A guide to exfoliation

Exfoliation might sound scary – are you serious, why would I want to put acids on my face? But, chemical exfoliation can make a big difference to the skin. When you find the best type of acid for your skin AND (more importantly) learn how to use it to effectively (meaning without destroying your moisture barrier), it can have a significant impact on your skin.

What is exfoliation?

Exfoliation is the process by which we remove the dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. Because our skin is a marvellous thing, it does this daily by the process of desquamation. It sheds the dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. But, as we get older, this process slows down. It can result in dull skin, uneven skin texture, or congestion.
When we use a chemical exfoliant, it dissolves “the glue” that holds the dead skin cells together. The dead skin cells shed and reveal smooth, new, healthy skin underneath.

Physical exfoliation includes various scrubs and tools. Grainy, harsh scrubs are bad for the skin since they can cause micro-tears and leave you blotchy, peeling mess. Sonic brushes can be too harsh for some skin types.

What are the benefits of exfoliation?

When done correctly, chemical exfoliation can improve the health and the look of the skin. It ensures the skincare products in your routine penetrate better and are more effective.

Different types of chemical exfoliants

Alpha-Hydroxy acids are water-soluble and work on the surface of the skin while helping skin retain moisture. AHAs include Mandelic, Glycolic, and Lactic acid. They are best suited for people with dry, dehydrated, and sensitive skin.

Mandelic acid is derived from bitter almonds. Because of its larger molecular size, Mandelic acid is better tolerated on the skin. Furthermore, it carries a lower risk of pigmentation issues for darker skin tones. Because of its unique antibacterial and antibiotic properties, it is suitable for adult skin prone to acne and blemishes.

Best suited for acne and blemish-prone skin, sensitive skin, darker skin tones.

Glycolic acid is derived from sugar cane. Glycolic acid is a well-researched ingredient, and because of its smaller molecular size, it can penetrate deeper into the skin. That makes it a potent ingredient. However, it can be a bit drying for some skin types.

Best suited for normal to dry skin, sun-damaged and aging skin.

Lactic acid is derived from milk. Because it has a larger molecular size than Glycolic, sensitive and dry skin tolerate it better.

Best suited for dry, dehydrated, and sun-damaged skin.

Beta-Hydroxy acid is also known as Salicylic acid. It is an oil-soluble acid that works to remove the dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. But, it also penetrates the pores to clear them from oily deposits.

Best suited for oily, combination, congested skin.

Poly-Hydroxy Acids have the same properties as Alpha-Hydroxy acids, but because of its larger molecular size are less sensitising on the skin. PHAs include Gluconolactone (also known as Gluconic Acid), Lactobionic Acid, and Galactose. Apart from being a chemical exfoliant, Poly-Hydroxy acids also have antioxidant properties and act as natural humectants (help the skin bind and retain moisture).

Poly-Hydroxy acids are best suited for sensitive, dry, and aging skin.

Enzymes are derived from various fruits and represent a gentler alternative to acids. Enzymes break down keratin that holds the dead skin cells together. They also calm inflammation and aid skin renewal.

Enzymes are best suited for sensitive and blemish-prone skin.

How often should you exfoliate your skin?

Less is more. It all depends on the skin’s tolerance. But, err on the side of caution, even if your skin tolerates acids well. In most cases, a couple of times per week is more than enough.

How to exfoliate your face?

It depends on the type of product you prefer to use. Treatment serums and toners go onto a cleansed face. Oils (like our Sebupore facial oil) go on as the last step. Use products labelled peels as instructed. You apply it to a cleansed face, leave on as directed, and then wash it off.

What is your favourite type of acid?

Roberta Striga