How To Exfoliate Skin

If you haven’t been using an AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) or BHA (beta hydroxy acid) exfoliant, your skin is missing out on significant benefits. These non-abrasive, leave-on exfoliants work more effectively than scrubs and offer additional benefits, including:

  • minimising the appearance of wrinkles
  • clarifying dull, uneven skin tone
  • smoothing rough, bumpy skin
  • unclogging pores
  • increasing hydration

You may want to consider adding exfoliation into your skincare routine to achieve soft, smooth, and radiant skin, but that’s only the beginning! Find out everything you need to know about exfoliating to help you find the right exfoliant that is best suited for your skin type and skin concerns.

What does it mean to exfoliate your skin?

Exfoliating skin entails removing built-up dead skin cells that aren’t shedding efficiently and have accumulated on the surface/inside pores. While exfoliation can be done using a physical scrub or manual tool such as a cleansing brush, chemical exfoliants with AHA or BHA are preferred by skincare experts and dermatologists as a more effective, gentle option.

When we’re young, healthy skin does a good job of shedding on its own without any outside help, but over time, due to sunburn and unprotected sun exposure and age, your skin’s natural ability to exfoliate slows down.

Why skin exfoliation is so important

Exfoliation – whether through AHA, BHA, or physical exfoliants – is important because getting rid of built-up dead skin helps minimise issues such as rough/flaky texture, dull or uneven tone and clogged pores. Exfoliation can also help wrinkles look less exaggerated and soften the appearance of other signs of ageing. Essentially, it unveils a healthier-looking, smoother-feeling version of your skin. 

With fresh new skin cells, your skin can better absorb the active ingredients of other skincare products such as serums and moisturizers. This allows you to maximise their benefits and obtain better skin faster.

How to exfoliate face and body (and get the most out of it)

  • Apply your exfoliant after you cleanse and tone.
  • Apply an occasional-use rinse-off exfoliant peel to cleansed skin and rinse after several minutes.
  • You can exfoliate around the eye area, but not the eyelid or directly under the eye (along the lower lash line).
  • You don’t need to wait for your BHA or AHA to absorb or dry; you can apply any other product in your routine—moisturizer, serum, eye cream, or sunscreen—immediately afterward.
  • Experiment with different strength exfoliants to see which concentration gives you the best results. That might mean weekly use of an at-home chemical peel
  • Some people do well exfoliating with AHA or BHA twice daily, whereas others find that once a day or every other day is the perfect balance. Observe how your skin responds and make adjustments accordingly.
  • Exfoliating with AHA or BHA from the neck down has great benefits as well.

How often should you exfoliate your face and body?

How often you should exfoliate comes down to your skin’s needs and tolerability. Those with stubborn concerns (like bumps, clogs, acne or advanced signs of sun damage) may do well exfoliating with AHA or BHA twice daily. Others will find application once daily or even once every few days to be their skin’s sweet spot. It can take some experimenting to find the right cadence. But at the end of the day, seeing the amazing results is definitely worth the trial and error.

What body and face exfoliator should you use?

AHA exfoliants are most helpful for dry skin with advanced signs of ageing. AHA products smooth wrinkles and fine lines, help get rid of rough, crepey texture and leave you with hydrated, supple skin and a healthy glow. Research also shows them to be effective at minimising the visible signs of sun damage.

BHA exfoliants are ideal if you’re dealing with clogged pores, blackheads, blemishes or enlarged pores, as well as signs of ageing. Paula’s Choice Singapore has products specifically formulated for easily aggravated skin and acne, as well as more general concerns. Our BHA exfoliants can reduce the appearance of small white bumps and are even suitable for those with skin prone to milia and/or rosacea. Dr. Beth McLellan points out that BHA-containing products can be safely used on all skin types, including those with more pigmented skin.

How to exfoliate sensitive skin

To exfoliate sensitive skin, opt for a BHA exfoliant in a 1% concentration. BHA has inherent skin-calming and soothing properties, which makes it the ideal choice for those with temperamental skin. If your skin responds well and you want to see what kind of results you can get from a higher concentration, try upgrading to a 2% BHA.

Why not use a face scrub? 

Most facial scrubs have rough, coarse textures, which can be harsh and abrasive, causing micro-tears in skin. The stiff bristles of many cleansing brushes have the same negative impact on the skin’s vulnerable surface. Gentle face scrubs and soft cleansing brushes are the exception, but even those are best used as an extra cleansing step, not as an alternative for a well-formulated AHA or BHA exfoliant. Scrubs simply don’t work as deeply or effectively as AHA and BHA exfoliants, nor do they offer the same skin-transforming benefits. Dr. McLellan notes “many of my patients don’t realise that a good exfoliating product can work as well as manually scrubbing the skin and cause less irritation.”

Learn more about exfoliants and how to prevent dull skin tone.

Shop AHA and BHA exfoliants from Paula’s Choice Singapore to improve your skin appearance.

References for this information

Dermatology Research and Practice, February 2015, ePublication

Journal of the German Society of Dermatology, July 2012, pages 488–491

The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, May 2012, pages 32-40

Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, November 2010, pages 135–142

Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, April 2007, pages 651–663

Clinics in Dermatology, July 2001, pages 460–466

Archives of Dermatologic Research, July 1997, pages 404–409

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