An exfoliant is a product which removes dead cells from the surface of the skin, revealing a clearer, smoother, and more even-toned complexion underneath. Exfoliants are instrumental in unclogging pores and fading post-breakout marks, in lessening dryness and improving the appearance of discoloration.
There are three types of exfoliants: exfoliating acids, enzyme exfoliators and physical exfoliants.
Exfoliating acids dissolve the “glue” which holds skin cells together, which results in the shedding of dead cells. Acids are quite powerful and their effectiveness makes the ideal for treating very oily, acneic skin. AHA (alpha-hydroxy) acids are water soluble and penetrate less than BHA (beta-hydroxy) acids, which are oil soluble and penetrate deeper.
The most common AHAs are lactic, glycolic, malic, mandelic, and tartaric acids.
BHAs commonly found in skincare: salicylic acid and betaine salicylate.
Exfoliating acids suit anyone who has clogged pores, blackheads, breakouts, dryness, flakiness, fine lines, wrinkles, large pores, dullness, discoloration, or rough texture. Anyone can safely use exfoliating acids, provided the ph and concentration are suitable.
Examples of products with exfoliating acids: Acne Clearing Wash, AHA/BHA Acne Clearing Gel.
Enzymes are fruit-derived. They contain no acids or grains. This means they can offer a gentler, no-sting exfoliation, which is very helpful for sensitive skin types. Pineapple, pumpkin, pomegranate, and papaya are the most common fruit enzymes used in skincare products. They work by dissolving and digesting the protein found in dead skin cells, thereby revealing smoother skin.
Both exfoliating acids and exfoliating enzymes dissolve dry skin cells, but there are a few main differences in how they work. Enzymes work more on the surface, while acids slip deeper into the skin’s surface. Also, enzymes are activated by water and work more slowly to digest cellular buildup. Apply them to damp skin and leave them on for anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes.
Any kind of exfoliation can improve clogged pores, blackheads, blemishes, dryness, flakiness, fine lines, wrinkles, large pores, dullness, and discoloration. With that being said, anyone who can’t tolerate exfoliating acids will find enzymes a particularly good option.
Examples of enzyme exfoliants: Enzymatic Fruit Exfoliant.
Physical exfoliants, such as face scrubs, cleansing brushes, and washcloths, have a slightly abrasive texture that when massaged across the skin, manually sloughs off dry, dead skin cells. This type of exfoliant complements exfoliating acids and enzymes. Whereas acids and enzymes dissolve and loosen dead cells, physical exfoliants can actually lift them up and away.
All skin types can use physical exfoliants, even sensitive skin. The key is to use very light pressure. If you’re using a face scrub, let the beads or particles gently glide over the skin. People often make the mistake of pushing too hard, which can result in redness and irritation.
Examples pf physical exfoliants: Almond Grain Exfoliant, Organic Skin Radiance Exfoliant, MicroGel Peeling, Desquacream, GerPeel
No more than five times per week. When it comes to making recommendations for the skin, it’s always hard to generalize for all skin types but for most, four to five times per week is plenty.