6 min read

A GUIDE to exfoliating without sabotaging your skin from Sonic Brushes, Gritty Scrubs, Peel Pads, Chemical Peels, Light Peels, Exfoliating Serums and tons more...

Most beauty goals are to have glowing, radiant, smooth skin like when we were younger. When and why did it change and how can we get it back? As we finish with the tough work/school week, taking care of loved ones or a family, we’re exhausted. More importantly, our skin is tired and we neglect our regimens too many times during the week. We always say we’re ready for better skin! But are we....

So how do we achieve the perfect radiant glow? While daily cleansing and moisturizing is needed to maintain great skin, the not-so-hidden beauty secret to radiant skin is through exfoliating.

Exfoliation lies among the best ways to improve your skin’s texture and tone, and it’s something all of us can do right at home.

Exfoliation treatments can help with skin elasticity, collagen, and removes dead skin cells from the surface to help tired, scarred, dull skin look fresh, soft, and ready to be envied.


With so many different kind of exfoliants available, perhaps you have tried different salts, sugars, coffee, etc, only to feel more raw and inflamed than before.It’s really easy to overdo it by exfoliating too often or using the wrong method for your skin type.


So, why does exfoliating keep coming up in relation to breakouts then? We shouldn’t exfoliate our face the same way we exfoliate certain body parts!!!


We’ve compiled this guide to learn how to properly exfoliate your skin...trust me, you want to keep reading!

So what exactly is exfoliating?

Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells from the outer layer of your skin.There are actuallytwo kinds—physical (scrubbing) and chemical (peeling). Both methods remove dead cells to reveal new skin in different ways. When it comes to your complexion, chemical exfoliation, which you'd do by using a lotion, peel, or mask containing acids, is a great way to brighten your face and make yourself look younger. Meanwhile, areas that have thicker skin, like your knees and elbows, can benefit from the use of something a little rougher, like a coarse scrub or loofah.


For your face, chemical exfoliation is the way to go (believe it or not it is safer and more effective than scrubbing). Glycolic and lactic acid (alpha hydroxy acids, or AHAs) are powerful exfoliators for your face. You can find glycolic and lactic acids in moisturizers that are gentle enough for daily use or at higher strengths in some masks, peel pads/wipes, or in-office treatments. Salicylic acid (a.k.a beta hydroxy acid, or BHAs) are another popular exfoliating ingredient. It's most commonly used to help treat acne and can be found in cleansers, moisturizers, and pimple spot treatments. For sensitive complexions, opt for an enzyme-based mask instead, because enzymes are gentler than AHAs and BHAs.

Why should you exfoliate?

Our skin sheds on its own roughly every 25 days, but as most people get older, that layer of dead skin tends to stay put, sitting on top of the fresh skin underneath. This can make your complexion appear dull or uneven, which none of us really wants…right?

Exfoliating becomes important as you add candles to your birthday cake each year, as we age, skin cell turnover slows so exfoliating becomes necessary.Your skin is constantly repairing and replacing itself.

Over time along with genes, this leads to fine lines, wrinkles and a lackluster appearance if not taken care of. Exfoliating helps rid your body of these leftover dead skin cells, revealing healthier, brighter skin immediately after.

While brighter skin is certainly a perk, exfoliation can actually help improve the health of your skin as well. Board-certified dermatologists are advocates of exfoliation to remedy acne. If you’ve struggled with acne, you know the pain of trying product after product to find a cure.

So for ladies struggling with adult acne? Severe acne-prone skin requires a more aggressive approach since the skin is generally more oily and acne bacteria is present. Glycolic and salicylic acid are the most user-friendly exfoliating products on the market!

Anything too aggressive that inflames the skin can lead to a compromised barrier function and sensitized skin over time. So if you don’t have severe acne, ingredients of choice include enzymes or gentle alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as lactic acid or mandelic acid.

Crazy fact: if you suffer from breakouts, your skin tends to shed faster than someone who doesn't breakout. A typical human sheds 30,000 - 40,000 dead skin cells AN HOUR. Acne sufferers skin can shed up to 5X that. OMG GROSS.

When skin cells become loose, they mix with oil and bacteria found on your face. Dead skin will continue to build up and if it is not removed and your pores become cramped and inflamed. Not pretty. If your skin is riddled with dead cells, the products that need to kill the bacteria may not be able to penetrate all the dead skin either.When exfoliating, it helps remove dead skin, preventing the formation of a clogged pore. However, this doesn't mean you should take a piece of sandpaper to your face.

When you exfoliate, you’re removing the top-most layer of skin, allowing for topical skin treatments to sink deep below the surface.You should avoid exfoliating if your skin is irritated, sunburned, or if you’ve got any open cuts or wounds at all.

So...the pros recommend exfoliating to get rid of the dead epidermis and allow the smooth skin underneath to surface. But how do you do it to avoid irritated, dry, or itchy skin?


Let’s take a look at all the ways to exfoliate:


Sonic Brushes- A physical form of scrubbing. While this is effective in mainly making sure your makeup is fully taken off it doesn’t do much in terms of removing the outer layer of dead skin effectively, it can gently break up dead skin but not whisk away the dead skin.


Cleansing Scrubs- Almost all scrubs are too abrasive, with very few exceptions. They exfoliate, but at the expense of causing tiny micro-tears in skin. This gradually erodes your skin’s protective barrier, leading to dryness, sensitivity, and other problems. Large, hard, and sandlike rocks, like the ones in St. Ives’s Apricot Scrub, are the most damaging because they are too abrasive for the face’s thin skin. Softer and smaller paste-like micro-grains are less likely to irritate the skin.


Chemical Exfoliants in Peel Pads- Chemical exfoliants like AHA and BHA acid peels are universally preferred by skin-care experts however, they’re generally very expensive for in-office treatments and even for some over the counter peel pads.Chemical exfoliants very gently dissolve the ‘glue’ that’s holding dead cells on, causing them to fall off, and uncovering brighter, fresher skin.


In-office Chemical Peels- Always choose the light chemical peels, not the heavy ones that leave you shedding like a snake for 7 days cooped up in your house. That is just not practical and too harsh for your skin! If you’re breakout-prone the top layer of dead skin waiting to peel off may just make you breakout even more as it’s not letting your skin breathe. Opt for a light chemical peel and chip away at your skin slowly, be patient with your skin!


Exfoliating Serums-Research has made it clear: The best exfoliators come in the form of a leave-on AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) or BHA (beta hydroxy acid) exfoliant. When well formulated, these exfoliants gently dissolve the bonds holding dead skin to the surface, revealing the fresh, healthy-looking, bump-free skin beneath. It’s best to have your exfoliant separate from your face wash or moisturizer because you could be over-drying your skin and maybe only need to exfoliate a few times a week and not everyday!


Enzyme Exfoliants- Preferred for those with sensitive skin. Enzymes gently dissolve the ‘glue’ that’s holding dead cells on, causing them to fall off. Sometimes when chemical peels are causing your skin to feel dry, enzymes can help clear up the remaining dead skin cells. Enzymes are more gentle as they work on the top layer, unlike chemical exfoliants which work deeper in the skin. Enzymes are like an instant glow and work to help keep your skin free from dry-patches and moisturized! They can be used 1-3 times per week to help remove dead cells, excess oil, and surface debris that may turn into comedones (blackheads or whiteheads).


In conclusion to everything exfoliation, we hope you have a better idea of the right and wrong ways to exfoliate your skin. Anything too aggressive that inflames the skin can lead to a compromised barrier function and sensitized skin over time. So definitely stick to the lighter exfoliants for your skin!

Aggressive scrubs should be left for the body, we need to treat our faces with more care! :)

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