The Gentle Exfoliator Article of Your Dreams
The world of exfoliators is a vast one. There are literally thousands of products out there labeled as exfoliators. First off, why exfoliate? Well, the simple answer is that exfoliation is great for your skin. From mechanical to chemical, to enzymatic, there can be a lot of information out there to process if you are just beginning to figure out what type of exfoliation is best for you. Finding a gentle exfoliator is a step in this process that might save your skin from a not so smooth look.
Types of exfoliators:
- Chemical and enzymatic exfoliators: these types of exfoliators use enzymes and acids to loosen and remove dead skin cells. This type of application typically requires no scrubbing. The ingredients in these exfoliators penetrate deeply into the skin and often include alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and beta hydroxy acid (BHA).
- Mechanical or physical exfoliators: these types of exfoliators use friction and small particles such as coffee, nutshells, sugar, etc. to remove dead skin cells by dislodging them.
The American Academy of Dermatology says that chemical exfoliators are actually the more gentle exfoliator type for sensitive, acne-prone, or dry skin. If you have oily skin a stronger chemical or physical exfoliant might do the trick, but using a gentle exfoliator is a good place to start if you have not experimented with exfoliation because you do not know how sensitive your skin will be.
Gentle exfoliators are also highly recommended for darker skin tones due to the fact that harsh exfoliators can cause hyperpigmentation or an uneven skin tone. A stronger exfoliator could also create micro-tears in the skin and open it up to bacteria leading to breakouts if not used properly.
Best Gentle Exfoliators
1. Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
With thousands of positive reviews from all around the globe, this is currently one of the best gentle exfoliators on the market today. It has been proven to be both gentle and effective. This gentle chemical exfoliator contains 2% BHA or salicylic acid, which is one of the most common acne treatments.
This product is meant to be left on the skin and can be applied up to twice daily. However, if dryness and redness occur simply use the product less frequently. This rule of thumb is also a good baseline to follow for any skincare product.
2. OLEHENRIKSEN Transforming Walnut Scrub
If you’ve visited your local Sephora recently, you’ve probably seen this product. This physical scrub uses small particles of walnut shell to gently exfoliate the skin. Walnut shells have been gaining popularity as an exfoliator ingredient because of their natural oils and fine texture. This scrub should be used once or twice a week and to reduce micro-tearing the user should not use an excessive amount or apply too much pressure when applying the scrub.
3. ACURE Brightening Facial Scrub
Another scrub using walnut as a primary ingredient! Possibly the best gentle exfoliator, this scrub/mask combo also contains green clay, sage, and lemon. While it is a physical exfoliator, the acid in the lemon acts as a chemical exfoliator as well. It is suggested that you use this product three times a week.
The final gentle exfoliator on this list is something you probably have in your cupboard right now. Oatmeal is an incredibly gentle exfoliator, but it also has many other benefits for your skin. Oats contain compounds called saponins which are natural cleansers. Saponins remove dirt and oil and unclog the pores.
Oatmeal can also absorb any excess oil on the surface of your skin and reduce acne. The positive benefits don’t stop there, oatmeal is also an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which means it can reduce redness and give your skin that smooth complexion your desire. Experts say using oatmeal as a mask/scrub twice a week will grant the best results.
If you’re looking to craft your own gentle exfoliator, check out this blog on homemade exfoliators for some great options! Many homemade exfoliators are physical ones and utilize household ingredients that are easy to obtain. Things like coffee grounds, coconut oil, sugar, salt, honey, yogurt, nuts, are all ingredients you could use in your homemade exfoliator. The list of combinations and possibilities is endless.
When trying out a new formula for your best gentle exfoliator keep in mind these universal don'ts to exfoliating:
- Don’t use too much product: When using any product start out with a dime-sized amount and work up from there. There should be just enough product to cover the surface of the area you are applying it to. This will help to ensure the product doesn’t actually end up clogging your pores and it will also give your products substantially longer shelf life.
- Don’t use too much pressure: When you are rubbing in that luxurious scrub you just made or bought, treat it with care. Do not use a ton of force when working the mix over and into your skin. Using too much pressure could result in little cuts called micro-abrasions on the surface of the skin which could become inflamed and are susceptible to bacteria.
- Don’t use too frequently: Limit the use of physical and chemical exfoliators to once or twice a week. If you have oily skin you might be able to use an exfoliator daily. Keep an eye on the dryness of your skin, if your skin gets drier or flakey it is likely you are over-exfoliating.
Finding the best gentle exfoliator is a huge challenge. The myriad of products on the market today can make finding a product that works for you difficult. Try your best to research products before you buy them, check those ingredients! Remember the “don’ts” of exfoliation. If all else fails, try making your own. Start with small batches where you can precisely experiment with the quantity of each ingredient. Who knows the gentle exfoliator of your dreams could just be waiting for you to create it. Best of luck!
Written by Kiana St Onge