Best Chemical Exfoliators

For the longest time I thought using moisturizers alone were the secret to smooth, even, non-flaky skin texture and I would get so upset when winter rolled around and my skin still looked like crap no matter how much I moisturized. Then I would head down the road of physical exfoliation using gritty scrubs and microdermabrasion tools. Scrub, scrub, scrubbing away at my face which would help slightly, but a few days later, I’d be back where I started. Sigh….does anyone else feel this way?

Finally, a year or so ago, I dove into the world of chemical exfoliation products and my life changed forever, lol. It sounds dramatic, but I finally found ways to not only get rid of dry, patchy skin, but to prevent it from getting that way in the first place. I’ve learned that acids are the secret to maintaining even, smooth, and baby-soft skin. I only wish I’d known about them sooner, so I am sharing my top 6 favorite products with you so you can save your skin from the dry winter weather too.

The important thing to know about starting your journey with products containing acids, is that you will need to build up a tolerance. The first time you use an acid, your skin will definitely feel like it is burning. Therefore you may want to look for a product with a lower percentage of acid ingrediants and/or products that are using a fruit enzyme based acid as they tend to be more mild. Don’t be scared off by the first time you try it. After a while, your skin will not feel as affected and you can work your way towards more potent products and you can use them more often. Also, acids can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so you really only want to use them at night and be sure to use sunscreen to protect yourself during the day.

Pixi – Glow Peel Pads – $22
For an affordable and more gentle product, I like the Glow Peel Pads from Pixi. You get 60 pads in the jar, so you get a lot for your money. These use 20% Glycolic Acid which is an AHA, (Alpha Hydroxy Acid), which is a naturally occurring fruit acid. This stimulates the cell turnover and also helps the skin produce collagen and elastin. They also contain rose water which helps hydrate and soothe the skin. In my opinion, these aren’t as aggressive as some of the other products so this may be a good starting place if you’ve never used acids before.

Sunday Riley – Good Genes – (paired with Luna Sleeping Night Oil) – $85/set
I’m pairing these products together because they are formulated to work in tandem. Good Genes is the acid product while Luna is actually a retinol, but I love the result this concoction gives so I’m mentioning them both. Good Genes uses a Lactic Acid which is another type of AHA and will exfoliate dull, pore-clogging dead skin cells to instantly clarify and reveal smoother, clearer, younger-looking skin, while fighting visible signs of hyperpigmentation. Luna is a retinoid oil with reduces the appearance of pores and wrinkles while fighting aging and redness. These products are among the most effective skincare I’ve ever tried. A little more on the expensive side, but they do feel very luxe. Use before bed and wake up with the softest most plump skin ever!

Tarte – Knockout Tingling Treatment – $39
I truly feel like my skin really stopped getting so dry and flaky when I introduced this product into my routine. I’m not sure I can live without this product – so dramatic again, lol. This uses a 10% acid complex blend of salicylic and lactic acids. Salicylic is a BHA, (Beta Hydroxy Acid), which is known for its anti-inflammatory quality which is why it is commonly used to treat acne. I think this is a great value for the size and effectiveness of the product and would highly recommend!

Drunk Elephant – T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial – $80
Another product on the pricier side, but this baby is POTENT. I would only recommend this after you’ve built up your tolerance. It contains a whopping 25% AHA and 2% BHA blend including a “dream team” of Glycolic plus Tartaric, Lactic, Citric and Salicylic acids. I won’t lie, this one hurt the first time I tried it, and I couldn’t keep it on for more than a minute, but now it is comfortable to use for the recommended 20 minutes. I use this one less often as it is pretty intense.

Ole Henriksen – Instant Transformation Lemon Face Peel – $48
I wrote about this product in my “Truth, Transform & Nurture” blog a while back so you can read a bit more about it there. I actually find this gives me more of a brightening effect than an exfoliating effect, but I wanted to put it on this list because it is a favorite product of mine and it contains glycolic and lactic acids.

Dr. Dennis Gross – Alpha Beta Universal daily Peel Packettes – $88
Dr. Dennis Gross makes a ton of amazing skincare products many of which are all about acids. These are individually packaged 2-step pads and you get 30 in the box. This is the much higher-end version of the Pixi Glow Pads, lol. The reason I’m mentioning these is because they are perfect for traveling because each set is individually wrapped. If I’m going on vacation, I always throw a couple of these in my bag so I have an easy way to exfoliate while away from my house. These won’t break or spill, so they are ideal for on the go. They use a formula of 5 different AHA and BHA acids that bring back radiance, even tone and texture, and shrink the look of pores. 

~ Takeaway ~ Of course it is important to use a great moisturizer – check out my blog on my favorite heavy duty creams –  but they can only do so much on their own. If you have truly dry skin like me, I think you will find that using chemical exfoliators in tandem with moisturizers is the key to really banishing flaky winter skin for good.  A moisturizer is just a band-aid for skin that is already too dry, while acids will help keep your skin renewed and healthy and prevent the yucky texture from developing in the first place. I hope you will find as much love for some of these products as I have!

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