Your complete guide, right here
We bet that reading the word ‘chemical’ sent you into a panic. Don’t worry: it’s just a commercial term for exfoliants that work with all-natural enzymes. It doesn’t harm skin–on the contrary, there’s a distinct possibility that your skin will love and benefit from it even more than your current exfoliant!
If you don’t exfoliate, you’re preventing precious serums and moisturizers from being able to adequately penetrate your pores. This results in your skin missing out on hydration (and radiance!), while leaving you more susceptible to an increased visibility of blemishes.
The primary role of an exfoliant is to interact with skin to eliminate blackheads, dead skin, and other slight imperfections. Skin regenerates better when pores aren’t blocked, while simultaneously looking brighter and healthier.
There are two kinds of exfoliants. There’s mechanical exfoliant, which is activated by physically scrubbing the small particles (which usually consist of plastic beads, which can later be found in rivers) with your fingers. Chemical exfoliant is usually found in liquid or gel form, and it works by subtly penetrating the skin.
The major difference between these two types of exfoliants
Mechanical exfoliants only affect the surface of the skin to remove dead skin cells, which can result in irritation. Because the particles found inside this exfoliant are rarely smooth, over time it can begin to create micro-lesions on your skin. This leaves an open door for bacteria, and creates skin sensitivity that can worsen over time.
On the other end, chemical exfoliants deeply penetrate skin cells. Not only do the enzymes remove the dead skin on the surface, but the scrub will have an impact on the deepest layer of your epidermis, which will continuously improve after each use and even after you’ve applied it.
How to choose the right kind of chemical exfoliant
There are two kinds of chemical exfoliants. They’re designed specifically for a particular skin type, with their own distinct concentration of enzymes, but both of them can be used for sensitive or problematic skin.
AHA exfoliant (alpha hydroxy acid), has a glycolic and lactic acid base. The concentration found in this formula usually ranges from 5 to 9%, because the active ingredient is so gentle. AHA is ideal for dry to very dry skin, or skin suffering from sun damage, because AHA penetrates skin less deeply than the other chemical exfoliant.
BHA exfoliant (beta hydroxy acid). Consisting of salicylic acid, which is a derivative of aspirin, salicylic acid is renowned for its anti-irritation properties. It’s typically produced with a maximum concentration of around 1-2%, because it can be slightly drying and produces instant results. This exfoliant is primarily suitable for oily or combination skin. It’s been a long-term favourite of dermatologists, and it has all the anti-aging benefits found in AHA but with a bonus. BHA deeply penetrates every pore of the skin, working to decrease size and dislodge dirt. In addition, it stimulates natural collagen production, which helps to preserve the protective barrier of the skin. The result: say goodbye to redness, irregularities, blackheads, and whiteheads, and say hello to invisible pores, a healthier glow, and above all, a more consistent and younger-looking appearance.
If you think this is too good to be true, think again!
How to use
It couldn’t be easier! After you’ve washed your face with your usual cleanser, gently pat your skin dry and apply the exfoliant directly to your face. You can apply it once or twice daily, or even weekly depending on the results.
If the exfoliant is in gel form, you can easily apply it with your fingers. It’s a bit trickier with a liquid formula, but is still easy to apply with a cotton pad. You can safely apply it around your eyes as well as your neckline. It doesn’t need to be rinsed off, and you can just continue with your serum and regular moisturizer as usual. Chemical exfoliant consists of a very light formula that your skin can quickly absorb, and prepares it for moisturizer (the same principle of applying a primer base before foundation).
Finally, chemical exfoliant should not be confused with toner. Both products have completely different uses and ingredients. Also, chemical exfoliant is different from a chemical peel, which is administered in clinics by professionals.
Important things to remember when using chemical exfoliant
We all know that the sun is the skin’s number one enemy. This is doubly true when using a chemical exfoliant–because it removes a very thin layer of skin it is very important to use a sunscreen with SPF 25 or higher before going outside.
You can apply chemical exfoliant at the end of your skincare routine. In fact, you should always finish your routine with sunscreen. For example, right before you apply foundation.
Where to find chemical exfoliant
These exfoliants have only just came out on the market, because initially they were only used by dermatologists. It is still difficult to find them in stores across Canada, and is still not a very well-known product. There are a few specialized brands offered at Sephora.
We would dare to say that the queen of chemical exfoliants is the brand Paula’s Choice, which specializes in this product. Paula’s Choice has existed for 20 years, and it doesn’t use any fragrances or ingredients tested on animals. It’s been praised by skincare specialists and, to our delight, ships to Canada!
So, are you planning to test out these new kinds of exfoliants?