Slough it off
Having great looking skin at any age—with or without makeup—comes down to clearing the complexion of dead skin cells. There are two ways to exfoliate: mechanical and chemical. The mechanical method involves using a scrub, whereas the chemical approach is achieved with acids. Though acids might sound intimidating, when used properly, they’re gentle and effective.
Acids overall are more efficient at doing the job of helping the skin renew compared with a manual scrub. “The issue with that is there is no discrimination,” says Patricia Clare, national training manager for Neostrata, referencing the use of scrubs. “You’re taking off live cells. You’re taking off dead cells.”
Depending on the size of the dermabrasion particles in the scrub, this process can also produce an uneven result on the skin’s surface.
There are a couple of things to be mindful of when opting for chemical exfoliation. The two most common acids are Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) and Polyhydroxy Acids (PHAs), with PHAs being more suitable for thinner, dryer and sensitive skin types, as well as for those with redness issues, Clare advises.
She says it’s key not to overuse exfoliants, especially at the start. Skin needs to become acclimated to whichever acid you’re using. Read the label on the product. It's there for a reason, Clare emphasizes. Initially, pick one type of product—be it a cleanser, toner, moisturizer or serum—to add to your regimen.
“If you’re starting on an AHA, which is sort of the workhorse of an exfoliant, we’ll say 'tolerate in',” Clare advises. “You start off two or three times a week and then go daily, or then you can go twice daily. Whereas, people will sometimes take a very sensitive skin, choose the wrong acid, like AHA versus a PHA, and overdo it.”
AHA treatments are most appropriate for nighttime use, whereas the less intense PHAs, which leave skin supple, are suitable for daytime regimens with an application of SPF before venturing outside.
“At night—when your skin goes into resting position and everything is oxygenating at the highest rate, when we’re in that beautiful REM sleep—that’s when you can get into your peppier products: AHAs, retinol, or things you’re acclimating to,” Clare says.
She points out that with AHAs “more does not mean better. Overdoing it actually sets you further back than going at it in a nice methodical pattern.”
This can leave skin irritated and chapped which translates into taking longer to achieve the desired result and the skin is left sensitized.
“The biggest pro tip I say is ‘be patient'," Clare advises “It doesn’t mean you’re going to love it in a week but you’re really going to see that result at that 28-day turn. Those cells from basal layer up, they’re turning every 28 days. That’s where you really fall in love with exfoliants can do.”
6 Effective Exfoliants
1. A clean sweep
Neostrata’s latest offering is PHA Renewal Pads which are pre-soaked, so all you do it sweep the on your face one or two times a day. The four percent PHA is formulated to gently smooth and brighten skin.
Available at London Drugs, $45 (60 pads)
Benefit Cosmetics has just introduced a pore-refining skin care collection that complements its Pore Professional products. In addition to cleansers, masks and moisturizers, they included a bubbly exfoliating foam. Tighten 'n Toned, a combination of AHAs and PHAs, exfoliates skin and minimizes pores.
Available at Sephora, $46
3. Head to toes
A new addition to Beautycounter’s Reflect Effect collection is the Overnight Resurfacing Body Peel that gives you the option of a chemical exfoliation over just (or on top of) a scrub for your body. The brand says the body peel was inspired by its popular facial peel. The overnight treatment is a combination of AHAs that help smooth out “bumpy skin on the body.”
Available at Beautycounter, $77
4. Rested renewal
Ole Henriksen’s Dewtopia 5% Acid Firming Night Crème is the newest addition to the brand’s reimagined AHA treatments. The crème is formulated with five percent AHAs and edelweiss stem cells, to leave skin hydrated, improve texture, even out skin tone and reduce lines and pigmentation. The brand’s testing found visible improvement in firmness after eight weeks of use.
Available at Sephora, $77
5. Brighten up
Suitable for all skin types, Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective™ Brightening & Smoothing Moisture Treatment combines 24-hour hydration with treatment for reducing the look of skin discolorations while refining the skin’s texture. The glycolic acid works at resurfacing the complexion while the white birch extract hydrates.
Available at Kiehls, $79
6. The night shift
Formulated with 10 percent multi-acids, the GOOPGLOW Dark Spot Exfoliating Sleep Milk serum is an overnight treatment that works to exfoliate, resurface and moisturize, and target dark spots. According to the brand, the serum is potent but gentle on skin. Moisturizing ingredients include extracts of Kalahari melon, jojoba, and aloe, as well as oat beta-glucan, hyaluronic acid, and squalane.
Available at Sephora, $128