Exfoliating products have recently been one of the most highly hyped products among all skincare lovers. Do you know what it actually is, their different types, and how to make the best out it? If you want to learn more about exfoliation from the basic to how to incorporate them into your routine, this article is for you!
What does exfoliating do?
Exfoliation is the process of removing the dead skin cells on the top layer of your skin. It will help reveal a newer and fresh looking skin and allow your skin to glow like it never did before. Do you know that the exfoliation process is a normal physiologic thing that your skin can naturally do? So enzyme on the top layers of our skin is actually capable of breaking the bond between the dead skin cells on our skin naturally. However, as we age, you could probably notice that your skin looks dull a lot easier than your younger-self. This is caused by a reduction in the rate of natural exfoliation process by our skin and this is when exfoliating products can come into play.
Types of exfoliation
Exfoliation is generally divided into three types:
- Physical exfoliation: Scrubs, face wash device, cotton pads
- Chemical exfoliation: AHA, BHA, PHA
- Enzyme exfoliation: Papain, Bromelain, Pumpkin enzyme
Let’s discuss each one of this category so that you’ll know which one will suit best for you.
Physical exfoliators work by removing the top layer of your dead skin cells by mechanical friction between the surface area of the exfoliators and your skin. It works only on the most superficial layers of your skin. Example of physical exfoliators ranges from scrubs, face wash device, to cotton pads. Physical exfoliators are not meant to be used daily and can be a great exfoliating option for teenage skin. Try to avoid physical exfoliation when you have sensitive or currently having an irritated skin since it can worsen your condition. Scrubs that we can generally found in skincare products are sugar, salt, coffee, jojoba seed, oatmeal to even microbeads plastic (try to avoid this last one at all cost due to its’ negative impact after effect for our environment, especially the ocean). Although when used properly scrubs can be a great way to give an instant exfoliating effect, people tend to rub the scrubs a little bit too harsh for their skin which will lead to irritation. If you’re opting for a gentler scrub, oatmeal and jojoba seed can your best bet out of all the other options mentioned above.
Librarian tip: Rub your scrub GENTLY in a circular motion, passing the skin area for 2-3 times max. Don’t do it for too long and don’t rub them too harsh! This will lead to over-exfoliation and further skin irritation
Chemical exfoliators, on the other hand, can work on the deeper layer of the skin by breaking the bond between the dead skin cells. Their effect can be more gradual than physical exfoliators. Chemical exfoliators are generally divided into three different kinds based on the shape of their molecule:
- AHA (Alpha hydroxy acid)
- BHA (Beta hydroxy acid)
- PHA (Poly hydroxy acid)
AHA or alpha hydroxy acid is usually derived from fruits and can be found as glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, tartaric acid, and citric acid. AHA is water-soluble which means that it works only on the superficial layer of the skin. Its’ humectant properties help retain moisture on the skin to keep the drying effects away. It makes them especially great for people with dry skin. Although, people with oily skin can definitely benefit from it as well BHA or beta hydroxyl acid is more commonly found in skincare product as salicylic acid. BHA is oil-soluble which means that it can work deeply into the nook and cranny of your skin. Salicylic acid has also been proven to have an anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, oil-control properties. That’s why it is a great exfoliating alternative for those with oily and acne-prone skin.
PHA or poly hydroxyl acids work similarly to AHA. However, due to their large molecular size, they are less likely to penetrate deeper into the skin. When you’re new in the exfoliating world, you can start by using PHA-containing products.
They are considered the gentlest despite its’ least effectiveness out of all three Enzyme exfoliators are the least known but can be a great exfoliating option as well. Enzyme exfoliators are usually derived from fruit enzyme. They work by breaking the protein bond between dead skin cells just like chemical exfoliators. Some example of enzyme exfoliators is bromelain from pineapple, papain from papaya and pumpkin enzyme. This category of exfoliators are considered to be the least stable amongst all, temperature, pH, and temperature can affect their enzyme and effectivity. That’s why they are more commonly found in sheet mask which is only a one-time use product since they can be tricky to formulate.
How to exfoliate face?
For any of you who just started your exfoliating journey, here at Skin Library, we make sure to curate the best exfoliating products. But before you pick your exfoliating product based on your skin need, let’s learn on how to start your exfoliating journey:
Start with a product containing a lower percentage
Always start with product on the lower percentage range. Percentage of exfoliators in a product varies. Instead of jumping straight to the highest possible, you should always start with the lower percentage.
Start using them at a lower frequency
You may wonder how often should you exfoliate your face, we recommend you to ALWAYS read the label of instruction. Some products are meant to be used daily while some only occasionally like 1 – 2 times a week. Although if it mentioned daily, always start by using them 1 – 2 times weekly and increase the frequency for every 2 weeks until your skin builds up the tolerance on the recommended frequency
Be mindful of any changes on your skin (Don’t be greedy)
Observe the changes in your skin both positive and negative. Know your skin’s threshold and don’t go overboard with exfoliators. Because when you’re exfoliating too much, you might compromise your skin barrier and you’re risking yourself on over-exfoliating your skin
If you already know your skin tolerance, you can build up the percentage, frequency or even combine some of the products for maximum effect
When you feel comfortable enough on using exfoliating products, you can try to mix and match your products to get the best effect out of the exfoliating products. Combination of both physical and chemical exfoliators can be a great combo for any advance user
Some of our exfoliating products curations for you to pick:
1. Some by mi AHA BHA PHA Miracle Serum
A mixture of the three chemical exfoliators, AHA, BHA, and PHA can give you the best yet gentlest exfoliating effect. This serum will keep your dead skin cells away from your skin.
2. Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner
For anyone with acne-prone and congested skin. We got you covered with this Benton Aloe BHA skin toner. BHA which can clear out the gunk on your pores deeply, combined with aloe and its’ soothing properties. It will keep your skin clear and clean.
3. COSRX Blackhead Power Liquid
4. Dr. Oracle Enzyme powder wash
Image Source: Korean Smooch
Containing the papain and bromelain enzyme from both papaya and pineapple. This enzyme powder wash will give you a gentle exfoliation and prep your skin for your following skincare routine so that it can absorb better.
Image Source: Korean Smooch
Takeaway: Exfoliating can change your skincare game for good. It will shed the dead skin cells and allow newer, better-looking and glowing skin to show themselves off. However, with tons of exfoliating products available on the market, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the number of options. That’s why understanding each of the benefit and function of exfoliators can help you narrow down the best one that fits your skin’s need. From physical exfoliators, chemical exfoliators to enzyme exfoliators we’ve covered them all!
- By Claudia Christin (@funskincare)
Seoul based Dermatology Post Graduate Student