Ok, seriously: there are like three ways I wanted to start this blog post. First: with a list of my favorite things in no particular order.
- Chemical exfoliators
- My cats
- Reality TV
- Skincare (duh)
Second: with a joke about how my incredible bosses, Sarah and Christine, often peer at my face and ask me if I need to tone this love for peelers, aka chemical exfoliators, down a notch. It’ll go something like this, predictable as clockwork, once a month:
Katie: “… blah blah, Glow Gamechanger, blah. Anyway, I just started using PEELING BLEEPBLOOP last week and look at how amazing my skin is!”
Christine, really gently: “You look irritated… to me? Maybe take a break for a little while?”
Katie: “NO BREAKS”
Third: with a poetic, nostalgic story that recalls how this love began. I clearly couldn’t choose between three equally hilarious and excellent openings, so feast your eyes. When I first started getting really into skincare and K-Beauty, I took it slow, and did lots of reading. Eventually, I stumbled into the wide, scientific, hard hitting world of chemical exfoliators- your AHAs and BHAs.
Though the word ‘acid’ sounds genuinely scary when blurted out of nowhere, in the skincare world it’s actually really common. I had no idea, and honestly had never put two and two together: when someone refers to a ‘peel’ at the facialist or dermatologist, they’re talkin’ acids. Skincare rube that I was, I’d never considered that people might do these spooky peels at home, or that there was even a way to do them at home without becoming a hermit for days afterward, anxiously shedding skin and nursing a sensitized complexion. Acids are actually all around us in skincare- though they’ve picked up serious steam in the last 3 years.
Something with ‘apple fruit water’ – acidic, lightly exfoliating. Ditto ‘papain’ and ‘papaya enzymes’. Glycolic, lactic, salicylic – acids by any of these names will work on the surface of the skin to ‘unglue’ dead skin cells, speed cell turnover, aid in smoothing fine lines, eliminating blackheads and whiteheads, et cetera. We’ve run down the science behind acids a few times before, and I’ve written about my personal success with managing acne through a combination of chemical exfoliation and well-rounded, focused skincare. I’ve tried probably 85% of western and Asian chemical exfoliators. But why?
Acids changed my skin more visibly and with longer-term results than anything else. (I’m not alone in this! Look to any K-Beauty or skincare guru worth their salt and they’d mention something similar.) These results were amplified and maintained by thorough skincare. This is why, even though talking about acids comes with so many caveats and long blogs by yours truly, I recommend them to so many people when we do events and consultations- they’re part of a balanced skincare routine, and they really aren’t as scary as they might seem. Per the photos above, acids corrected my uneven skin texture and cleared up my acne eventually, with continued use. They’re the reason I feel fine going without makeup most every day, even with a few spots on my forehead!
Topline, you’ll see improvements in fine lines, dullness, blackheads, skin texture, whiteheads, and all those other little bumps and lumps that come along with having functional, beautiful human skin. They’re also the only class of skincare that can really work on the root of problems like blackheads and blemishes, because they’re exfoliating and refining skin at a much deeper, cellular level as opposed to traditional scrubs or facial cleansers. Acids- AHA, BHA, Vitamin C, or PHA- are also the only class of ingredient that can cause a true purge, or breakout, which is a great indicator for other things. For example, if a new toner is breaking you out and you see no acids listed in that ingredient list, you might have something on your hands that isn’t a great fit for your skin. Use the knowledge of the Purge wisely, and know that it’s temporary. You have to play a waiting game with your skin as acids work beneath the surface to pull up junk that’s been waiting there for a long time. It will be worth it.
I digress: acids are one of the true loves of my skincare addled life, and now there’s a NEW ONE to be excited about. I felt like I’d discovered a new universe when I first found out that Make P:rem, our super chic euro-inspired curation, had a peeling line with a fancy new acronym front and center: PHA. I emailed everyone on our team about PHA like it was breaking news- which it was, to me.
What is PHA?
PHA or polyhydroxy acids are the latest acids to hit the K-beauty peeling scene. This actually makes total sense in the context of soft touch-approach K-beauty, as they’re the gentlest among their acid counterparts. The common PHA in Korean skincare is lactobionic acid. Like an AHA, lactobionic acid works to “unglue” dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, but with far less stinging, burning and irritation that is common with typical AHAs. It’s less irritating simply because PHA molecules are larger than AHA molecules. This makes it the perfect ingredient for all, especially those with dry, sensitive skin. PHAs tend to be more hydrating than AHAs, as they also work to retain water in the skin. That’s right: PHA makes your wildest, smoothest skin dreams possible, without the risk of irritation or sensitivity. This is huge.
PHA, to me, is the great democratizer of acids- as good for a peeling junkie as it is for someone brand-new to the idea of chemical exfoliation. Even better? The fact that Make P:rem gave us a full line of PHA based ‘radiance boosters’ to work with.
Make P:rem’s Radiance Peeling Booster acts as a hydrating + exfoliating toner. It’s pH 5, which means it’s also technically an acid toner that can bring skin’s pH down to prep it for another Peel Me product or work on it’s own for a daily gentle exfoliating session. Use it on a cotton pad to aid in gentle sloughing away of dead skin cells, or use your palms and fingertips to pat the Booster into skin. The Booster is formulated with a hearty mix of moisturizing ingredients like Ceramide, Sugarcane extract, and Birch Sap. Use it AM or PM. In the morning, I use this as my second step after cleansing water to gently exfoliate and prep skin for makeup. In the evening, I use this to prep my skin for the next Peel Me product I’ll be using that evening, or to prep and pH balance skin for an Aqua Peeler.
This is where the action happens. The Peeling Serum (also pH 5) has the highest percentage of PHA among the three Peel Me products, which means it will be the ‘most’ exfoliating among the three. I recommend using the Peeling Serum 2-3x per week on bare skin prepped with the Peeling Booster, letting it do it’s thing for a full 3-5 minutes before moving on to other treatments and serums.
By giving the Peeling Serum a few minutes to work on the skin uninterrupted, you’ll see results quicker- otherwise your next skincare steps would dilute the formula and render the serum less effective. The Peeling Serum is formulated with some lovely ingredients like brightening Niacinamide, Sugar Maple extract, and antioxidant rich Blueberry extract.
This was the very first Make P:rem product that I used, so I may be slightly biased when I say that it’s my favorite- but it is! I’d never conceived of the idea of nestling exfoliators in a sleeping pack formula before this one- though I have a feeling we’ll see more exfoliating sleeping packs on the K-Beauty scene soon enough. It’s just ingenious- sealing the routine in with something that works to brighten, refine, and clarify skin overnight. Science! I’ve found that this perks my skin up like none other when it’s looking tired and stressed post breakout, and I love that it has a jelly-like texture that melts right into skin. Sometimes I find that sleeping packs and sleeping creams are just too heavy and occlusive for my combination/ acne prone skin, but not this one. In fact, I treat it more like a gel cream and layer it over my essences and serums at night- it’s wonderfully moisturizing and hydrating on it’s own, but would also work layered over a lightweight moisturizing lotion like this one. Remember to wash it off thoroughly in the morning to really reveal the ‘peel’ effect!
So there you have it! Acids. I love them, and I think you will too. Don’t be nervous- glowier, glossier skin is waiting on the other side. I’ve read that newly exfoliated skin is extra, super glowy because it somehow reflects light better than older, duller, unexfoliated skin. I believe it! Let me know in the comments if you’re feelin’ the peel- and don’t forget to write to firstname.lastname@example.org with any and all questions you may have. Address the email to me, Katie, and our lovely CS rep Lily will make sure I see it. OR, come find one of us at Glow Studio Downtown in SoHo until March 31st- we’d love to talk skincare with you in person!
Categories: Glow Recipe