Exfoliation 101

Exfoliating can be near addicting. When else do we get to actually feel our products working their magic on our skin? Be it sloughing away dead, dull skin to reveal a glowier surface via a gommage scrub, or that bit of a tingle that signals a BHA dissolving away pore gunk (gross, but also kind of amazing, right?), exfoliating can be addicting. There are plenty of options out there, but which one is right for you and your skin? Here’s what you need to know.


Why is it good to exfoliate?
Simply (and a little grossly) put, dead skin cells accumulate on our skin’s surface, which can leave your complexion looking dull, rough, and dry. When we exfoliate, we buff away these dead cells and reveal younger, newer, glowier ones.

Is there such a thing as over-exfoliating?
While exfoliation is great, doing it with too harsh a product or too frequently can lead to some less-than-desirable issues. If you’re new to exfoliation, dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman suggests starting with once or twice a week and increasing in frequency. “If you start to become red, flaky, or notice your skin peeling, scale it back,” she says.

How should I choose the exfoliant that’s best for me?

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We’ll let Dr. Engelman break it down for you.

“For the face, generally, chemical exfoliants (like skincare acids) are the best option for ridding the skin of dirt and grime and not causing irritation. Physical exfoliation (i.e. scrubs) can be too harsh on the skin if not done properly or done too frequently,” she says.

“AHAs (such as lactic acid and glycolic acid) are used for dry skin and to anti-age. BHAs (salicylic acid) are best for acne-related issues such as large pores, blackheads, and pimples,” Dr. Engelman notes.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s get to the fun part: products.


Glow Recipe, Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask
Our best-selling overnight mask combines two things all skin types need: exfoliation (via pore refining AHAs) and hydration. Our hero ingredient, watermelon, is brimming with antioxidants and amino acids, which help keep skin smooth, while hyaluronic acid ensures your skin stays hydrated and irritation-free. As it’s an overnight mask, it’s working its true magic while you sleep, so when you rinse it off in the morning, you’ll reveal a brighter, clearer, and softer complexion. One quick note: If you notice any pilling at all, don’t panic — this is a natural byproduct of the exfoliation process and only further helps clear up the skin.


Whamisa by Glow Studio, Charcoal Chai Tea Pore Refining Glow Pad
These new exfoliating pads are all about detoxifying and deep cleansing the skin sans irritation. They’re totally alcohol-free, so you don’t have to worry about drying out your complexion. Levulinic acid conditions skin, chai tea is rich in antioxidants (and caffeine, to increase circulation and enhance that glow), and charcoal detoxifies.


Glow Recipe, Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser
This Teen Vogue Acne Award-winning cleanser is formulated with antioxidant-rich blueberries and AHA to gently exfoliate, melt away makeup and grime, hydrate, and purify the skin. Bonus points if you use it as a 5-minute deep cleansing mask twice a week.


Whamisa Organic Flowers Peeling Finger Mitt
These gentle pads are embossed with tiny bumps that help physically remove dead skin cells without agitating even the most sensitive skin. Part of that gentleness is because, in addition to the softness of the pads themselves, they’re also drenched in soothing, hydrating ingredients like aloe, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin. Finally, fermented flowers help brighten, so skin is left feeling fresh and looking radiant.

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Dr. G Brightening Peeling Gel
This gel is a physical exfoliant, but without the rough, abrasive beads or shells you might typically associate with a “scrub” type product. It uses moisturizing and brightening ingredients like cellulose, trehalose, and hollyhock to keep skin hydrated while gently exfoliating. Ingredients like aloe, willow bark, and licorice root extract make sure skin is left calm, clarified, and brightened.


Make P:REM, Radiance Peeling Booster
The perfect toner for chemical exfoliation newbies, this gentle formula features PHAs. A lesser-known sibling to aforementioned AHAs and BHAs, PHAs are milder than their better-known counterparts, and better suited to sensitive skin. They also work to remove dead skin cells to smooth the skin’s surface and even skin tone. If that wasn’t enough, they actually attract water molecules, which keeps skin moisturized. This daily hydrating toner uses PHA lactobionic acid to “unglue” dead skin cells and gently retexture skin.

Now that you know the A(HA), B(HA), P(HA)’s of exfoliating, it’s about time you grabbed one and made dead, dull skin a thing of the past.

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