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If there’s one step that can be super confusing when it comes to your skincare routine, it’s exfoliation. On one hand, we’re all told how important consistent exfoliation is and how it should be a regular part of your daily skincare routine (and this is definitely true).
At the same time, though, we’re constantly warned about the dangers of over-exfoliating and how damaging the wrong technique or ingredients can be to the skin (also definitely true).
So how do you strike a happy balance and what tips and tricks do you need to keep in mind? Here’s everything you should know.
Before we dive into the details, it’s important to understand the two main categories of exfoliation: physical and chemical exfoliation.
Physical exfoliation, for one, uses textured particles to slough away dead skin cells, get rid of dirt and debris, and prepare your skin to absorb all of the active ingredients in the rest of your skincare routine.
Chemical exfoliation, on the other hand, uses exfoliating chemicals like AHAs and BHAsto dissolve the bonds that hold dead skin cells to the face, thereby evenly exfoliating and clarifying the skin.
Overall, your routine should include both physical and chemical exfoliation.That said, you’ll want to make sure that you avoid harmful ingredients like:
Instead of these no-no ingredients, you should look for gentle, effective exfoliating ingredients like:
Bamboo powder is widely considered to be one of the best physical exfoliant options thanks to its ultra-fine texture and it’s high concentration of natural silicon, which can improve skin elasticity, provide anti-acne benefits, and optimize collagen synthesis.
Made from jojoba wax, jojoba beads are round and smooth, making them a gentle and non-irritating exfoliant option. What’s more, these beads are odorless, colorless, and imitate the structure and consistency of sebum, the oil naturally produced by the skin. Because of these biomimetic properties, jojoba beads can actually trick your body into thinking your skin has enough oil, thereby balancing the skin and protecting it against breakouts.
Ground oatmeal, or oat flour, is a gentle manual exfoliant that -- thanks to its high concentration of zinc and other compounds -- can slough away dead cells, fight inflammation, and decrease oxidative stress.
Unlike salt, which can be unnecessarily abrasive on the skin, sugar is a suitable face exfoliation option. For one, the texture of sugar particles allows for gentle, effective agitation of the skin’s surface without a high risk of irritation. What’s more, sugar is a natural humectant, meaning that it can exfoliate and moisturize the skin at the same time.
Aloe vera is an excellent skin soother, hydrator, and exfoliator. Why? It’s rich in vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and salicylic acid, which allows it to provide gentle exfoliation while moisturizing and soothing the skin.
On the chemical side, our all-around MVP is the AHA glycolic acid. The smallest of all AHAs, glycolic is lauded for its ability to provide gentle, even exfoliation without being too harsh on the skin. For this reason, it can effectively:
A BHA, salicylic acid works similarly to glycolic acid, ungluing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin and evening skin tone. Unlike glycolic acid, though, salicylic acid is an oil-soluble molecule,meaning that it can get past your sebum and deeper into the skin. This makes it a little more intense on the skin and more suitable for areas with blackheads and deep-rooted congestion.
With all that in mind, here are some tips, tricks, and definite no-no’s for you to keep top of mind.
First, when it comes to exfoliation frequency, there is no schedule that works for everyone. That said, if you notice redness, dryness, flakiness, or acne, it’s a sure sign that you’re over-exfoliating and harming your skin’s natural barrier. To prevent this from happening, we recommend that you start with a chemical exfoliant 2-3 times a week and a physical exfoliant once a week. Adjust accordingly depending on how your skin reacts (and never use a physical and chemical exfoliant on the same day).