Most skin care experts agree that exfoliation is the key to brighter, smoother, and more even-toned skin. But the truth is it's often forgotten, ignored, or pushed to the bottom of many people's list. Like most skincare products, the myriad options on the market only serve to make the process that much harder. Choose the right product, and you're well on your way to healthy, glowing skin; choose the wrong product, and you could end up with a little more than you bargained for.
Truth be told, your fears are not unwarranted. Exfoliators that work for oily skin can be too harsh for dry skin, and sensitive as usual, comes with their own set of concerns. For these reasons, it's always wise to choose the best products that work best with your skin type.
And while your skin goes through its own natural exfoliation process regularly (every 28 days, to be exact), you can still give it a helping hand and speed things up a bit with either chemical or physical exfoliators.
Two Types of Exfoliants
When most people hear the word exfoliation, physical exfoliators tend to come to mind. Often made with small grains, sugars, or other abrasives, physical exfoliators use friction to help slough off dead skin cells. While many people tend to like physical exfoliation for the quick results it offers, they only work on the surface of the skin, and they can be pretty harsh. Additionally, lower quality scrubs can have jagged edges that cause microscopic tears. Those tears, in turn, can lead to hyperpigmented spots. For that reason, chemical exfoliants may be a better option for deeper skin tones.
Although the term chemical exfoliant can sound a bit scary, don’t let the name fool you. Chemical exfoliants are actually way gentler on your skin. Often found in the form of serums, peels, and masks, chemical exfoliators rely on fruit acids and enzymes to remove dead skin cells without harsh scrubbing. The category of chemical exfoliators includes AHA’s (alpha-hydroxy acids) and BHA’s (beta hydroxy acids).
It’s also important to note that while physical exfoliants really only work on the surface of your skin to remove dead skin, chemical exfoliants can penetrate deeper into your pores to unclog dirt and debris effectively.
Best Exfoliators for Dry Skin
If you have dry skin, you’ll want to steer clear of physical exfoliators as the gritty texture can be too harsh. Instead, opt for gentle chemical exfoliators like glycolic acid and lactic acid that are best suited for dry or sun-damaged skin. Glycolic acid is the most common type of AHA and an ideal choice for dry skin as it boosts collagen production and hydrates your skin.
Best Exfoliators for Oily Skin
Oily skin tends to be more tolerant of exfoliants, so you can use either physical exfoliants or chemical exfoliants (salicylic acid, a popular BHA, is a good bet). With scrubs and cleansing devices, you have complete control over the pressure that’s applied to your skin. Salicylic acid, however, works on the surface and gets deep into the pores to rid your skin of pore-clogging gunk and reduce oil-production.
Best Exfoliators for Sensitive Skin
For sensitive skin, steer clear of physical exfoliators and opt for a gentle chemical exfoliant like glycolic acid instead. This particular type of AHA is pretty hydrating, so it will exfoliate the outer layer of your skin without any unnecessary irritation.
Best Exfoliators for Acne-Prone Skin
If your skin is acne-prone, it may be oily as well, so just like oily skin, you can successfully use chemical exfoliants to curb frequent breakouts. In this case, opt for salicylic acid which not only works on the skin’s surface to loosen and remove dead skin cells, but it also penetrates deep into your pores to dislodge pore-clogging dirt and oil before they make their way to the surface in the form of acne.
Exfoliation plays a crucial role in your skin’s health and appearance, and all skin types can benefit from it. The trick is to find the right type of exfoliant for your skin and use it wisely. Remember never to over-exfoliate, either by scrubbing too hard or exfoliating too often. Also, be sure to moisturize after you exfoliate, so you can replenish any moisture that was lost in the process.