A Skincare Guide: Choosing The Best Exfoliator For Your Skin Needs

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Choosing the exfoliator that best suits your skin type can be a daunting task. There are so many different exfoliators out there, and they all claim to do something different. 

Skincare products have come a long way over the years, and now exfoliating is an important part of any routine for those with dry or oily skin types. If you want to learn more about how exfoliators work and which ones might be right for your skin needs, keep reading!

woman using exfoliator skincare at home

What is exfoliation and why do you need it?

Exfoliating is the process of removing dead skin cells from the surface layer of your skin – your Stratum corneum, using a chemical or physical exfoliant or an exfoliating tool or treatment. Your skin naturally sheds dead skin cells every thirty days or so in order for fresh, plump new cells to take their place. Sometimes they don’t come off completely which can result in dry patches, dull skin, and clogged pores – this could be prevented with regular exfoliation! Exfoliation can leave your skin looking brighter and improve the effectiveness of topical skincare products by enhancing absorption. Regular exfoliation also helps prevent clogged pores, resulting in fewer breakouts while long-term use increases collagen production for a glowing vibrant healthy-looking complexion!

Structure of the epidermis

Types of exfoliators

There are two main categories of exfoliators – physical and chemical.

Physical exfoliants are made of small gritty particles like jojoba beads or pumice crystals. These ingredients remove the dead skin cells by buffing against your skin’s surface to slough them off.

Chemical exfoliants use different Alpha Hydroxy Acids, Beta Hydroxy Acids(AHAs and BHAs), and fruit enzymes to break down the bonds that hold the dead skin cells on the skin without the need for manual exfoliation (very gently, not as scary as it sounds!)

Both options are very effective, help with the absorption of your skincare products, and overall skin appearance and health – it is a matter of choosing what is right for your skin type and lifestyle. This brings us to our next question!

Physical exfoliation product

What exfoliator is best for my skin?

First, determine your skin type

Our skin type is determined by our genetic makeup – although it will be affected over time by factors such as hormonal changes, aging, or changes of season. Based on these characteristics, there are five types of skin categories that you will fall under – normal, dry, oily, combination (both oily and dry skin), and sensitive.

  • ‘Normal’ is a term widely used to refer to skin that appears well-balanced and healthy. It’s neither dry nor oily, not prone to breakouts or sensitivity.
  • Dry skin lacks the lipids that it needs to retain moisture and build a protective shield against external influences. As a result of this lack, dry skin can feel tight, rough, and look dull.
  • Oily skin is characterized by an overproduction of sebum, known as seborrhea. Oily skin has a glossy shine, visible larger pores, and is more prone to acne.
  • Combination skin is characterized by a mostly normal face with an oily forehead, nose, and chin (T-Zone) while the rest of the face tends to be dry. 
  • People with truly sensitive skin have thin, often pale skin that leaves them prone to blushing and allergies. Because blood vessels are closer to the surface of their delicate skin, it’s easily irritated by outside irritants like pollen or dust. For this skin type choosing products will involve a lot of trial and error – patch testing is essential for you!

Choosing your exfoliator is a mix of finding a product to suit your skin type, along with your schedule! If you are someone who is time-poor it may pay to look into products that you could sleep in overnight or use in the shower. If you enjoy using a mask and it’s something you could make time for in your busy week for a chemical exfoliator mask may be the right option for you! As always it is best to have your skin looked at by a professional to help guide you to the right products for your skin.

Physical exfoliators: Best for normal, combination, and oily skin types

As a general rule of thumb, physical exfoliators are best for normal, combination, and oily skin types as they are generally stronger and respond well to manual exfoliation, immediately looking brighter and more radiant.

Chemical exfoliators: Best for dry and sensitive skin types

Dry and sensitive skins respond better to chemical exfoliators as they often have a more hydrating formula and it is a more gentle approach for more fragile skin. There are also exfoliators designed to improve acne with ingredients like salicylic acid which helps to clean out the pores and reduce inflammation.

Chemical exfoliation product

What to look for in an exfoliator

Looking for high-quality products ensures that there are thoroughly researched and skin-loving ingredients in them!

Particularly with physical exfoliants, it is important that the granules are not too harsh. If the granules are too rough or not polished into a round sphere, they can actually cause tiny little micro-injuries to the skin which over time can impair your skin’s barrier and ability to protect itself – causing a lot more harm than good!

Your exfoliator goes down the drain, making its way to our ocean – which is why you should avoid exfoliants with plastic microbeads. They are toxic to wildlife as they are unable to digest them so look for products with natural ingredients like jojoba beads, pumice crystals, or bamboo that will disintegrate over time.

Higher quality products also mean that with chemical exfoliators, you will be using a suitable strength AHA or BHA acid for home use, and won’t be too stripping on the skin.

Best tips to properly & safely exfoliate your skin

  • You only need to exfoliate 1 to 3 times per week. Doing it more often than this can compromise your barrier function leaving your skin unable to protect itself against dirt, pollution, and toxins.
  • Gentle pressure is enough to exfoliate well – scrubbing too hard or trying to achieve that ‘squeaky clean’ feeling can actually damage our tender epidermis. Always follow good hygiene practices when exfoliating which we talk about here in our cleansing article!
  • There are different exfoliants made for the face and the body and should be used for just that purpose! Body scrubs are often more granular as the skin on the body is not as delicate as the skin on the face.
  • Lastly, follow the instructions on the packaging, if it says to leave it on for 10 minutes, just do 10 minutes! You will not get any extra benefit for leaving it on longer, it could possibly be drying or harsh to the skin!
Girl using physical exfoliator

Exfoliating is a great way to keep your skin healthy and glowing. Whether you use a chemical exfoliant or manual scrub, we hope this article has helped you figure out which one will work best for you! Click here for more information regarding in-salon exfoliation treatments such as dermaplaning, microdermabrasion, or peels or to book for a consultation today!

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