The trick to smooth, supple skin? Consistent and effective exfoliation. Abrasive scrubs—also known as “mechanical exfoliation”—can be unnecessarily harsh on the complexion, but choosing to remove dull skin via chemical means has a long list of benefits. Not only can chemical exfoliation be much more effective in the short term, but it can also change the way that skin ages! Chemical exfoliators that contain alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic and lactic acid—or beta hydroxy acids (BHA’s) such as salicylic acids and enzymes—are derived naturally, meaning the skin-enhancing benefits are huge.
Exfoliating regularly will decrease buildup of dead (and often, acne-causing) skin cells, allow serums and moisturizers to sink in more deeply (making those products more effective!) and can also address texture and pigmentation concerns. Want to know more? Follow along on our first Beauty 101 lesson!
Effects: Brightens, tones, tightens, increases cell turnover, boosts collagen, reduces and prevents acne and rosacea, humectant benefits.
Routine: As with anything, consistency is key, and results will increase with cumulative treatment. If you are new to exfoliation—or have sensitive skin or an inflammatory condition (like acne or rosacea)—your skin will need some coaxing before you launch into a regimented routine. Start by using an exfoliating product once a week (doing so at night is best), and move up from there over the period of a month. Keep an eye on the way that your skin reacts: a bit of peeling and flaky skin is normal, but long-term redness and irritation is not. Post-exfoliation is the perfect time to apply vitamin-packed serums and moisturizers—these will immediately soak deep into the skin and produce better results!
By Erin Gerlach of The Sparkle
Salicylic Acid: Derived from the bark of a willow tree, salicylic acid is a BHA. This ingredient is ideal for the treatment of acne—its anti-inflammatory properties penetrate to exfoliate deep into blocked pores at percentages of .5-2%.
Try: SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense ($82)
Lactic Acid: A natural AHA, lactic acid is derived from dairy, and provides a very gentle option ideal for sensitive skin. Stimulating the skin’s production of plumping hyaluronic acid, it achieves humectant (moisturizing) benefits, lightening and brightening the skin at percentages of 4-10%.
Try: Eve Lom Moisturizer ($68)
Lactic Acid: Dermalogica Skin Resurfacing Cleanser ($53)
Glycolic Acid: Derived from the sugar cane, glycolic acid is an ideal way to promote cell turnover, clear blocked pores, remove hyperpigmentation and smooth skin’s texture. Look for formulas made of 5-20% glycolic acid for the most dramatic results.
Glycolic Acid: Murad Age Diffusing Serum ($74)
Retinol: A concentrated form of topical Vitamin A, retinol assists in increasing collagen production and rapidly creating new skin cells—thus forcing old surface cells to shed. Pigmentation, pores and fine lines will be diminished, and the increased collagen production will result in plumper, more even-toned skin. Flaking can occur for several weeks after you begin using retinol as fresher skin gradually begins to reveal itself. Look for .05% to 2% to achieve results.
Try: StriVectin-AR Advanced Retinol Night Treatment ($109)
Enzymes: A wonderfully mild and natural alternative for sensitive skin types, at a 5% concentration or higher. Enzyme peels use fruit acids to gently remove dead cells, taking dullness right along with them!
Try: Éminence Yam & Pumpkin Peel ($46)
Enzymes: AmorePacific Treatment Enzyme Peel ($60)