Ah the joys a bit of chemicals on the face can bring! (Image Credit: Flickr/Jeff Luyten)
It’s funny to think that sometimes I don’t have the energy to get off the couch, or to buy groceries, yet my face is constantly using said energy to produce unnecessary face skin. I’m serious! Left to its own devices, I reckon in a matter of weeks my face would fully flake over, rendering me perfectly preserved under a translucent layer of my own dermis.
Obviously, this is unacceptable and can’t happen, so exfoliation has always been a good friend of mine.
While scrubs are still a guilty pleasure (nothing like a good sandblasting of your flakes to make your blood rush to the surface and adrenaline pulse through your veins) my main bae is a good acid. I know chemical exfoliation sounds like something best left to a professional in a white coat, but I promise most of you have already done it a bit. Ever used a face wash with salicylic acid in it? A retinol product? Guess what – you’ve chemically exfoliated. Good for you!
Acid exfoliation is basically a breaking down of all your cloggy, flakey, dead skin (so last year) to reveal your hot new skin underneath. It’s more effective than a manual scrub (despite the initial smooth feeling post-sandblast) and, provided you do it the right way, more gentle, as it doesn’t actively abrade your pretty face. It sounds tricky and possibly super expensive, due to the active sounding nature of the beast. Never fear – here are some options that are neither.
An old favorite of mine is the mysterious internet brand Makeup Artist’s Choice. Am I am a makeup artist? No. Do I blindly assume that they would make a good choice? Most definitely. They have a whole bunch of acid items, but due to superstar ratings, I have only tried the mandelic range. And I love it – so much.
The Mandelic Acid Toner is an easy-to-incorporate skincare step, since you probably know how to use a toner already. In case you don’t, on a clean face at night, apply this all over with a cotton pad. Follow with whatever moisturizers or serums or magic goo you usually go for. Not only will the toner do the exfoliating job, but it will also make whatever you slap on top of it work better, because it has less dead skin to get through. Cool, huh?
For a proper exfoliating hit, one of my favorite ever skincare products: the 25% Mandelic Acid Peel. This is a once-in-a-while treatment, rather than something to incorporate into your routine. Once again on a clean face, I use a cotton bud to draw this all over – not too much! After 3-5 minutes, you wash your face with a gentle cleanser and apply moisturizer. While this doesn’t sting or make your whole face peel off, it does tingle and noticeably exfoliate. When I use this, I always wake up the next morning and think I look really pretty. I mean, I’m a big brat who thinks that most mornings, but I notice it particularly after a MUAC peel.
Newer to my acid arsenal but still worthy of mention are two exfoliating serums from Hot New Brand, The Ordinary. They are a collection of active, good-ingredient-ed serums for amazingly low prices, and their Lactic Acid range is a winner. These are both leave-on serums, which again go on a clean face and can be followed with whatever else you like. The 5% I recommend wholeheartedly to anyone: it makes skin smoother, softer, and brighter with little adverse effect. The 10% is most definitely for acid aficionados – this will blast you if you’re unprepared.
Disclaimer: although I’ve spent the past 600 words telling you not to fear acids, there are some Important Rules to follow. For one: acids are better suited to nighttime application. Exfoliation can’t be as effective under makeup. And because acids take away all of your “protective” dead skin, wearing sunscreen afterwards is 100% necessary (but you are wearing it every day anyway, right? Right).
And if the whole acid exfoliation thing still sounds too much for you (and I promise it isn’t), then you certainly cannot fear hyaluronic acid. In spite of its phonic similarity to the hydrochloric acid of science lessons past, this isn’t a scary guy. In fact, all it does is draw loads of moisture to your skin – one thousand times its own weight, to be exact. That means if your skin is dry or dehydrated (and let’s face it, it probably is) this is the toppest of moisturizing agents. The Hyaluronic Acid serum from the Ordinary delivers as expected, and is (I think) the cheapest of its kind. This requires no fear in application – slap it on morning and night with jolly abandon.