City pollution, excess oil, dead cells, sweat. There are many things that get under your skin that require more than a cleanser, and that's where exfoliators come in.
Exfoliating is an absolutely vital step in any thorough skincare routine. Without it, you risk acne, blemishes, dull skin, and wrinkles by allowing dead cells and toxins to make themselves at home on your face. A good exfoliator can leave the skin looking brighter, reduce redness, and also set your skin up for better absorption of other beneficial products by unclogging pores. As a general rule, alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) products are usually better for normal and dry skin, while beta hydroxy acid (BHA) products are best suited to oily skin.
When should an exfoliator be applied? If we're talking times-per-week, most are best used around two to three times each week. This ensures dead cells are removed from the face regularly, while not causing any irritation to the skin. Exfoliate after cleansing, but before toning and moisturizing.
From scary-sounding-but-safe acid iterations to satisfying grainy scrubs, there's a formula out there for every skin type.
These are the best exfoliation products to add to you skincare routine right now
The Sensory Snob
Exfoliating Energy Scrub, 100ml
Personally, the ineffable pleasure of scrubbing my face with a grainy exfoliator will always make me seek out these credentials when shopping for a new one. Now that microbeads are rightfully banned in all skincare goods, you can rest assured that the pore-dredging elements in any of our selections are guilt-free. In Tom Ford's scrub, crushed apricot seeds do the job. Use the scrub once a day and apply it to the face with wet fingertips, moving in circular motions.
The Costs-Less-Than-Takeout Option
Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid
That beta hydroxy acid we mentioned earlier? Well, here's an example. Though it's something of a cult classic among skincare scholars, you can pick up a travel-size bottle of Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid exfoliator for just $10. For that price, it'll help shed dead cells and unclog pores, leaving skin more even and radiant. It's also paraben- and scent-free, and boasts a healthy dose of salicylic acid — acne's sworn enemy. The liquid exfoliator is best applied via a cotton pad, once or twice daily, and after cleansing and/or toning.
The Aussie Lover
Pink Grapefruit & Glucomannan Extract Polishing Facial Exfoliant
"Polishing" your face with pink grapefruit and glucomannan, a prebiotic sugar that is said to control acne-causing bacteria, is peak modern skincare. You'll also find grainy particles in this one by Australian favorite Grown Alchemist, which uses them to gently polish while polylactic acid dissolves dry skin. Grapefruit extract brings vitamin C and antioxidants to the party, leaving stressed skin looking calm and soothed. Apply it to a damp face and neck daily and work in circular motions.
The National Geographic Enthusiast
Anyone not slightly intrigued by a "volcanic" skincare product is surely lying. This find on our list of the best exfoliation products is an all-natural option by Icelandic brand BIOEFFECT, which packs crystalline lava from the country's Hekla volcano to rid the skin of impurities. But despite its intimidating name, BIOEFFECT's exfoliator is a gentle one that softens and cleanses without causing any irritation. Like the Tom Ford option, you'll also find crushed apricot seeds included here. Unlike the others, though, you only need to use this around once or twice a week. Apply a small amount to damp skin, massage gently, and rinse.
DR. BARBARA STURM
"This product is the haute skincare version of astronaut ice cream. It comes out of the bottle as a flour-like powder, you add water, and it turns into the perfect, gently exfoliating cleanser. Perfect for business trips.” - Thom Bettridge, Editor-in-Chief
The Medicine Cabinet Flex
As mentioned, skincare is a vast and sometimes confusing world of wildly different product and price point. At the higher end of the spectrum are options like this Clinical Exfoliator by 111SKIN, which will set you back more than $100. It combines a blend of AHA acids to retexture the skin and adds radiance at a professional level.
111SKIN's exfoliator is designed to be left on as an overnight treatment. Apply a generous amount onto clean, dry skin and let it sink in while the expense does too.
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