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Everything you need to know about chemical exfoliants

[Murad - February Roccabox Sneak Peek

They’re the key to dewy glowing skin: chemical exfoliants (that’s exfoliating acids that break down dull skin and reveal a healthy glow) really should be in everyone’s beauty arsenal. Dermatologists agree that exfoliating should be a part of all our beauty routines: but this doesn’t necessarily mean gritty grainy scrub. They aren’t the only way to exfoliate and they certainly aren’t always the most effective. In fact they can be pretty abrasive and extremely damaging, particularly if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin. For regular exfoliation it’s far more effective to turn to a chemical exfoliant. Don’t be put off by the name: these exfoliants include ingredients, such as glycolic acid, AHAs and BHAs, and fruit enzymes, such as papaya, pumpkin and pineapple, that go easier on the skin to leave you with that dewy radiant glow and holy grail baby-smooth complexion we all crave.

Want to know more about this wonder product, how it works and how to incorporate it into your existing skincare routine? Read on.

How to find the best chemical exfoliant for your skin type 

Sensitive skin types needn’t fear the use of acids: in fact, AHA’s offer a fairly gentle level of exfoliation. If you do have sensitive skin look for glycolic acid, lactic acid and mandelic acid, which all mildly exfoliate and shed dull skin, while helping with inflammation without irritating the skin. Likewise these acids are great for treating inflammatory conditions - acne, rosacea etc - unclogging pores and brightening, without aggravating the existing condition. As with any new product though, always do a patch test. We also suggest limiting your use to once - twice, max - per week. With chemical exfoliants it’s the consistency and regularity of use that can often determine whether you react well to them or not, so ease into using them and if you notice any dryness, irritation or redness, either stop using altogether or scale back use to once a week. If your skin is dry already, acid exfoliation can sometimes make it worse - again, this usually occurs if you are using an exfoliant too often. To help combat any dryness look for a product that also incorporates hydrating ingredients - think hyaluronic acid, glycerin or niacinamide. Spot-prone and oily skin should opt for salicylic acid for its anti-inflammatory properties. 

When to use a chemical exfoliant

You can use one morning or night, it’s mostly about personal preference, but if you’re using a chemical exfoliant on a morning then an SPF is even more crucial, as skin can be more sensitive to sunlight following acid use (and of course you should be using an SPF product as part of your morning routine anyway..) At Roccabox we all prefer to incorporate them into our evening routine: the effects of the exfoliation can then continue overnight as our cells renew, plus when you’ve worked so hard to clear your complexion, it seems a shame to then slather it in SPF, make-up and daily grime.

How to incorporate it into your routine

The beauty of chemical exfoliants is they come in many formulas and product types: they’re incorporated into cleansers, toning lotions, exfoliating serums…the list is huge. We particularly like to use Murad AHA Exfoliating Cleanser* for our evening cleanse. It totally transforms dull skin so you wake up to a brighter, smoother, more radiant and visibly luminous complexion. A trio of skin-refining acids (salicylic; glycolic; lactic) unclogs pores, sheds dull skin buildup, encourages cell turnover, and renews your skin, while jojoba beads (think gentle buff rather than full-on scrub) lightly polish. This product can also be used daily: and we simply love to have that feeling, that our skin is thoroughly cleansed, polished and glowing, on a daily basis. A serum or toner can also be used daily, however most masks that contain chemical exfoliants tend to be more potent and so should be limited to use twice a week, so bear that in mind when incorporating into your current routine.


*you’ll find one in your February Roccabox 

By Sarah Edge 

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