how to choose a chemical exfoliator for your face

When asked how to deal with dullness, roughness, excess oil, congestion or pigmentation, I think of exfoliation. Because it's an important routine step that can deal with it all.

We all need to exfoliate regularly to get rid of excess dead cells on the surface of the skin. If we don’t then it's difficult to keep the skin healthy, smooth and hydrated.

So off we go to the store to pick up a beginner's exfoliant. But OMG, it can get confusing in these exfoliating streets! They are so many, where do you start?

Ask yourself 2 main things:

  • what is your skin type?
  • what skin concerns are you dealing with?

If you have normal to dry skin that is rough, dull and/or flaky

You need an AHA. Alpha Hydroxy Acids are chemical exfoliants like glycolic, lactic, malic and mandelic acid. They are humectant and great for hydrating dry skin because they attract moisture.

AHAs loosen the bonds (glue) between dead skin cells so they are easily shed.  If you have dark spots and uneven tone,  AHAs get rid of the pigmented layer to reveal bright, even skin.

Because it's so effective, glycolic acid is the most common in skincare. It's followed by the gentler, lactic acid. I wish mandelic was more common because it's oil soluble and greater for dark skin tones.


If flaking is an issue for you, gently wipe the skin with sponges, face brushes, oatmeal powder or face towels.  You can also use:


If you have normal to oily skin that is congested with excess shine and/or large pores

You need a BHA to control breakouts stat! Beta Hydroxy Acids are oil soluble exfoliants that penetrate pores to reduce breakouts. Betaine salicylate and salicylic acid are BHAs. Willow bark extract is a natural source of BHAs.


Combination skin

You have both dry and oily skin concerns. Why not get something to deal with both?


Sensitive skin

Sometimes, the skin needs extra TLC. Scrubbing isn't the best way to deal with sensitive skin, so you need a gentle approach to exfoliation. How about enzyme exfoliants or a PHA?

Poly Hydroxy Acids like gluconolactone and lactobionic acid are the gentler cousins to AHAs. Enzymes like pumpkin, bacillus bacteria, bromelain (from pineapple) and papain (from pawpaw) exfoliate the skin.



Tell me...

Do you need help introducing chemical exfoliators in your routine? creating a routine? Check the library for a sample skincare schedule.