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How to Exfoliate Skin (and Why It's So Important)
If you haven’t been using an AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) or BHA (beta hydroxy acid) exfoliant, your skin is missing out on significant benefits. These non-abrasive, leave-on exfoliants work more effectively than scrubs and offer additional benefits, including:
- minimizing the appearance of wrinkles
- bringing clarity to a dull/uneven skin tone
- smoothing rough, bumpy skin
- unclogging pores
- increasing hydration
Why Using an AHA or BHA Is So Important
Over time, skin’s ability to shed the buildup of unhealthy dead layers of skin slows down due to unprotected sun exposure and age.
The not-too-pretty results can be mitigated simply by adding an AHA or BHA exfoliant, and for many people, the difference is visible overnight.
Which Should I Use: AHA or BHA?
AHA exfoliants are incredibly helpful for dry skin with advanced signs of aging as they smooth a rough, crepey texture and deliver firmer-looking skin. AHAs can also reduce the appearance of small white bumps, and are even suitable for skin prone to milia.
Our SKIN PERFECTING 8% AHA Lotion is an outstanding option that will give you hydrated, supple skin and an ultra-smooth healthy glow. It also includes anti-aging properties to smooth wrinkles and fine lines.
BHA exfoliants are ideal if you are dealing with clogged pores, blackheads, blemishes, or enlarged pores, while addressing multiple signs of aging.
Our SKIN PERFECTING 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is an all-around fan favorite for addressing multiple concerns, while our CLEAR Regular Strength Exfoliating Solution with 2% Salicylic Acid is a great place to start if you have acne.
BHA is preferred for those with temperamental skin, and even for skin prone to rosacea, because it also has soothing properties. If you have easily aggravated skin, try our ultra-gentle CALM Redness Relief 1% BHA Lotion Exfoliant.
How to Exfoliate with AHA or BHA (and Get the Most Out of It)
- Apply your AHA or BHA exfoliant after the cleanser and toner steps in your routine. If it’s a liquid, apply it with a cotton pad; if a lotion or gel, apply it with your fingers.
- You can use it around the eye area, but not on the eyelid or directly under the eye (along the lower lash line).
- You don’t need to wait for the BHA or AHA to absorb or dry; you can apply any other product in your routine—moisturizer, serum, eye cream, or sunscreen—immediately afterward.
- Experiment with different strengths of AHA and BHA to see which concentration gives you the best results.
- How often you should exfoliate depends on your skin type and skin concerns. Some people do well exfoliating with AHA or BHA twice a day, whereas others find that once a day or every other day is the perfect balance. Test to see what works best for your skin.
- Exfoliating with AHA or BHA from the neck down has great benefits as well. In particular, our RESIST Weightless Body Treatment with 2% BHA smooths the appearance of rough, red, hard, bumps on the arms and legs, and is even suitable for those with skin prone to keratosis pilaris.
Why Not Just Use a Scrub or Cleansing Brush?
Most scrubs have a rough, coarse, uneven texture, which can be too harsh and abrasive, causing micro-tears in skin. Many cleansing brushes are also a problem because they have stiff bristles and have the same negative impact on skin’s vulnerable surface.
Gentle scrubs and soft cleansing brushes are the exception, but even those are best used as an extra cleansing step, not as a replacement for what a well-formulated AHA or BHA exfoliant can do. Scrubs simply don’t work as deeply and effectively as AHA and BHA exfoliants!
How to Find the Best Exfoliant
If you’re still a bit confused about which AHA or BHA exfoliant to choose, contact our Client Service experts for a personalized skincare consultation to help you find the perfect solution for your skin!
References for this information:
Dermatology Research and Practice, February 2015, ePublication
Journal of the German Society of Dermatology, July 2012, pages 488–491
Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, November 2010, pages 135–142
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, April 2007, pages 651–663
Clinics in Dermatology, July 2001, pages 460–466
Archives of Dermatologic Research, July 1997, pages 404–409
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About the Experts
Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:
The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!