants are a more precise approach to remove dead skin cells from the surface, pores, or both.
Below we introduce you to chemical exfoliants.
How chemical exfoliants work
The most prevalent chemical exfoliants are acids, which come in a variety of strengths and purposes. Many of these elements come from natural sources, such as fruits, and many of them are also found in our bodies.
Other exfoliants, such as glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and lactic acid, are just as effective as hyaluronic acid at retaining moisture in your skin.
Chemical exfoliants often employ one of the following substances:
- Alpha hydroxy acids, or AHAs
- Beta hydroxy acids, or BHAs
- Poly hydroxy acids, or PHAs
- Trichloroacetic acids, or TCAs
- Fruit enzymes
The case for chemical exfoliants versus physical scrubs
It’s not that physical scrubs aren’t effective, it’s just that that more individuals should use a chemical exfoliant, whether it’s a monthly peel or a BHA serum combined with a surface-level scrub. Chemical exfoliants have the advantage of being able to remove multiple layers of dead skin with a single application, whereas scrubs normally just target the superficial, outermost layer.
Another advantage of chemical exfoliants is that they are better for sensitive skin, which is often irritated by the friction of physical scrubs.
So the right way to exfoliate your face is to be using chemical scrubs rather than physical ones, because this yields the best long-term results.
For more on skin care, read about how to recover dry skin and 6 tips for transitioning your skincare routine from fall to winter.
Photo via Stock