Our skin is constantly turning over—shedding skin cells in order for fresher, younger cells to push their way to the skin’s surface. But as we age, this turnover process slows, forcing us to find new solutions for sloughing away dead skin that can build up and dull the complexion. Enter exfoliation: the best way to resurface fatigued, dull skin.
Whether physical, chemical or enzymatic, the right exfoliator will help unclog pores, smooth skin’s texture and reveal a brighter, more refined complexion. The key to finding your winning formula all depends on your concerns, your skin type, and sensitivity level.
The most traditional of the exfoliation methods, physical exfoliators use small granules—or bristles in the case of body brushing—to manually scrub away dead skin cells. (Think microdermabrasion.) This type of exfoliation can be irritating for sensitive or highly reactive skin types, including those who are prone to acne.
Among the most common types of chemical exfoliators are alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta-hydroxy acids (BHA), and poly-hydroxy acids (PHAs), which work by combining with the lipids in the outermost layer of the skin and dissolving them so that the dead skin cells break away. AHA’s, BHA’s, and PHAs break down the “glue” that holds dead skin cells together.
AHA’s are the most common types of acids for light facial peels and natural AHA’s, like fruit acids, are excellent exfoliators for all skin types.
Overusing AHAs can leave the skin red raw, with possible burns, dryness and most certainly photosensitivity introducing premature ageing, thinning of the skin, risk of pigmentation – and, ultimately a confused complexion.
Bolder says the acids used in skincare in their natural forms aren't necessarily the causes of these issues, but rather it’s the formulations of at-home peeling products and daily exfoliators, plus add-on ingredients, that can overstimulate our skin.
Enzymatic exfoliants are a more mild exfoliating option and the best for sensitive skin types. Enzymes come from natural sources like fruits, and work like chemical exfoliants to break down keratin in skin, but at a much slower pace, for more gentle and safe turnover process.