Exfoliation There are two types of exfoliators: physical and chemical. I already knew about physical exfolients, heck as a child I was making my own with blended up avacado pits. But it was the chemical exfolients that I really wanted to study this week and learn about. So basically for chemical exfolients we have AHAs, BHAs and PHAs. These chemicals increase cell turnover, helps breakup blackheads and whiteheads from the skin, and gives the skin a smoother finish. Lets look at them one at a time.
AHA is short for Alpha Hydroxy acid. These acids usually come from fruits and milks. They are water soluble, and help with having a smooth texture on the skin. Some examples of AHA as an ingredient would be Glycolic acid, Lactic acid, Mandelic acid, Citric acid and Tatanic Acid.
BHA is short for Beta Hydroxy Acid which basically is salicylic acid. It is oil soluble, and goes deep into the skin, dissolving the skin debris that clog pores and create acne, white heads, and blackheads. When looking for products with salicylic acid, over-the-counter limits are set at 2% for topical treatments expected to be left on the face and 3% for those expected to be washed off, such as acne cleansers. If you are just starting out, I would recommend finding a product that has a low dose of BHA like 0.5% and then slowly building up so that your skin won't have any harsh reactions.
PHA stands for polyhydroxy acid, and is fairly new in the skincare industry. It has a larger molecular size, so it is more gentle on the skin and doesn't cause skin sensitivity from the sun. PHA is a good option for those with sensitive skin. Some examples of these would be Gluconolactone acid, galactose acid, and lactobionic acid. We sound like such chemists now don't we?
The thing about these AHAs, BHAs and PHAs as chemical exfoliaters is that anytime we change up our skincare routine, we are putting our skin at risk for some sort of reaction. So pay attention when you incorporate a new product and keep a mental record if you see any redness, dryness, or irritation on your skin. These acids work well if you use them at night before you apply a nourishing moisturizer, that way the skin can renew itself while your are getting in your z's. It might be tingly for 30 seconds or so, but not burning. If you experience burning, you should wash it off. These acids can sometimes really dry out the skin so make sure that you moisturize as well! Don't over-exfoliate, especially with physical exfoliators. That is a really good way to get really red and irritated skin. Lastly, patience is key. If you don't see results overnight, that's okay! Some products take weeks, even months of consistent usage to see results.
Lets now talk about some other active ingredients. Before doing my research, I had heard of or seen these ingredients before, but had no idea what they do and couldn't keep any of them straight. Lets keep this as simple as possible and stick with Vitamin A, B and C.
Vitamin A, also known as retinoids are amazing at increasing cell turnover, mimicking the way our skin cells used to reproduce when we were young and in our teens. Experts say that people don't need to start using retinoids until they are around 25. Retinoids also penetrate deep within the skin to kill acne bacteria, help with wrinkles, and constrict pores. Retinoids tend to be a little bit drying, so it's important to pair with moisturizing ingredients. Retinoids are also known as Tretinoin, Retin-A, Adapalene, Differin, and Retinaldehyde.
Vitamin B3, also known as Niacinamide is naturally found in our body and is a friendly active ingredient for all skin types. Niacinamide helps with dullness, pore size, sebum production and skin texture. This active ingredient also works well for sensitive skin.
Vitamin C, otherwise known as L-Ascorbic Acid is a very popular ingredient in skincare because it aids in brightening, promotes elastin and boosts collagen in the dermis level of our skin. The one thing to be careful about with Vitamin C is that it is known to be quite unstable in nature. It may go bad from contact with oxygen, sunlight, or time. so make sure to read the expiration date on the packaging and follow the package's direction on where to store it. Some derivitives of Vitamin C include Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Ascorbyl Glucoside, and Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate. It's not so scary anymore now that we know they come from Vitamin C, right?