Exfoliation is one of the most important steps in a good skincare routine, as it can give the most dramatic skin improvements.
Exfoliation is simply the process of encouraging the built-up dead skin cells to shed from the surface of the skin. By doing this regularly, you will not only prevent the dead skin cells from clogging up your pores and causing breakouts, but you will also reveal a healthier and more unified complexion with less hyperpigmentation, sun damage, lines, and wrinkles.
However, just like with all other skincare products, exfoliation should be tailored specifically to your skin type and skin needs. So let’s go over the most common skin types and skin concerns and discuss the best exfoliation type you should opt for.
The Best Type of Exfoliation for Dry Skin
Best exfoliating match: glycolic and lactic acid.
Dry skin is one of the most common skin types, especially in women. This skin type lacks the natural oil that lubricates and protects it from external pathogens and environmental aggressors, so dry skin usually feels tight and stretched, which can be an uncomfortable feeling.
But even if you think that all you need for dry skin is a rich moisturizer, I’m here to tell you that you may find exfoliation an even better tool to hydrate and soften the skin and relieve some of the discomfort that comes from excessive dryness. Besides that, when not exfoliating for a long time, dry skin can become flaky and look dull due to the buildup of dead skin cells on the surface.
Exfoliation can relieve some of the discomfort that comes from excessive dryness.
Therefore, you need to opt for an exfoliating component that works on the skin's surface to gently dissolve the protein bonds that hold dead skin cells together so that they can shed naturally. A great option for dry skin is usually a thicker, creamy serum that contains emollients and alpha-hydroxy acids such as glycolic or lactic acid.
Product To Try: StriVectin’s Lactic Acid Nightly Retexturizing Serum is a moisturizing serum with a thicker consistency and contains several oils and emollients to mimic the natural oil dry skin lacks and to soften the skin and minimize rough and bumpy texture.
The Best Type of Exfoliation for Oily Skin
Best exfoliating match: salicylic and mandelic acid.
Oily skin is another common skin type, and while it’s something that many people experience during puberty, this isn't necessarily the only case. Sometimes, the skin can remain oily even well into your 40s and 50s, and this entirely depends on the ability of your sebaceous glands to produce oil.
While oily skin can be a little annoying to deal with, it definitely has its many benefits. The oil produced by our sebaceous glands is responsible for lubricating the skin, preventing it from becoming dry and irritated, protecting it from environmental aggressors, and even defending against potential pathogens due to its mild antimicrobial properties.
You need a mild exfoliator with oil-soluble properties to cut through the oil and travel deeper into the pores.
Oily skin isn't necessarily difficult to maintain – the problem is that most people don't know how to do it and logically opt for harsh products to dry out the oil. Doing this could cause a problem because when you dry out your skin, you will actually trigger the sebaceous glands to produce more and more oil to compensate for the dryness, leading to issues such as clogged pores and breakouts.
This is why you need a mild exfoliator with oil-soluble properties that can cut through the superficial oil and travel deeper into the pores to dissolve any existing clogs and cellular debris.
Two components that famously do this are salicylic and mandelic acid. These are both amazing ingredients that can clear out the pores, dissolve clogs, soothe inflammation on the skin, and help get rid of acne breakouts.
Product To Try: Paula’s Choice CLEAR Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution with 2% Salicylic Acid is my personal favorite due to its lightweight, soothing properties, and ability to completely obliterate blackheads, sebaceous filaments, and mild to moderate breakouts.
The Best Type of Exfoliation for Sensitive Skin
Best exfoliating match: poly-hydroxy acids.
Sensitive skin is an extremely rare skin type, but it’s a frequent skin condition. Only a small percentage of people are actually born with sensitive skin, which is something that shows very early on in life.
People born with sensitive skin as a skin type often experience irritations even while washing their skin with tap water, and their skin frequently reacts to minor things such as sudden changes in temperature.
Sensitive skin is an extremely rare skin type, but it’s a frequent skin condition.
However, in people who don’t have sensitive skin from birth, chances are that something caused the sensitivity. This could be anything from using hard tap water or various cosmetic products that the skin can't tolerate, such as harsh cleansers, strong exfoliators, or even just going out in the sun without sunscreen. Therefore, before labeling your skin as “sensitive,” make sure you’re not doing something to contribute to the sensitivity your skin shows.
But, in any case, if you have sensitive and reactive skin and are looking for a suitable exfoliator that will gently shed the buildup of dead skin cells without irritating your skin, look no further than products containing poly-hydroxy acids such as gluconolactone.
Product To Try: The Inkey List's PHA Toner is an amazing solution for dry, sensitive, and irritated skin as it will offer minimal exfoliation without disturbing the skin barrier and causing further discomfort or damage. It also contains barrier-strengthening niacinamide and soothing aloe vera leaf juice.
The Best Type of Exfoliation for Aging Skin
Best exfoliating match: alpha-hydroxy acids and fruit enzymes.
As we age, the natural cell turnover slows down, resulting in pigmentary changes, sun spots, dryness, and loss of suppleness in the skin. Part of the skin’s consistency gradually decreases, making it more fragile, finer, more uneven, and fine lines start to form, accompanied by more pronounced expression lines.
Since the quality of the regeneration process is reduced, we will notice how our skin becomes more reactive to external factors and requires more stimulating bio-elements to remain looking healthy, glowy, and plump. This is why exfoliating becomes even more important to keep stimulating new cell growth and healthier, more supple skin.
Many women with mature skin are on the fence when it comes to exfoliating simply because they think their skin will become too sensitive. Although the skin becomes drier with age since the oil producing glands' activity also slows down, it doesn't necessarily become more sensitive. The skin is a more resilient organ than you think, and with a little bit of care, you can prolong the aging process for many years.
Enzymatic exfoliators break down the keratin in the skin's upper layers, which helps it lift off anything dead.
Therefore, to continue having the best skin while aging gracefully, I would suggest you opt for gentle, low-percentage alpha-hydroxy acids that work on the skin's surface to continuously reveal a new, brighter, and more even complexion.
Alternatively, if you want something even gentler, opt for enzymatic exfoliators instead. Enzymatic exfoliators break down the keratin in the skin's upper layers, which helps it lift off anything dead, and it does this in an interesting way. The enzymes are molecules that literally digest the dead skin on your face. You may have heard people talk about how pineapple gives you a tingling feeling in the mouth because it's eating you back. It's a similar principle here.
Product To Try: DefenAge 2-Minute Reveal Mask is an enzymatic mask that contains a blend of sugar crystals as well as papaya, pumpkin, and pomegranate enzymes that work to increase cell renewal. But besides that, the enzyme mask also contains triglycerides and squalane, which are skin lipids important for skin’s health, as well as lactic acid for its humectant and hydrating properties. A true anti-aging package!
Exfoliation can completely transform your skin; however, choosing the right product is incredibly important for the best results. Avoid using scrubs and harsh chemical exfoliation as these can not only cause irritation but can permanently damage your skin.
Always opt for products that are best for your skin type and your skin needs, as this is the only way you will achieve great skin benefits!
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