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Skincare 101 - Exfoliating

DISCLAIMER: I am not a skincare expert nor do I claim to be one. The information in this blog comes from personal experience and research. If you have specific skin concerns or questions, I recommend seeking advice from a Dermatologist or an Esthetician.


What is Exfoliation?

Exfoliation simply put is the act of removing dead cells from the surface of the skin.

There are two common forms of exfoliation, physical and chemical. If you are familiar with the process you were most likely introduced through the St. Ives Apricot Scrub. I would first like to say that if you are using this, please do your skin a favour and stop! If you have any questions about this, please feel free to send me a message. This scrub and any other granular product or tool such as the Clarisonic are physical exfoliators. These buff the dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, leaving it smooth and soft to the touch. While this might be your first experience with exfoliation, and perhaps your current method, it is actually losing popularity. Physical exfoliation methods can be damaging to the skin, so more people are turning to chemical exfoliators.

Chemical exfoliators come in the form of Alpha Hydroxy Acids and Beta Hydroxy Acids, more commonly referred to as AHA’s and BHA’s. These work to “release” dead skin cells from the surface, allowing them to naturally fall off. While this method might not deliver an instant smooth feeling, it can be more effective in the long run and more gentle on the skin.

What Is the Difference Between AHA’s and BHA’s?

Alpha Hydroxy Acids or AHA’s are water-soluble, meaning they only work on the surface of the skin. The most common ones on the market are Glycolic and Lactic acid, but there are several more you can explore here.

Beta Hydroxy Acids or BHA’s are oil-soluble, which means they work both on the surface and deep in the pores. BHA’s are found as Salicylic Acid and are typically recommended for oily or acne-prone skin types. Because they work deeper in the skin, they are great for treating and preventing acne, clogged pores and blackheads.

Why Do We Exfoliate?

There are many benefits to adding exfoliation into your skincare routine. To make it easier, I will list them below:

  • brightens the skin

  • helps improve scarring and dark spots

  • treats and prevents acne, blackheads and clogged pores

  • helps improve overall appearance and texture

  • helps produce collagen - in turn providing anti-ageing benefits

How Often Should I Exfoliate?

How frequently you exfoliate can depend on your skin type and its tolerance. Typically you don’t want to exfoliate more than two to three times per week. I recommend playing with the frequency and products you use to figure out a routine that works best for you.

Personally, I like to use The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Masque three times per week. Since this is a BHA, I get the benefits of clearing my acne-prone skin and brightening the surface of my skin. From time to time when I feel like I need a little extra, I will use the Herbal Dynamics Beauty Vivid Revival AHA Brightening Foaming Cleanser.

Don’t Forget Sun Protection

I cannot stress this enough! Protecting your skin from the sun is important all of the time, 365 days a year. However, it is especially important if you are exfoliating regularly. When you exfoliate, you are removing a layer of your skin, where the fresh new skin underneath is extra vulnerable to sun damage. This means quicker ageing, potential sunburn, and a higher risk of skin cancer.


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