The ultimate guide to exfoliating

Exfoliating is responsible for bouncy, plump, smooth skin and a clear, poreless complexion – you could say it’s the backbone of good skin. But it can be a little scary. There’s a fine line between overdoing it on the acids and heavy-handed scrubbing leading to redness, inflammation and irritation.

By design, our skin naturally sheds dead cells every 28 days but external aggressors like temperature fluctuations and pollution, paired with ageing, stress and even sleep can slow this process down. That’s where exfoliating comes in to play. It’s the key to increasing cell turnover, removing dead skin and encouraging the generation of shiny new cells.

So, to scrub or not to scrub? That is the question.

Physical exfoliation (think: grainy scrubs) work by manually dislodging impurities and sloughing away dead skin. But they’re controversial, unless used with a skilled hand, in the right formulation and the right dosage they can be too abrasive and damage skin by creating micro-tears. Not cool.

If you can’t give up the feeling of physical exfoliants (we get it), swap your scrub for a washcloth. Wet the cloth with warm water and use gentle circular motions to soften skin and wipe away and flaky bits. It’ll give you the same satisfaction without the side effects.

Chemical exfoliants are our weapon of choice as they’re arguably the safest, gentlest and most effective way to exfoliate.

Sure, the term ‘chemical’ sounds suspicious but it refers to the active (and safe) ingredients it’s made up of. In fact, it’s highly likely you already use a serum spiked with them. Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) are the stars of the show and work to unglue dead skin cells, rather than scrubbing them away. But they’re not just for decongesting pores and revealing new skin, they each have a handful of other skin-boosting benefits, too.

Understanding your mandelic from your salicylic can be overwhelming, so here’s a quick rundown.

AHAs include glycolic, lactic and mandelic acids and work by breaking down the bonds that hold skin cells together, which causes dull, rough and downright crappy skin to peel away while promoting cellular renewal and increasing turnover rates. AHAs fade pigmentation, soften and smooth skin texture, boost collagen production and prevent skin congestion, too.

BHAs like salicylic acid are ideal for those with oil-slick skin. They can penetrate below the oil to unblock congestion, enhance radiance and smooth the skin’s surface. Plus, they have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties so are perfect for those who are acne-prone.

Before you drench your face in actives, bookmark this page. It’s important to note acclimatising your skin is essential. If you go too hard too soon you can compromise your skin’s barrier, leading to sensitivity and irritation – so go slowly. It’s also important to note the actives in chemical exfoliants can increase sun sensitivity.

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