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Exfoliation: the types, how they differ and which one is best for you

Exfoliation is a game changer! If your skin is looking dull, grey and tired, exfoliation is your ticket back to glowing, youthful skin. While it might sound simple, there is actually quite a lot to consider when choosing an exfoliant. Which type of exfoliant should I use? Is a physical exfoliant better than a chemical exfoliant? The list goes on.

Alpha-H believed in the power of exfoliants when they were still a niche concept and we have firmly cemented ourselves as a leader in the field. Over the years we have stayed true to our core belief that when you rid the skin of the dead surface cells, you create a smoother appearance with enhanced hydration and firmer skin as a result. Let’s take a closer look at why you need to exfoliate, the types of exfoliants, and which one might suit your skin needs.

Why should I exfoliate?

Did you know, at any given time your skin can have between 10 and 30 layers of dead skin? During your 20s, your skin’s natural exfoliation process slows by nearly 30%. So, when you look in the mirror each day, you’re looking at last month’s skin and last month’s damage. By the time you’re 50 or over, those cells could have been dead for more than two months.

Worse still, each time you put sunscreen, moisturiser, serum, primer, foundation or concealer on your skin, you’re applying it to dead cells. Is it any wonder that people often complain their skin looks permanently tired and dull?

Each time you exfoliate you remove a lot of those dead skin cells, boost collagen production, diminish wrinkles, shrink the appearance of pores, stimulate micro-circulation, brighten your complexion, lighten pigmentation, stimulate new cell production, improve make-up application, and allow your other skincare products to penetrate better into live skin cells where they’re needed. Exfoliation is crucial to skin health and youthful longevity. It’s the fastest step in your beauty routine and the one which will achieve the most visible results.

Let’s take a closer look at the different types of exfoliation

Chemical exfoliation

There are two main types of chemical exfoliants; Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) which are water soluble and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) which are oil soluble. Glycolic Acid is one of the best known AHAs, whilst Salicylic Acid is the darling of the BHAs. It should be noted that products which contain Salicylic Acid are not suitable for use by pregnant or nursing mothers; you’ll want to look at Glycolic Acid products instead. Try - Liquid Gold. Our cult favourite Liquid Gold contains 5% Glycolic Acid formulated at a unique low pH of 2.8. This multi award-winning product has long been a favourite of the beauty elite and clinical studies showed it was able to visibly decrease the appearance of wrinkle depth, improve skin texture, and boost the skin’s moisture levels after just 20 minutes. As Liquid Gold does not contain Salicylic Acid, it is safe for use by pregnant and breastfeeding women.

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Manual or physical exfoliation

This variety is probably the one which immediately pops into your mind when you think about exfoliation; it involves a bead or grain which works on the skin by gently rolling over the skin’s surface to dislodge dead skin cell buildup. Manual or physical exfoliants also help to remove any dirt or debris which has built up in the “mouth” of the pore. As such, it’s a great option for people with open-pored skins who are prone to blackheads and congestion. Try - Micro Cleanse Super Scrub. Combining 12% Glycolic Acid with eco-friendly Jojoba Beads and Caffeine to harness the power of both physical and chemical exfoliants at the same time, this product mirrors the result of a professional micro-dermabrasion in just one minute, and all in the comfort of your own home.

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Exfoliation Q&A

Where in my routine should I exfoliate?

Exfoliation should occur after you’ve double cleansed your face.

Can I exfoliate my face every day?

We advise against using Micro Cleanse Super Scrub and Liquid Gold every day; this would be too harsh on your skin. For more mature skins, you may be able to use these two products on alternating days. For younger skins, you may find a couple of times a week is enough; still just be sure to not use both these products on the same day as it would be too active.

Should I exfoliate if I have breakouts?

If you have non-inflammatory breakouts such as blackheads or congestion, which are being caused by debris and dirt becoming caught in your pores, it is possible that exfoliation will help to clear this away.

Can I exfoliate when I am pregnant or breastfeeding?

Yes; provided you choose products which do not contain Salicylic Acid or Vitamin A. Micro Cleanse Super Scrub and Liquid Gold are both suitable for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Does exfoliation work on blackheads?

Through removing dead skin cells and preventing pores from becoming congested, exfoliation can help to clear away blackheads.

Does exfoliation work on hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation can benefit greatly from regular exfoliation as it can help to ease the discolouration by directly targeting upper cellular staining and encouraging fresh, clear cells to the skin’s surface.

Can exfoliation get rid of post-blemish scars?

While exfoliation cannot entirely eliminate scarring, it can most certainly diminish their appearance.

Can exfoliation help with ingrown hairs?

Yes! Ingrown hairs occur because the hair cannot find its way through to the top layer of skin. By sloughing away all the dead skin cells which have accumulated on the surface and eliminating debris from the mouth of the pore, the emerging hair has a clearer path which may help to decrease your chances of an ingrown occurring.

Who should not exfoliate?

While most people will see great benefits from exfoliation, there are some skin conditions for which it is not suitable. These circumstances include eczema, bacterial breakouts, psoriasis, and compromised skins (red, irritated and ultra-sensitive skins, open wounds). Cystic acne sufferers should also approach exfoliation with care. If you suffer from these conditions and would like advice on products which are suitable for your unique circumstances, please get in contact with us!