Choosing the right exfoliant for your skin can be tricky

Exfoliation is the key to healthy skin

In a perfect world, our skin is a self-renewing organ. Young adults experience healthy skin cell turnover approximately every 28 days, leaving skin firm and radiant. Unfortunately as we age, our skin is not able to renew its self like it did we when we were younger. The results – dull, rough and lackluster skin. But there is a solution. Exfoliation!

For decades the skincare market was flooded with exfoliating plastic microbeads. Although effective mechanical exfoliants, these microbeads did not biodegrade causing a negative impact on our ecosystem. In 2014 congress passed the Microbead-free Waters Act (H.R. 1321). This piece of legislation banned plastic microbeads and left consumers looking for other exfoliating options.

Mechanical Exfoliants


Still wanting the feel of a scrub, some consumers turned to harsher mechanical scrubs. These often contain nutshells, fruit pits and seeds. When crushed, these ingredients can have jagged edges that are harmful to delicate facial and décolleté skin. My recommendation is to save these for the elbows and feet!

If you prefer the feel of a scrub you now have some beautiful and safe alternatives. Hydrogenated beeswax form clear odorless beads that gently exfoliate skin while absorbing excess oil. Salts and sugars can be milled to a small dimension, however these particles are still best left for body use.

Oats and Grains

By far the most beneficial and gentle physical exfoliants are those made from whole grains. Oat flours and powders are great options for sensitive skin due to their natural calming properties. Rice powders are by far the best choice for a myriad of reasons. Effective for all skin types, rice has been used for centuries in Asia for its’ clearing and lightening properties. Additionally, rice flour is rich in amino acids and vitamins, which are essential building blocks for healthy skin.




Chemical Exfoliation

Many people incorrectly assume that the use of chemical exfoliants must be more aggressive than the mechanical exfoliants mentioned above. The word “chemical” can incite fear in the average consumers and have them running for the hills. However, when used correctly these exfoliants can dramatically change the look and feel of even the most damaged skin.

AHAs. Lactic, Glycolic, Kojic, Citric and Malic are some common alpha-hydroxy acids found in skin care products. Used correctly, these amazing acids are proven to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, lighten dark spots and increase hydration levels in the skin.

BHAs. Salicylic acid is the only beta-hydroxy acid currently used in skin care. It is a lipophilic (oil dissolving) keratolytic that has the ability to dissolve impactions and reduce the occurrence of acne and breakouts. In the hands of a skilled aesthetician, SA can produce amazing anti-aging benefits when layered or combined with other AHAs or enzymes.

Enzymes. The most common enzymes are fruit-derived. Papain from papaya and bromelain from pineapple are widely used in many topical products and professional skin treatments. Enzymes are typically gentle and work like little packmen, digesting dead skin cells and leaving living skin cells unaffected.

Retinoids. All forms of vitamin A are included in this category, with retinoic acid, retinaldehyde and retinol being the most commonly used in professional products. Retinoids are the gold standard for increasing cellular turnover, smoothing fine lines, boosting collagen and improving skin discoloration. This is an essential home care ingredient for anyone over the age of 35. I suggest working with your skin therapist to find the right formulation for your skin since it can be irritating.


Exfoliation is necessary for healthy vibrant skin. However too much of a good thing can make for dry, irritated and sensitized skin. At Skin Therapy of Charlotte, we find the right blend of exfoliants at the right frequency to keep you aging gracefully. Feel free to give us a call and schedule a visit with our skin experts!

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