The power of a good exfoliator knows no bounds. With their power to slough off dead skin cells, remove build-up products, and generally leave your skin looking shiny and new, it’s no wonder they’ve become so popular over the years.
However, as with anything in skin care – buying the best exfoliator for your skin type can be overwhelming and confusing. Too harsh and it can do more harm than good, and using a product not intended for everyday use can also damage the delicate skin barrier.
That’s why we’ve created this guide, which includes everything you need to know about the different forms that acids and exfoliants come with, which are best for which skin types, and production recommendations. best product.
How does a face scrub work and why should you use it?
Just like using a body scrub, a facial scrub works the same way – by removing the layer of dead cells that have built up on the surface of the skin.
Facial scrubs help the skin of your hands help ensure skin looks as bright as possible, and improve the effectiveness of the creams and serums you apply daily by enhancing absorption. Regular use can also help prevent clogging of pores, which, over time, can reduce breakouts – something that is particularly beneficial for oily and acne-prone skin types.
There are two main types of exfoliation, chemical and physical – but more on this later.
What is physical facial exfoliation?
While physical exfoliators aren’t as popular as they once were, they’re still beneficial for some skin types, although they’re not always recommended for those with sensitive skin. They work by physically (see, clue in the name) removing dead skin cells using products formulated with tiny particles, like coffee grounds, or using microbeads that can biodegradable, usually made from something like cellulose. Other physical exfoliators include nut shells and sugar, and be aware that nuts and seeds are always best – if they’re too large, they can tear or damage the skin.
What is chemical exfoliation?
While physical exfoliation used to be the most popular way to renew skin, chemical exfoliation is more popular these days as it tends to be less abrasive. Chemical exfoliation works by loosening the glue-like bonds between skin cells, then breaking down and removing layers of dull dead skin, leaving skin glowing.
Chemical exfoliants come in varying degrees, and it’s best to start with a low strength and work up if your skin needs and can tolerate something stronger. The most well-known liquid exfoliants that contain acids include glycolic, lactic (both part of the alpha-hydroxy acid family – AHA), and salicylic, which is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA). Recently, however, there has been an onslaught of products that harness the power of PHAs – polyhydroxy acids – which are gentle but effective and are especially good choices for those new to acids or sensitive skin. .
Fruit enzymes are another popular selection of ingredients commonly found in chemical exfoliants. They are generally gentler than acids and are often derived from natural sources – the most common ones used are papaya, pineapple and pumpkin.
Which exfoliant is best for which skin type?
While it may take some trial and error to find the product that works best for you and your individual needs, in general, people with oily or acne-prone skin are best off using the product. Salicylic acid-based exfoliants not only remove dead skin cells directly on the surface of the skin, but it will also work deep within pores to help unclog them.
Skin types that fall somewhere between oily to balanced skin will benefit most from physical exfoliation, while dry skin should try a glycolic acid-based product. As well as targeting dead skin cells, it’s been shown to boost collagen production and hydrate the skin.
Sensitive skin types will need to be most careful – products that are too strong can aggravate and even cause sensitivity. PHA-based chemical exfoliants are the best – gentle enough to use twice daily and work at the surface level.
It’s also important to note that no matter which exfoliant you use, you should always apply a sunscreen of at least SPF30 (ideally SPF50) the next day.
The best exfoliator for all skin types
Frances Prescott Tri-Balm
Most unique of all, Tri-Balm by makeup artist Frances Prescott is a cult cleanser, exfoliator, and moisturizer in one. It uses pumpkin seed enzymes to gently exfoliate skin, while melting away stubborn makeup, ensuring skin stays fresh and radiant.
Buy Frances Prescott Tri-Balm, £46 at Liberty
Medik8 Press & Glow Daily Exfoliating PHA Tonic
La Roche-Posay Ultrafine Scrub
Like all La Roche-Posay skin care products, this exfoliator was developed for my sensitive skin. Enriched with thermal spring water and ultrafine particles, it is gentle on skin and promises to feel super soft and nourished.
Buy La Roche-Posay Ultrafine Scrub, £11 at FeelUnique
Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Peel Daily
Quick and easy two-step formula, the first wipe is soaked in a powerful blend of five exfoliating acids that work to improve skin texture, unclog pores, and remove dead skin. . The second part features a neutralizing wipe that effectively blocks the acids in their stains, ensuring they do just what they need to do, without over-exfoliating the skin.
Buy Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel, from £19, at SpaceNK
Alpha HY liquid gold
Some might say this is the product that sparked the obsession with liquid exfoliation – and for good reason. As well as its resurfacing and brightening properties, Liquid Gold is clinically proven to increase skin hydration while improving the appearance of wrinkles. A real one-stop shop; just make sure you don’t overdo it and use it as much as possible every night.
Buy Alpha H Liquid Gold Body Scrub, £40 at Marks & Spencer
UpCircle Beauty Face Scrub
Made with reusable coffee beans that would otherwise go to waste, this exfoliator is as effective and gentle as it is sustainable. Formulated with shea butter and rosehip oil to replenish moisture, it removes dead skin quickly and easily.
Buy UpCircle Beauty Face Scrub, £12.99 at Beauty Bay
Image: Getty / courtesy of the brand