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It is no secret that exfoliating your skin regularly is the key to great skin, but did you know that rather than using physical exfoliants such as scrubs, chemical exfoliants that use acids to exfoliate the skin can be more effective? Although the word acid might sound a little off putting, these acids are nothing to be afraid of! Chemical exfoliants, also known as acid toners, include a range of different acids which all have different benefits. Today I’m going to be telling you everything you need to know about chemical exfoliation, including the different acids used, what precautions to take and also give a few suggestions of products you can use!
1. What exactly are chemical exfoliants?
Chemical exfoliants work by exfoliating the skin through a combination of acids. There are two types of acids, which are alpha hydroxyl acids (AHA) and beta hydroxyl acids (BHA). AHA’s are also known as ‘food acids’ because they’re extracted from different food items whilst BHA’s are often used for acne prone skin.
2. How do chemical exfoliants work?
Chemical exfoliants work by penetrating through the top most layer of the skin, by breaking down the bonds that hold dead skin cells together which in turn helps to dissolve these dead cells. When there are fewer dead skin cells, in other words when layers of dead, dull skin are sloughed away by the chemical exfoliant, it leads to healthier, younger and even looking skin.
3. Which acids are used in chemical exfoliants?
As already mentioned, the main two types are AHA’s and BHA’S but there are different types of AHA’s and BHA’s. There are five main types of AHA’s which include glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, citric acid and tartaric acid.
Perhaps the most popular AHA is glycolic acid, which is derived from sugar cane, since it is the most effective due to its penetrative properties, that are more superior to other AHA’s. Another popular AHA is lactic acid, which is derived from milk products. It has good humectant qualities and it is also great for sensitive skin types. As for BHA’s, a main type is salicylic acid. BHA’s are similar to AHA’s but they are oil soluble whilst AHA’s are water soluble, which means they can penetrate through the sebum layer.
4. Should I use AHA’s or BHA’s?
This depends on your skin type. If you have oily, acne prone skin it is better to use BHA’s. Since BHA’s enter through sebum, they can unclog pores to get rid of build up. If you have sensitive skin, again you could opt to use BHA’s rather than AHA’s, but if you like to use an AHA, it is better to use lactic acid rather than glycolic acid as this is best suited for sensitive skin and can lead to fewer side effects. If you prefer to use glycolic acid, then remember to start off with a smaller concentration; although glycolic acid is the most effective, it also can lead to side effects such as hyperpigmentation.
5. Are chemical exfoliants better than physical exfoliants?
The simple answer is yes. Whilst chemical exfoliants work on the cellular level, physical exfoliants only work on the surface skin layer; scrubbing this layer too vigorously or too often can damage it, which in turn makes it more sensitive to sunlight, which can lead to issues such as increasing your chances of getting skin cancer and also premature ageing. That being said, there are some facial scrubs on the market which don’t contain harsh materials and are therefore better for the skin.
Facial scrubs which are gentle on the skin and also contain natural ingredients are the ones you should aim to use. Most commercial scrubs contain microbeads, which are small pieces of plastic. These can be harsh on the skin when you’re scrubbing because they can create micro-tears in the skin which means that it is left exposed to nasty contaminants in the air such as bacteria.
6. Are there any precautions I should take with chemical exfoliants?
You may be allergic to certain acids so make sure to conduct a patch test before you apply the product on your face. As well as this, AHA’s can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight so make sure to always apply an SPF if you’re going out later. A better idea would be to apply AHA in the evening instead of the morning as this would protect your skin further. On the other hand, BHA’s are UV rays proof so you can wear it in the morning or evening. Whilst glycolic acids are the most effective, they can also possibly be the most irritating on the skin so make sure to start off with smaller concentrations of it.
7. Which chemical exfoliants are best to use?
There are so many on the market and since I’ve only tried one myself, I can’t personally recommend many apart from the first aid beauty facial radiance pads. This is a great product because it comes in the form of pre-soaked pads, making it easy and hassle free to use. Other chemical exfoliants/acid toners that have also got rave reviews include the Pixi glow tonic, which I’ve heard is slightly stronger than the first aid pads as well as the Mario badescu glycolic acid toner. All these products have reviews on IMBB, so make sure to check them out!
I hope this article was useful for you all and I also hope I’ve reassured you that using certain acids on the face shouldn’t frighten you, in fact they have several benefits. I really recommend you all to include a chemical exfoliant/acid toner in your sskincare routine because I’m sure you will definitely see the benefits!
Thank you for reading and I’ll be back soon with another review!
Sephora Collection Green Tea Cleansing and Exfoliating Wipes
Pond’s Exfoliating Renewal Wet Cleansing Towelettes
Clarins One-Step Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser
The Body Shop British Rose Exfoliating Gel Body Scrub
Beauty Formulas Tea Tree Control Exfoliating Facial Scrub
Kiehl’s Deep Micro-Exfoliating Scalp Treatment
DIY 3-Ingredient Exfoliating Scrub for Clear Skin