Exfoliation may not be an essential step in your daily skincare routine, but it’s important to exfoliate at least once or twice a week to soften skin, remove dead skin cells, and prepare skin for masks and treatments. There are two ways to exfoliate: physical exfoliation, which includes scrubs, brushes, flannels, and microdermabrasion, or chemically, with liquid exfoliants that look like toners and use AHAs and BHAs to dissolve dead skin cells.
Both types of exfoliation work in the same way, by removing dead skin. Since the benefits of exfoliation include improved skin texture, clear pores (less breakouts), brighter skin, and improved product absorption, exfoliation can benefit any and every skin type. At the same time, it’s important to remember that different exfoliators will work differently depending on your skin type and you could be damaging your skin by using the wrong kind.
Scroll down to discover the best type of exfoliant for your skin type.
Since sensitive skin is easily irritated by active ingredients and abrasive scrubs, low concentration AHAs are the safest option. Revolution Skincare’s 2.5% Glycolic Acid Toner has a much lower potency than most acid blends so is a good one for more sensitive skin types. Start slowly and keep an eye on how your skin reacts to see what it can tolerate (and reduce use if you experience redness or peeling).
Typically, those with combination skin experience dryness on their cheeks and oiliness on their T-zone area, so it’s important to find a product that will balance skin. Rodial’s Vit C Glow Tonic is a refreshing toner contains vitamin C and glycolic acid, an ingredient combo which is perfect for dealing with the multiple symptoms of combination skin. Glycolic acid buffs away dead skin and smooths rough patches while skin-brightening vitamin C gets to work to give good glow.
Oily skin has a higher tolerance to exfoliation and can benefit from more frequent treatment (depending on the strength of the product) because excess oil easily clogs pores and causes congestion. Physical scrubs which aren’t too abrasive are best for oily skin, like Carbon Theory’s Charcoal & Tea Tree Oil Scrub. Formulated with pumice particles and charcoal for delicate exfoliation, it sloughs away dead skin cells and lifts oil and sebum.
Dry skin types will best benefit from physical exfoliators like grainy scrubs, especially if they’re boosted with hydrating ingredients like oils or ceramides. Made from coffee grounds recycled from London cafes, the Up Circle Face Scrubs buff and polish the skin, leaving it feeling soft, silky, and completely transformed. They’re perfect for getting rid of rough, flaky patches, and the cushy oil blend replenishes skin with moisture, so even overzealous scrubbers won’t overdo it.
It’s important to avoid physical exfoliators if you have acne-prone skin because abrasive particles can irritate spots and cause further inflammation. Instead, stick to chemical exfoliants which will fight congestion from a deeper level of the skin. Perfect for breakout-prone skin, Alpha-H Liquid Gold is a holy grail skincare classic based around glycolic acid – the most effective AHA because it has small molecules that can penetrate deeper to fight oil, remove dead skin cells, and repair damaged skin.
Chemical exfoliation is the fastest route to fading acne scars, and (providing your skin can withstand it), the stronger the better. The Ordinary’s AHA + BHA Peeling Solution contains a bright red solution that packs a serious double punch of salicylic and glycolic acids. Salicylic acid penetrates deep into the pores to remove dead skin cells and prevent future breakouts, while glycolic acid exfoliates the top layer of skin (where scars are more prominent), fading them with each use. Because it’s such a strong exfoliator, it’s recommended to only use this once a week and for a maximum of ten minutes at a time.