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Notes on Exfoliating for your Skin Type

Regular exfoliation is fundamental to maintaining a healthy and functioning skin barrier. A build-up of dead cells on the skin’s surface can lead to a myriad of different skin concerns such as congestion, uneven texture and dullness while also making any existing lines or wrinkles appear more pronounced.

It’s so important to incorporate an exfoliant into your skincare regime either through the form of a physical or chemical exfoliant a few times a week to gently slough away dead cells for a brighter and more vibrant complexion. Your exfoliant, like any skincare product, should be matched to your unique skin type and concern. 

Here is a simple guide with key ingredients to help you in selecting the right exfoliant for your skin’s needs.

Exfoliation for balanced skin

Our skin undergoes a process of natural renewal every 28 days, by where our cells turnover to reveal fresh, new layers of skin underneath. As we age, this natural process slows down, so it’s important to give the skin a helping hand. Chemical exfoliants, alpha-hydroxy acid (AHAs) in particular, can yield incredible results. Glycolic acid, an AHA, has a small molecule size, meaning it is effective at penetrating deep into the skin to loosen the bonds that hold dead skin cells together. Glycolic acid is great for targeting fine lines and wrinkles, it also brightens the skin, evens out tone and helps to fade discolouration or dark spots.

Exfoliation for oily skin

Excess oil slows down the rate at which skin cells renew, so it’s vital that those with an oily skin type exfoliate regularly. Especially if you are experiencing congestion or acne it’s important to clear out the pores to prevent them from becoming blocked. In saying that, the key to oily skin is balance, we don’t want to strip it of oil but rather manage it, so don’t overdo it. When the skin becomes clogged with a build-up of dead skin cells, sebum (oil), dirt and debris it produces whiteheads (closed comedones), blackheads (open comedones) and, in the case of bacteria entering the pores, congestion. I recommend avoiding physical exfoliants if this is the case (a granule-based product that relies on physically buffing the skin) and instead reach for a gentle chemical exfoliant. Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), particularly, salicylic acids are a hero ingredient for those with oily, congested or acne-prone complexions, it’s great at getting deep into the dermis to clear out any impurities, it also has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Exfoliation for sensitive skin

Poly hydroxy acids (PHAs) are the gentlest form of chemical exfoliants as they don’t penetrate the skin as deeply as AHAs or BHAs so they are less irritating, making them the better option for those with a sensitive complexion. Look for PHA ingredients such as gluconolactone and lactobionic acid, which also have hydrating and anti-inflammatory properties. Sensitive skin types can have challenges tolerating some exfoliants, so I always recommend patch testing before applying to your entire face.

Exfoliation for dry skin

Dry complexions shouldn’t skip exfoliating altogether, instead, try one of the gentler forms of chemical exfoliants once or twice a week if the skin is free of any flakiness or shallow fissures (small cuts on the surface of the skin). Look for gentle formulations that won’t strip the skin such as an enzyme-rich mask or gentle acid toner — I recommend something with lactic acid as it’s antimicrobial and one of the gentlest forms of AHAs.