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Paula’s Choice Skin Specialist Explains Exfoliants in Skincare
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Paula’s Choice Skin Specialist Explains Exfoliants in Skincare

Heather Wish, Skincare Education Specialist at Paula’s Choice shares her knowledge on exfoliants

What is a chemical exfoliant and why should you use one?

Exfoliating is a key step in your skincare routine. It improves skin health by gently removing built up dead skin cells which then helps other products to penetrate better into the skin’s surface.

A chemical exfoliant unglues the bonds holding dead skin to the surface, letting it come away and promote healthier skin cell turnover. Everyone’s skin needs help exfoliating because its natural shedding process is hindered by environmental stressors, skin concerns, and age-related factors. Letting dead skin build up can lead to dull skin, clogged pores, rough texture, and more pronounced wrinkles.

One of the most impressive things about chemical exfoliation is how fast it works to unveil the fresher, smoother, glowing skin hiding underneath. Consistent use leads to dramatic improvement for stubborn concerns like uneven skin tone and enlarged pores.

I know a lot of people love to use physical exfoliants (face scrubs), but did you know that most scrubs and physical exfoliants tend to be abrasive, and their harsh nature can irritate and weaken skin. Chemical exfoliants work more efficiently on a deeper level, without disturbing or tearing at the surface. They also go beyond what a scrub can do, certain chemical exfoliants can penetrate inside the pores which scrubs cannot. They also have an ability to soften the appearance of wrinkles by gently smoothing the built-up skin around them and reinforcing skin’s supportive elements. Chemical exfoliants also improve skin’s hydration.

How do you choose an exfoliant based on your skin needs?

Picking the right product comes down to your individual skin type and skin concerns. Be sure to also consider your texture preference when deciding between lotion, gel, serum or liquid chemical exfoliants.

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are ideal for normal to dry, rough, sun-damaged skin. The most common forms of AHA you will find in skin care products include glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, and tartaric acid. Effective concentrations for daily use range between 5%-10%.

Beta hydroxy acid (BHA) is preferred for normal to oily/combination skin or anyone with pore issues, white bumps, or sensitive skin. You’ll see BHA listed on skin care products as salicylic acid. Concentrations between 1%-2% are great for regular use.

Try Paula’s Choice’s cult-favorite liquid exfoliant - Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, famous for its ability to unclog pores, smooth fine lines and even out skin tone.

What is the best way to use chemical skincare exfoliants?

Once you have cleansed your skin, and added the optional step of a toner, you can apply your exfoliant onto clean, dry skin. Use your fingers or a cotton pad…that’s down to your personal preference! Apply the exfoliant to your face and neck, and don’t rinse off. Follow with any treatments or serums that you use, and then a moisturiser – not forgetting your daytime SPF!

Handy Tips and advice for using chemical exfoliants 

• When introducing a chemical exfoliant into your routine, it’s best to take it slow and steady. Start by using 2-3 times a week initially, and gradually build up to the frequency to suit your skin. Everyone’s skin is different, so listen to your skin and see where it’s happiest!

• Lots of people ask if they can use both AHA and BHA in the same routine. Technically the answer is yes! BUT I would only recommend this to people who are advanced users of exfoliants, as for many people this could sensitise skin.

• The AHAs and BHAs that are used in Paula’s Choice products are safe to be used during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Of course, always consult with your GP if you have any concerns.

• It’s so important to remember to use SPF all year around – it’s the most important skincare product you should use. When you use a chemical exfoliant regularly as part of your skincare routine it becomes even more important, as your skin can be more sensitive to UV rays.