Whether you’re getting ready for a summer spray tan or tackling the drying effects of winter weather, exfoliating is an essential step in any skincare routine. Breaking the links that hold onto dead skin cells, exfoliation reveals fresher, more radiant skin. 

Exfoliators tend to fall into one of two categories: physical or molecular. While physical exfoliators use their texture to buff away dead skin cells, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) perform the same action at a molecular level. 

For the delicate skin on your face, molecular exfoliators represent the best choice, while for the tougher skin on your body, nothing beats a good scrub. Read on to learn more about what to look out for when choosing an exfoliator.

Exfoliating Your Face

When choosing a face exfoliator, the two groups of ingredients to be aware of are AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) and BHAs (beta hydroxy acids). AHAs are the biggest groups of exfoliators and work by exfoliating the outer layer of skin to reveal the more radiant skin beneath. Different AHAs can suit different skin types, and their effects will depend on their concentration. 

BHAs are the heavy hitters in the acid world, oil-soluble; they can penetrate deep into pores, making them an excellent option for oily skin. However, this makes them less suitable for sensitive and dry skin.

Here is a run-down on the primary exfoliating acids you’ll encounter:

  • Glycolic acid is an AHA that can improve the skin’s firmness, reduce pigmentation, improve texture and even improve hydration.
  • Lactic acid is an AHA that improves skin texture and tone. As it’s less potent than glycolic acid, it is ideal for sensitive skin.
  • Citric acid is an AHA that is much gentler than other acids, so it is often used in combination with other ingredients to exfoliate the skin. 
  • Salicylic acid is a BHA and a powerful exfoliator for resurfacing and retexturing oily skin, dissolving the debris which clogs pores.

If you want to experience the full effects of AHAs and BHAs combined, Glamglow Supertoner Exfoliating Acid Solution is the place to start. Expertly combining six super-concentrated acids, activated charcoal and vitamin E, it cleans deep within pores to improve even the most problematic skin. 

Using a combination of enzymes and salicylic acid, The Organic Pharmacy Rose Diamond Exfoliating Cleanser increases cell turnover and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Diamond powder gives skin a boost of brightness and radiance.

Dermalogica AGE Smart Daily Superfoliant is unusual in its formula as it’s a dry powder that you active with water. With ingredients including AHAs, niacinamide and activated charcoal, skin is resurfaced, detoxified and given additional protection against environmental pollution.

Exfoliating Your Body

A good body exfoliator is designed to tackle it all, from the thicker skin on your knees, elbows, and feet to the thinner skin on your back, tummy, and legs. While facial exfoliators usually use acids to slough off dead skin cells, body exfoliators take a tougher approach, using more abrasive ingredients like pumice to reveal smooth, fresh skin. 

Of course, there are exceptions to this. Gatineau Hydrate & Exfoliate Body Collection is a great example of an AHA based exfoliating body polish that uses acid to break down the “glue” holding dead skin cells to the body and a textured mitt to finish the job. It’s also enriched with shea butter, so you can exfoliate and moisturise in one easy step. Still, you’ll find that most exfoliators designed for the body opt for a more physical approach.

One such physical exfoliator is Clarins Exfoliating Body Scrub For Smooth Skin. Using the buffing effects of natural bamboo powder, the scrub removes flaky surface cells and impurities for smoother, softer skin.

When you want to achieve that body scrub spa experience at home, AromaWorks Body Brilliance Exfoliate is an ideal choice. The texture is created by Himalayan sea salt, which exfoliates, detoxifies and regenerates the skin with nourishing mango butter to replace moisture.

The only question is, which will you try first?

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