I'm sure there was a time in your life when you used the St. Ives Apricot scrub with the tiny granules to exfoliate the flaky skin off around your nose. But what if I told you there was something that could that and more? Behold, chemical exfoliants, an absolute game changer to skincare. The way chemical exfoliants work is different from physical ones. They use, you guessed it, chemicals to help speed up the process of cell turnover, which is just a fancy way of saying dead skin being shed. They also help to brighten dull skin, smooth fine lines and textural issues, fade pigmentation, unclog pores, and even reduce acne and oil production.
OK, so maybe they're a bit more superior. That being said. if you want to know the 411 on everything about chemical exfoliants and become a skin goddess, keep on reading.
Benefits and products that contain chemical exfoliants
There are also two types of chemical exfoliants: alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs).
Alpha hydroxy acids
This is a water-soluble acid, so it doesn't penetrate as deep as BHAs but is great for moisturizing the skin and is still very effective at shedding dead skin cells. AHAs are great antiaging fighters as they stimulate collagen production, reducing the look of fine lines and wrinkles. It also reduces the appearance of acne scars and dark spots. AHAs are naturally derived and can be found in fruits like grapes. Products that include AHAs will be labeled with glycolic acid, lactic acid, alpha-hydroxyoctanoic acid, etc.
Beta hydroxy acids
BHAs are oil-soluble so it can penetrate deep in the skin. This is very beneficial for acne-prone skin as it works to unclog pores and reduce oil production. The anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties in BHAs is what makes them great to put in acne products. Be on the lookout for products with salicylic acid and citric acid on the label.
How do you use them?
First off, when trying out chemical exfoliants for the first time, it's best to gradually incorporate them into your skincare routine. Start by using the product once a week until you can handle using it every other day. Also, if you have sensitive skin, try a patch test first to see if your skin can handle it. Now, depending on the way the chemical exfoliant is added or used in the product, instructions can vary. Those that come in the form of toners can be applied with a cotton pad all over the skin after you've cleansed then followed up your moisturizing routine.
There are also exfoliating pads that give you the best of both worlds and include a chemical exfoliation in the solution and a physical exfoliation via a more abrasive texture on one side of the pad. With these, you can just rub it all over your face and let it dry or some require you to wash it off afterward. Serums and essences can just be pat into the face by putting a few drops into your hands. Chemical exfoliants can also be used day or night, depending on your preference.
One very important thing to remember when using chemical exfoliants is to use sunscreen! Using chemical exfoliants makes your skin more sensitive to the sun and can cause more damage for you to fix.
Now that you know the lowdown on chemical exfoliants it's time to dive into some products to try out!
The Pixi Glow Tonic is a holy grail for many and there's a reason why. It's an AHA product with 5% glycolic acid that brightens dry and dull skin, giving your skin a glow. It's formulated with aloe vera as well to help soothe the skin.
The Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Wine pads are also a cult favorite for many. The pads include lactic acid, but the star ingredient is Resveratrol, naturally fermented in red wine and has naturally occurring AHAs. This ingredient is a great antioxidant that helps prevent wrinkles.
The COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid is my personal fave and I've been using it for months now. As the product name suggests, this essence targets blackheads and unclogs pores. I also found that it helped to fade preexisting hyperpigmentation as well as quickly fade any scarring from a popped pimple. This essence really helped to clear up the acne I would frequently get on my forehead and it really smoothed any texture on my face. I also noticed the number of blackheads on my nose decreased.
I know, that was a lot to take in. But hopefully, you've learned a lot and will consider working chemical exfoliants into your skincare routine. Try out some of the products mentioned above and witness your skin transform into the skin of your dreams!
Editor's note: The views expressed in this article are not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.