There are two ways to exfoliate your skin: physical scrubs and chemical exfoliants. You’re likely familiar with the physical type. These are the classic scrubs containing small particles that buff away the top layer of dead skin cells. These particles could be anything from sugar or walnut shells to micro beads (which were recently banned due to their negative effect on the environment).
And the results are immediate, but often minimal.
Chemical exfoliants remove the top layers of the skin by weakening the lipids that bond them together, thus removing dull and dead skin cells and revealing healthy skin cells.
There are two main categories of chemical exfoliants: alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs).
AHAs: AHAs are geared toward skin rejuvenation (anti-ageing and improving skin tone) due to their exfoliation properties. Some of the most common AHAs are glycolic acid and lactic acid.
Glycolic acid is derived from sugarcane (but it can also be made synthetically in the lab). Glycolic acid is the smallest acid in size, meaning the molecule can get deep into the skin. In the long run, [it] can increase the overall thickness of the skin by boosting collagen and elastin production. Glycolic Acid is the better and safest peeling agent', of all A.H.A.'s, ' it can stimulate formation of collagen in the superficial dermis, improving skin's vascularity and the elastic fibres of the reticular dermis. Using Glycolic, fine wrinkling improved 74% on hands, 74% on forearm & 85% in face, after only four weeks of use.
Lactic acid’s chemical structure is a bit more complex, but it is better for sensitive skin. Lactic acid improves discoloration and age spots. This acid is more gentle on the skin. And because it is derived from dairy, it aids in correcting pH imbalances.
BHAs: Salicylic acid is the most common BHA. In its raw form, it’s a white crystalline powder that dissolves in oil. “Salicylic acid is best for oily, acne-prone skin types because it is compatible with oils. Therefore it can get into the pores to help reduce acne,” says Wilson. That’s why salicylic acid is one of the most popular options for acne washes and spot treatments.
Chemical exfoliants come in many different forms.
You can find AHAs and BHAs in many different products: cleansers, wash-off peels, serums, peel pads, and even moisturisers. I think the cleanser is the least-effective way to use [chemical exfoliants] they have to be on the skin for a certain amount of time to penetrate. So if you’re using it in a cleanser and a leave-on treatment, leave it sit on the skin for 1 minute, this will make it a lot more effective.
This all depends on the amount of acid and the pH of the product. “The lower the pH, the more effective they are at exfoliating. But it is also far more irritating, therefore rinsing is highly recommended. In order to remain on the skin, either the level [of AHAs/BHAs] is lower and/or the pH is higher. It’s important to neutralise the active ingredient to avoid skin irritation.
And you want to make sure you're using the right chemical cocktail.
You have to be careful about how you’re layering products. AHAs and BHAs can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. “Studies show that these ingredients can make skin more sensitive to the sun therefore the use of sunscreen is a must. It is better to use these products at night.
Avoid using Glycolic and retinol together .So you might want to consider an alternating skin schedule. Try using your retinoid product 2 to 3 nights a week, and use your chemical exfoliant the other three evenings (or vice versa).
Also be cautious about the number of exfoliating products you use in your routine. Less is more. One acid product is sufficient. You don’t have to use a cleanser and a leave-on and pads and acne medication. These products are extremely safe to use as long as they are used correctly, and as long as you don’t overdo it.
But overall the exfoliation that AHAs and BHAs provide makes your other skincare products more effective.
Chemical exfoliants are loosening up the cells that come in between skincare products and the rest of the skin.
Therefore use of AHAs and BHA can enhance penetration of ingredients. This tends to help with efficacy.
***Wear a good quality broad spectrum SPF every day .