Everything you need to know about exfoliators

In the quest for a radiant complexion, exfoliation undoubtedly plays a massive part. We often turn to exfoliators to buff away any signs of dullness and ease our congested T-zones in an attempt to reveal smoother-looking skin. From micro-bead scrubs to acid-based products, picking the right formula can sometimes feel like navigating a beauty minefield. Add in the loud expert advice of not to overdo it (how much scrubbing is too much scrubbing?), and it’s safe to say exfoliation becomes quite a grey area.
Being the big skincare obsessives that we are, we dug deep into the world of exfoliators to find all the answers…

How do exfoliators work?
With our complexions constantly shedding skin cells, the process is part of our bodies’ natural way of ‘renewing themselves’. However, this activity is slowed down by ageing, skin type variations and the exposure to environmental damage. Adding an exfoliator into your skincare routine aids the process and removes any signs of dullness lingering around your face, speeding up the cycle to smooth out your complexion.

What are the different kinds of exfoliators?
The choices are pretty straight forward: you can either opt for a physical exfoliator or a chemical one. Physical exfoliators remove dead skin cells through rubbing, with the help of the micro-beads incorporated in their formulas. Chemical exfoliators work towards the same end game, however, they dissolve the intercellular glue that holds dead skin cells together with a combination of fruit-derived acids. They often penetrate deeper into the skin than their physical counterparts, making them a more popular choice in the eyes of dermatologists.

Which one should I choose?
Whilst many skincare lovers prefer that squeaky-clean feel of a physical exfoliator, many experts tend to advise against them. ‘In almost every instance, I advise against the use of a scrub. Generally speaking, the granules or particles used to exfoliate can be very large or irregular in shape, which can cause micro-tears in the skin’ cosmetic doctor Dr. Ewoma Ukeleghe tells publications. Micro-tears are a form of skin damage compromising the complexion’s barrier and making it prone to dry patches and inflammation.
When it comes to chemical exfoliators, you’ll often be hit with the words AHA/BHA. They are two types of acids that offer different benefits. Whilst they both decrease inflammation and improve skin texture, they each have unique properties. AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) are water-soluble acids formulated from sugary fruit. They are a popular choice when it comes to fighting pigmentation and tackling enlarged pores, making them a star ingredient in anti-ageing formulas. Under the AHA category, you will find the following acids: Glycolic, Lactic, Tartaric, Citric, Malic, Mandelic,
BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids) are oil-soluble and penetrate deeper into the pores to remove excess sebum and dead skin cells. Designed for more frequent use, BHAs are primarily helpful with acne and sun damage; they also reach deeper into the skin than AHAs and exfoliate directly inside the pores. Salicylic acid and some formulations of Citric acid are the main types of BHAs you will find in your products.
*Whichever type of exfoliator you choose, always wear sunscreen during the day as they can slightly increase skin sensitivity.

How often should I exfoliate?
Depending on your skin’s sensitivity and the harshness of the products you use, experts advise exfoliating between 1-3 times a week to maintain a healthy complexion barrier. If this isn’t a part of your routine already, start off gently and work your way up to more frequent exfoliation to give your skin a chance to adapt to the process. Increased frequency can damage your complexion in the long run, leading to dry and irritated skin. If you are in the process of introducing any potent treatments into your routine (such as retinol), make sure their use doesn’t coincide with exfoliation. Whilst exfoliation does wonders at revealing that smooth and bright complexion, overdoing it can upset your skin.

By Maria Bita