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Different Types of Exfoliants

Ask Bella: I'm Confused About the Different Types of Exfoliants

Hi Bella, I need to scrub up (hehe) on my knowledge about exfoliants. I had a facial the other day and was told I need to start using one but my therapist then told me there are different types and there are about 1,000 versions in the shops. I don't have bad skin but I do suffer from blackheads. — Anna

Your therapist was right on two counts, Anna. There are different types of facial exfoliants out there and you do need to start using one! Basically the main benefit of using a scrub or exfoliant is that they make your skin look brighter because they slough away dead skin cells. There are two main types of exfoliant, chemical and mechanical or physical. Here's a bit more info about which one is suited to you.

Keep reading . . . Chemical: These use either an acid- or enzyme-based formula such as alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) such as glycolic acid or beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) such as salicylic acid.

Mechanical or physical: These use beads or an abrasive-style substance to literally help buff dead skin cells and impurities away. Some people prefer this style of scrubs as you can "feel" them working on your skin.

Things you need to know:

  • If you have acne or congested skin, chemical exfoliants, in particular those that feature salicylic acid, are your BFF.
  • Sensitive skins suit a rice-based exfoliant such as L'Occitane Red Rice Exfoliating Rice Powder ($36.95)
  • Mature skin benefits from an AHA-based exfoliant such as MD Formulations Face and Body Scrub ($95), which features 15 percent glycolic acid.
  • If you like the feel of a mechanical scrub but the effectiveness of a chemical exfoliant, opt for a product that features both microbeads and salicylic acid such as Neutrogena Deep Clean Gentle Scrub ($12.99)
  • Unless otherwise stated, it's best to use an exfoliant twice a week. If your skin is severely congested or you suffer from acne, you can up it to three times.
  • Over-use of exfoliants can damage the skin's barrier and cause sensitivity.
  • Be sure to check all of your skincare ingredients. If your cleanser already features a chemical or mechanical exfoliant, it's not necessary — damaging — to use an additional exfoliant.
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