Exfoliation: From Inside the Chemistry Lab

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Please do not be afraid of the idea of chemical exfoliators! Many of these are available for use at home in gentle formulations. For the most powerful options, you will need a skincare professional.

  • One of the most popular is the alpha hydroxy acid or AHA. Commonly used ingredients for these exfoliating products are glycolic acid extracted from sugar cane or lactic acid extracted from milk. If you are concerned about fine lines, tone, or texture, this might be a great choice for you.
  • The beta hydroxy acid, or BHA, is another terrific chemical exfoliation option. The most common active ingredient in these products is salicylic acid and they are perfect for targeting oilier skin types as well as acne prone skin with blackheads and whiteheads. Please be aware that salicylic acid is very similar to aspirin, so if you are allergic to aspirin, you should probably choose another option.
  • One of the newest chemical exfoliators is the poly-hydroxy acid, which is an updated version of the AHA. They cause less irritation that the tradition AHA and are much better suited if you have sensitive skin or have to contend with conditions like rosacea, psoriasis, or eczema.
  • The most potent of the chemical options is Retinol, which is a derivative of vitamin A. It can be found in both over-the-counter products as well as by prescription from a dermatologist. This ingredient is able to penetrate into the lower layers of the skin to help even out fine lines and wrinkles. It is usually reserved for more severe skin issues.

So we have now discovered that chemicals are not always a scary consideration! There is a subset of chemical exfoliators that I actually prefer, but I believe they warrant their own separate discussion.

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