The Brides 's Guide to Skincare Exfoliants

Here's everything you need to know about properly exfoliating your skin

Updated 06/24/19

Stocksy

Most brides in the thick of wedding planning will tell you that, in addition to some sleepless nights, stressing over everything from seating charts to tracking RSVPs can take a toll on your skin. Time to reexamine your skincare routine! Properly cleansing, moisturizing, and drinking plenty of water will do wonders for your complexion, but you won't see results if you aren't exfoliating regularly. But there's a right and wrong way when it comes to how to exfoliate your skin.

Dead skin cells sit on the surface of the skin causing dullness, texture, and clogged pores, and exfoliating is key to keeping skin smooth and glowing. There are countless ways to exfoliate, but how do you know which one is right for you and when you should be exfoliating? We reached out to skincare experts to gain insight on how to exfoliate your skin and some of the best exfoliators on the market today. Keep reading to see what they had to say!

Why you should exfoliate

Iris Looi PA-C at Russak Dermatology explains that constant cell turnover causes the accumulation of dead skin on the complexion’s surface. Exfoliation removes this layer of dull skin, improving skin texture and tone. “Another benefit of exfoliating is that topical medications and skincare products can penetrate into the layers of the skin for a more effective use,” notes Looi. “You can apply a very good hydrating cream to the skin for example, but dead skin layers can block the product from actually doing its job.”

And sloughing of dry, flaky skin is just a bonus. In addition to benefits like improving texture and aiding with product absorption, it also helps create a smooth base for makeup application (you definitely need a clean base when it comes to wedding makeup!) and stimulates collagen production. “The small amount of associated inflammation can, in some cases, also activate the wound healing pathway, causing some generation of collagen,” Dr. Akhavan of the Dermatology & Laser Group says explains.

How should you exfoliate?

All methods of exfoliation fall into two categories: chemical or physical. Looi explains that chemical exfoliation is aided by alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) breaking the bonds that hold the skin together, causing the skin to shed. AHAs/BHAs can be found in cleansers, serums, toners, and other skin treatments. AHAs, like glycolic and lactic acid, breakdown dead skin cells on the surface level. BHAs, like salicylic acid, the ingredient commonly found in acne treatments, break dead skin down on a surface level and is also able to penetrate the surface layer of skin and dissolve oils in the pores.

When should you exfoliate?

So how often should you be exfoliating? Looi’s motto is “less is more.” Regardless of your go-to exfoliation method, too much can cause harm. Looi notes that too much physical exfoliation can cause irritation, and AHA/BHA exfoliants can cause dryness and irritation as well. Depending on how sensitive your skin is, dermatologists typically recommend exfoliating at least once a week, twice a week at most.

Pay attention to your skin and how it reacts to products, as over-exfoliation is a common cause of acne. How? Stripping away not just dead skin but also the healthy oils your complexion needs, can cause an over-secretion of oil to make up for it, causing breakouts and blemishes.

Here are some of our favorite expert-approved exfoliant products..

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum

Courtesy of Drunk Elephant

Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali of Dermatology, Laser & Surgery of Flatiron recommends salicylic for oily, acne prone skin because it penetrates the pores, dissolving into oil glands and decreasing secretion. Not acne prone? AHAs are the way to go for glowing skin. Dr. Bhanusali recommends glycolic acid, but warns that darker skin tones can react poorly and you may want to opt for other AHAs like lactic acid. Drunk Elephant's T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum is one of our favorite exfoliating formulas as it boasts an AHA/BHA blend of glycolic, lactic, tartaric, citric and salicylic acids that resurfaces skin, while accompanying horse chestnut, bearberry, and white tea calm the complexion.

Expect a serious boost in radiance from this bad boy!

SHOP NOW: Drunk Elephant, $90-$134

GO-TO Exfoliating Swipeys

Courtesy of Sephora

GO-TO's Exfoliating Swipeys are possibly one of the easiest ways to exfoliate, as the single-use facial pads are soaked in an all-natural AHA solution—lactic acid, in this case—along with hydrating essential oils. Simply swipe and go (or should we say glow). SHOP NOW: Sephora, $35

Boscia Konjac Cleansing Sponge

Courtesy of Ulta

While it sometimes takes time to build up a tolerance to chemical exfoliants, if you have sensitive skin Dr. Akhavan recommends skipping chemical exfoliation altogether and opting for gentle physical exfoliation instead. Physical exfoliation methods include scrubs, cleansing sponges, cloths, and brushes. “Physical exfoliants differ because the bonds that hold the skin cells together are broken down via force or trauma instead,” Looi explains. Especially great for sensitive skin, the Boscia Konjac Cleansing Sponge, made from a pH-balanced root-based vegetable, allows you to gently exfoliate to reveal a softer, brighter complexion.

The sponge is even soft enough to use around the delicate under-eye area.

SHOP NOW: Ulta, $15

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