All About Exfoliation

It is that time of year! The leaves are changing, the temperatures are dropping, and Starbucks menus are filling up with fall favorites. As all of these wonderful transitions occur, one thing is inevitable in this cold time: dry skin. Whether it is your hands, legs, or face, your skin desperately needs some extra self care during the next few months. Hydration is essential, but for the best results, let’s dive into the realm of exfoliation.

Exfoliation comes in more forms than your St. Ives scrub, which you should probably throw away. It breaks down to two major categories, physical exfoliation and chemical exfoliation.

Physical exfoliation is the use of some grains/scrub or a tool, like a brush. These leave your skin feeling instantly smooth, but you have to be careful. The smaller the particles, the more exfoliating the product can be, so it is surprisingly easy to “over-exfoliate” with physical exfoliants. This can severely damage your skin, which is why St. Ives was ruled a big no no from doctors and the skincare community. The formula uses nut shells, which can cause micro-tears in your skin.

Photo courtesy of Target

Physical exfoliation is not always bad, though. Given the right ingredients, these scrubs can work wonders on your whole body. A great, gentle drugstore option is the Bliss Daily Warming Scrub, which uses black volcanic sand, fruit acids, and willow bark. This scrub gently warms your face as it detoxifies, leaving you with baby smooth skin. This is certainly a drugstore stand out because it is paraben, phthalate, SLS, SLES, and cruelty free.

A luxe option for the body includes the new Ouai Hair and Body Scrub, a great option for multitasking in the shower. This scrub gently exfoliates both the scalp and body, while still providing plenty of nourishment.

Photo courtesy of @Stepstoglow Instagram

When it comes to chemical exfoliation, people are often scared away before giving it a shot. It is easy to understand why, saying “scrub” is much easier than saying “alpha/beta hydroxy acid.” Chemical exfoliation is not something to fear. This may come in the form of oils, toners, peels, or soaked pads.

AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) are ideal for sensitive, dry skin types. This is because they work to remove the substance holding together dead skin cells, without penetrating deeply into the pores. Two personal favorites for AHAs include Farmacy’s Honeymoon Glow and Ren’s Ready Steady Glow Tonic. Both products gently exfoliate the skin without stripping it of any moisture or causing micro tears.

Photo courtesy of Farmacy

BHAs (beta hydroxy acids) are oil soluble, whereas AHAs were water soluble. This allows BHAs to go deeper into the skin/pores, providing a deeper detox for the skin. If your major concerns are acne, oiliness, and blackheads then BHAs are right for you. Most common BHA products are found alongside AHAs. Yes, they can go together. My favorite example of this is Herbivore’s Blue Tansy mask. No matter what type of chemical exfoliant you’re using, always use sunscreen the following day, as chemical exfoliants (typically used at night) increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun.

No matter how you choose to exfoliate, remember these key things: be gentle, know your skin, and hydrate. Always follow exfoliation with hydration, and if use a chemical exfoliant, remember sunscreen.

Now that you are soft and glowing, go enjoy that PSL.