Exfoliation is a vital step in any skincare routine, removing the top layer of the dermis to do away with dead skin cells and any dirt or bacteria that may cause acne or blemishes. Fresh-as-a-daisy new skin is revealed underneath, giving you that even-toned, clear and glowy look. But not all exfoliants are created equal. Physical exfoliants slough away dead skin with granules such as crushed seeds. However, in some cases, the harsh tugging and rubbing that often comes with a scrub may cause micro tears in the skin, thereby increasing redness, irritation and even fine lines.
Alternatively, chemical exfoliants are liquid solutions that dissolve the bonds between dead skin cells. There are three main categories: AHAs, BHAs and PHAs. Let’s discuss. First, alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) are water soluble, usually derived from fruits, and tend to be ideal for more sensitive or dry skin types. Look for AHAs such as lactic acid or glycolic acid Next, beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) tend to be synthetically derived and are oil-soluble, making them great for the oily and acne-prone since they can penetrate deeper into the skin. Salicylic acid is the most commonly used BHA in skincare.
Fresher on the exfoliation scene are poly-hydroxy acids (PHAs). These gentle acids are similar to AHAs but don’t penetrate the skin as deeply, making them less irritating and more hydrating. Gluconolactone, galactose and lactobionic are all common PHAs.
Ready to bump up the glow? Here’s our pick of the best chemical exfoliants.
The gold standard
Fuelled by glycolic acid, one of the staple AHAs, this gently exfoliating gel helps to smooth the appearance of skin texture and boost skin density, while lesser-known PHAs work to resurface and deeply cleanse the complexion. Since it doesn’t contain oil-soluble BHAs, this is a nice, gentle introduction to chemical exfoliants, ideal for newbies or anyone with sensitive skin. And don’t be put off by the word ‘peel’ – you won’t be shedding any visible layers!
To use, spread an even layer over your face and leave for one to three minutes before washing off. Use up to three times a week for smooth, radiant-looking skin.
The party trick
The shower fix
The quick facial
The people’s choice
A fan favourite, this resurfacing peel will enable even the most problematic skin types to reap some serious skin rewards. In addition to deeply exfoliating enzymes, this peel is rich in hyaluronic acid, so skin is left looking supremely hydrated, plumped and protected. Plus, it’s uber-fun to use. The bright pink jelly cools skin while loosening dead skin cells, leaving you with bright, radiant-looking skin. Gentle enough for all skin types and packed with antioxidants, use it for a fruity, fun and efficacious lift.
Best used two or three times a week, using circular motions to activate the peel before rinsing.
The power sweep
Powered by physician-grade glycolic acid, these exfoliating pads slough away dead skin. With 10 percent glycolic, this is a stronger chemical exfoliant, so start slowly.
Smooth a pad over clean, dry skin at night, up to three times a week. Leave for 20 minutes and then rinse with water to neutralise. Once you’ve tried, tested and built up tolerance after three or more weeks, you can work your way up to leaving it on overnight for maximum results. Yes, way!