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Remember that pink, goopy grapefruit scrub everyone used to have sitting in the corner of their showers? Facial exfoliators have come a long way since then. From banning microbeads to accepting that gritty fruit pit scrubs might not be so great for our skin, we’ve seen huge developments in the methods of our scrubbing madness. So, what’s the newest frontier in facial exfoliation, and how does it measure up to what we know and love?
As we age, desquamation, the skin’s process of shedding and renewing itself, slows down. To stimulate this process and combat fine lines, dry areas and uneven texture, we (should) exfoliate. Facial exfoliation removes the dead epidermal skin cells on the outer surface and gives way to a new layer of living cells with a decreased exposure to pollutants, toxins and aggressors.
There are two types of facial exfoliation
Physical exfoliation manually buffs away the outermost layer of the skin using a granular scrub, facial brush or scalpel. When using a physical exfoliator, be extra gentle during application. Large exfoliants, like fruit pits and nut shells, can cause micro-tears in the epidermis if scrubbed onto skin too vigorously.
Chemical exfoliation, on the other hand, chemically breaks bonds between dead skin cells so they can be broken down and washed away. Some types of chemical exfoliants, such as peels, are smoothing and brightening. Unlike physical exfoliation in which you might accidentally scrub a little too hard here or there, the great thing about chemical exfoliation is that it can uniformly exfoliate the face.
Why we go the chemical route when exfoliating
While it might sound daunting, chemical exfoliation is actually gentler on the skin than its physical counterpart. Most chemical exfoliants can be classified into two types: AHA and BHA.
AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) peel away dead skin cells and help generate new, evenly pigmented skin cells to blur fine lines, wrinkles and uneven skin tone. Water-soluble and derived from natural substances, AHAs don’t penetrate the skin deeply and are ideal for exfoliating dry, flaky skin. AHAs like glycolic and lactic acid are responsible for dissolving the “glue” that holds dead skin cells together.
Conversely, BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids) are oil-soluble, so they’re able to get deep into pores, remove dead skin cells and dissolve excess sebum. BHAs, such as salicylic acid, have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, so they’re great to use when treating acne or sun damage.
While they work in different ways, AHAs and BHAs can be used in the same product where they work synergistically to exfoliate the skin. In a nutshell, BHAs break down the bonds between skin cells and AHA cause the cells to actually detach from the surface.
How does facial exfoliation fit into my routine?
After cleansing in the evening, apply your facial exfoliator. Rinse thoroughly, then follow up with a hydrating moisturizer to soothe skin. Use your facial exfoliator 2-3x a week at night so your skin is completely protected from sun exposure while it’s feeling fresh.
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