Know Your Skin: Exfoliants


Ah…exfoliants. The workhorses of the skincare world. The products with the most ability to change your skin. I love exfoliants, but I understand they’re the most misunderstood. So I’m here to clarify a few things for you! Exfoliants essentially are products that encourage skin to peel or “turnover.” There’s different strengths, mediums, textures, brands, prices…you get the point. Like moisturizers, there’s a lot to pick from! So here’s a little info for you….

1) Types of exfoliants

 Alpha Hydroxy Acids

These are your lactic acids and glycolic acids. They’re generally recommended for dry, sun-damaged skin, but not necessarily acneic skin since it can’t penetrate oil. AHA’s and BHA’s generally work best at a pH of 3 or 4, but manufacturers are not required to list the pH of their products. Beautypedia.com provided reviews of products, and they always test for pH to ensure a product’s effectiveness.

Beta Hydroxy Acids

This would be salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is recommended for a myriad of skin issues, from rosacea to congested skin. As opposed to alpha hydroxy acids, which mainly work on the top layer of skin, beta hydroxy acid is oil soluble. What does oil soluble mean? It means it can penetrate the oil on your skin to help clear and reshape clogged pores. Also, it has a soothing effect on the skin which is great for sensitive skin.


This would be your tea tree oil and benzoyl peroxide. They not only encourage turnover like the other exfoliants, but they kill the bacteria that sometimes leads to acne. Benzoyl peroxide can bleach clothing and linens, so be cautious. Tea tree oil has also been shown to have some soothing skin effects.

2) Sunscreen

The irony of using an exfoliant is while you improve the texture and brightness of your skin, you make it more susceptible to sun damage. So remember to liberally apply sunscreen every day!

3) Over-exfoliation

This is a total possibility. Only with trial and error can you really determine how much exfoliation your skin needs, but there are a few places you can start. If you have dry skin, use an AHA, oily skin a BHA, and young, acneic skin, a bactericidal. Start off with low strengths and use only every other day until your skin adapts. Symptoms of over-exfoliation are dryness, redness, and irritation.

Stay tuned for my next installment of “Know Your Skin” where I talk about spot treatments, peels, and sunscreen!

xoxo, Jules @ iheartbeautyblog.com

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