In the past few years, we’ve learned a hard skincare truth: the exfoliating facial scrubs from our teenage past did a lot more harm than good. The abrasion was too harsh and we were effectively creating micro-tears in our skin, leaving it susceptible to irritation and bacteria. Since this realization, we have started highlighting the wonders of chemical exfoliation.
Chemical exfoliation, while the name sounds menacing, is actually a more gentle solution to the older, more damaging exfoliating ways. By sweeping active acids like alpha hydroxy acid, beta hydroxy acid, and/or polyhydroxy acid all over your face 2-3 times a week, you are dissolving and sloughing away dead skin cells that would have otherwise clumped together, clogged your pores, and caused future skin problems. You can read more about how active acids are key in fighting the maskne we’ve all been suffering from this year here.
In 2020, one product has stood out among the rest and its popularity has skyrocketed in a short period of time. You’ve probably heard all about The Ordinary’s AHA 30% BHA 2% Peeling Solution. It’s the blood-red chemical exfoliant (its shocking color coming from the Tasmanian pepper berry) that has sold out everywhere this year, with reviews from people saying that it has addressed and solved nearly all their stubborn skin issues.
If you didn’t already know, 30% AHA is a lot. It’s the highest percentage of AHA you can get over-the-counter and the immediate stinging sensation you get when you apply it to your face won’t let you forget it. AHA is considered a great ingredient for fading dark spots and addressing acne because of its molecule size. The AHA molecule is so small that it can deeply penetrate the skin. The best way to visualize this is by imagining the barrier of your skin as a chain link fence and the AHA molecule as a golf ball.
While it works well on most people, it poses a problem for most Black and Brown people. Since AHA penetrates so deeply into the skin, it activates the melanocytes in Black and Brown skin. What does that mean? When melanocytes are triggered, what happens is that they start to overproduce melanin, which results in hyperpigmentation. Yes, you heard that correct. The Ordinary AHA 30% BHA 2% Peeling solution ends up creating the problem it was meant to solve. Not only does this product create more hyperpigmentation, but because of its high concentration of AHA, it can lead to chemical burns as well.
Instead, opt for less concentrated acids that are not in the AHA family (glycolic aid, mandelic acid, lactic acid). BHAs are a viable alternative and can be found in the oldie-but-a-goodie, salicylic acid. While you may not get instant results as you would with the AHA peeling solution, you can rest easy knowing that you are not only solving your skincare issues but also making sure that it stays healthy in the long run.
You can learn more about The Ordinary products and how they affect Black and Brown skin below.