Exfoliation should be an essential part of your skin care routine. It solves a multitude of skin concerns including rough texture, dullness, wrinkles, crows feet, uneven skin tone, large pores, flaky skin and more. It is the key to healthy, soft and glowing skin.
However, not all exfoliating ingredients are created equal – some are stronger than others and should only be used on certain skin types, while some are extremely gentle.
Keep reading to learn what the best exfoliating ingredients for your skin are.
To learn how to exfoliate your skin, you first need to know that there are two different forms of exfoliation: physical exfoliation and chemical exfoliation.
Physical exfoliating ingredients work against the top layers of the skin to remove dead, dulling surface cells via rubbing and sloughing. These include crystals, micro-fine granules and natural beads.
This natural, non-abrasive exfoliant is often used in exfoliating products designed specifically for sensitive skin, but can be used with all skin types. At a microscopic level, jojoba beads are polished, round and smooth. This means they will never scratch the skin and will only gently buff away dead skin cells. Jojoba beads are so gentle you can even exfoliate lips or other sensitive parts of your face with them (just avoid your eye area).
Bonus points: jojoba beads are environmentally friendly, unlike microbeads!
Where to find this ingredient: Measured Micrograins +
While jojoba beads can be used on all skin types, some skin is more resistive and needs a stronger exfoliator. Another natural exfoliant, pumice crystals provide a manual microdermabrasion that buffs away dullness, fine lines and problem pores. This exfoliating ingredient is ideal for those who do not have sensitive skin and want stronger physical exfoliation.
Where to find this ingredient: Pumice Peel
Bioelements Herbology is one of the rare exfoliants that both physically and chemically exfoliates your skin. It consists of four Chinese herbs: zhì hé shŏu wū, shān zhū yú, fu pén zĭ, suán zăo rén that smooth, refine and brighten skin.
Herbology firsts works by first physically sloughing off the upper crust of dead, dulling skin cells, and then its unique water-soluble granules then melt into the skin and release their natural chemical exfoliators to dissolve any leftover dead skin.
Where to find this ingredient: Bioelements professional facials
Don’t be put off by the word “chemical” – while it may sound negative, it’s just a descriptive term for how the ingredients perform. There are plenty of natural chemical exfoliant ingredients. Chemical exfoliation just means that instead of physically sloughing the dead cells away, chemical exfoliants dissolve the intercellular glue that holds dead skin cells together.
Chemical exfoliants penetrate deeper into the skin and can be a great option for skin that has deep congestion, is more resistive, or can’t tolerate physically scrubbing their face.
AHA, or alpha hydroxy acid, is actually a category of ingredients. Any ingredient that falls into this category is derived from various plant sources or from milk. They are often used on congested skin or aging skin. See the different types of AHA exfoliators:
This acid is a natural acid derived from milk or plants and is gentler than glycolic acid. A product with diluted lactic acid can even be gentle enough to exfoliate the sensitive skin under your eyes, while higher percentages are used in certain professional-use-only chemical peels. This ingredient is extremely versatile.
Where to find this ingredient: Skin Editor, Quick Refiner for Eyes, and Bioelements Lactic-Plus Peel Level 1 (only available in Bioelements spas)
As mentioned above, this powerful exfoliant is stronger than lactic acid and perfect for deep congestion, problem pores, and resistive dull skin. Like lactic acid, if this ingredient is diluted it can be used in everyday exfoliating products and higher concentrations can be used in chemical peels.
Where to find this ingredient: Skin Editor, Quick Refiner, and Glycolic Detox Charcoal Peel Level 2 and 3 (only available in Bioelements spas)
This natural chemical exfoliant is the gentlest AHA and is a “fruit salad” of naturally-occurring, non-irritating AHAs.
Where to find this ingredient: Quick Refiner for Eyes and Quick Refiner
Citric and malic acids
Both derived from fruit, these two acids gently dissolve the top layer of skin to smooth skin, remove congestion and address anti-aging concerns.
Where to find this ingredient: Kerafole
If you have acne and are wondering how to exfoliate your skin, look no further. Otherwise known as beta hydroxy acid, this category of ingredients almost always refers to salicylic acid. Salicylic acid works to penetrate pores and remove debris and other impurities, making it the number one choice for acne prone skin.
Where to find this ingredient: Spotless Cleanser, Acne Toner, Skin Editor, and Quick Refiner at SpaMedics.