Exfoliation is an important step in any skincare routine. Our skin naturally renews itself by gradually shedding the outer layer of dead skin cells; however, this slows down as we get older. Therefore, in order to maintain a bright and glowing complexion, we must help the process along with the use of exfoliation products.
With an abundance of tools, scrubs and chemical exfoliators on the market, choosing one to fit into your skincare routine can feel daunting. However, if you understand your skin type, finding the right exfoliator becomes a lot more intuitive. This awareness will also help you avoid products that could cause damage to your skin.
What is exfoliation?
Put simply, exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells in order to promote a healthier looking complexion. So, if your skin is ever looking dull or lacks radiance, removing that top layer of dry, damaged cells is the first step in transforming it. Beauty experts suggest that exfoliating two or three times per week is ideal. However, this may vary from product to product, so always be sure to use exfoliators as directed.
Manual vs. Chemical exfoliation
There are two main methods of exfoliation – manual and chemical. Manual exfoliation involves using physically abrasive textures, such as scrubs or specially designed tools, in order to slough off dead skin cells and stimulate blood circulation. The most important aspect in this type of exfoliator is the granular quality of the product. Finer textures gently buff the skin to reveal a more polished complexion, while coarse exfoliators, such as salt scrubs, are rougher and best used on the body as opposed to the face – especially if you have sensitive skin.
Alternatively, chemical exfoliators contain skin-safe acids which tackle dead and dying skin cells on a molecular level in order to unmask the newer skin underneath. AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) and BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids) are the main types of chemical exfoliants.
Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), such as Glycolic and Lactic Acids, are exfoliating agents that disrupt the bonds between dead skin cells, naturally lifting them off the epidermis. This makes them particularly effective in reducing signs of melasma or post-inflammation hyperpigmentation for a more even complexion. They’re well-suited to dehydrated, dry, or ageing skin.
Beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) can penetrate the skin’s sebum to exfoliate the pore lining. This makes them a particularly effective on blemish-prone skin as they help regulate sebum-production. The most common BHA used in skincare is Salicylic Acid.
Both AHAs and BHAs benefit the skin in a plethora of ways, but the ones that are best for your skin will depend on your skin type and skin concern.
Choose the right exfoliator for your skin type
There are six skin types – dry, sensitive, normal, combination, oily and blemish-prone – and the exfoliator you use will depend on which category, or categories, you fall into.
DRY SKIN: Contrary to popular belief, dry skin is not the same as dehydrated skin. Dehydrated skin lacks water, whereas dry skin is characterised by a lack of oil caused by less active sebaceous glands. As BHAs cut through our skin’s natural oils, AHA-based exfoliators – such as our Exfolactic Cleanser – are best-suited for people with dry skin.
SENSITIVE SKIN: Sensitive skin is prone to inflammation and irritation – think red, itchy and hot-to-the-touch. If this sounds familiar, stick with AHA-based products or super-fine manual exfoliators as anything to rough or invasive could exacerbate symptoms.
NORMAL SKIN: If your skin is neither excessively oily, nor super dry and sensitive, both chemical and manual exfoliators will work well, and you can tailor your products to suit your skincare concerns. AHAs are anti-ageing and tackle dryness while BHAs are best for blemishes. Our Rose Quartz Exfoliating Mask combines chemical and physical exfoliation for a skin-brightening boost.
OILY: Characterised by an overactive production of sebum, exfoliation is very beneficial for oily skin to prevent breakouts. BHAs penetrate sebum and exfoliate skin at a deeper level, so are much more effective.
BLEMISH-PRONE: Like oily skin, blemish-prone skin also benefits from BHA-based exfoliators. Our Hydrolat Anti-Blemish Tonic unclogs pores to reduce inflammation and redness. You can also use the 3-Phase Anti-Blemish Booster to target breakouts.
COMBINATION SKIN: Combination skin is complex. It exhibits signs and symptoms of different types depending on things like hormonal fluctuations or the zone of the face. As such, it requires a vigilance and a real understanding of what ingredients and products treat each concern. The exfoliator you choose will therefore depend on how your skin is behaving at the time.
NOTE: Please note, those who suffer with rosacea, it is best to avoid exfoliation as this can exacerbate any symptoms experienced. For rosacea, we recommend our Clarity Beauty Dose.