Chemical Exfoliants: How to Use Them Without Damaging Your Skin Barrier
Physical exfoliants are so last season, and I haven’t used any of them in at least five years. At least not on my face. But as much as I enjoy my AHAs and BHAs, I have to admit that it can be a bit tricky to incorporate them into your skincare routine. Especially if you’re a beginner. When I first started using chemical exfoliants, I thought that it was completely normal to use them once a day. And not too long after that, my skin barrier was completely wrecked. However, just because I had my struggles when I first started using them, doesn’t mean I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone who is looking for ways to upgrade their skincare routine. But there are a few things to keep in mind before doing so. Here are the things I wish I knew before starting to use chemical exfoliants.
Less is more
Repeat after me: Just because a product is working doesn’t mean I have to use it every day. When it comes to chemical exfoliants, less is more. There is absolutely no reason to use any type of chemical exfoliant every day. Okay, if we’re talking about a gentle salicylic acid cleanser, and you’re someone with extremely oily skin — go for it. However, please don’t overuse any of your glycolic acid toners or serums. You will just cause skin irritation and completely destroy your skin barrier.
Find the right AHA for you
There are so many different types of alpha hydroxy acids: glycolic, lactic, mandalic, and malic. While they are all similar, they won’t work in the same way. For example — glycolic acid has the smallest molecule, which means that it can penetrate the deepest. However, that also means that it has a high potential to irritate sensitive skin. If you’re a beginner, I would suggest opting for a more gentle option, such as lactic acid. You can build your way up from there.
Use them at night
Chemical exfoliants give you an amazing glow. But as tempting as it is to use them right before applying your makeup, I would strongly suggest applying them exclusively during your nighttime routine. They increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, which means that you would be even more exposed to the negative effects of UV lights. In addition to that, it would be a bit counterproductive to apply pore-clogging makeup on top of an exfoliated face.
Not everyone has to exfoliate
Last but not least, let’s remind ourselves that just because a skincare ingredient is trending doesn’t mean that it will necessarily work for you or that you even need it. Yes, I’ve seen great results from incorporating a chemical exfoliant into my routine. However, not everyone actually needs one. Our skin cells naturally exfoliate on their own. Sure, not as fast as they would with some extra help, but they’ll still eventually get there. If you’re someone with incredibly sensitive skin, and you haven’t noticed any signs of skin congestion, this may be a skincare step that you can skip.
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