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29 Jan 2016

Which Exfoliator is Right For You? A Guide to Acids.

If there is one step in your skincare routine that makes the biggest difference, then it's exfoliation. 

The regular removal of dead skin cells makes skin look brighter and more fresh.  It helps keep spots at bay by keeping our pores clear and can also help absorption of creams & serums. I'm a convert as you can tell, and now that there are so many ways to effectivly remove those dead skin cells, there is a good option for most budgets and skin types.  The only word of caution would be those with very sensitive skin or who have severe acne who should consult a GP or derm before starting using exfoliators.

If you're a Exfoliator Virgin you should start with the gentlest formulations and a lower frequency, say every other day or on nights only.  This gives your skin time to adjust and should stop any adverse reactions.

There is such a wealth of exfoliators available now that it can be slightly overwhelming, there are primarily two types,

  • BHA also called Beta Hydroxy Acid and there is only one of them called Salicylic Acid which is a derivative of Aspirin.
  • AHA's or Alpha Hydroxy Acid's, the most talked about are Glycolic acid and Lactic acid.

BHA's are best at removing trapped dirt deep down in the pores, as it has a smaller molecular size.  They are great for blemish prone and oily skin.  AHA's are best at improving brightness as they work on the upper layers. They work by dissolving the binding agent in your skin which releases the top layer of dead skin more quickly that it would naturally, which reveals the brighter skin beneath.  The skin takes this as an "attack" and therefore produces more collagen which helps thicken & protect the skin making it look younger.

So basically BHA's for spots and oil, and AHA's for ageing.

This still leaves an enormous section out there, so here are a few I have personally used and can recommend.

Beginner Acid Exfoliators

The safest ones to start with are staples such as Pixi Glow Tonic £18.00 or Nip+Fab Glycolic Fix £6.45 on offer. These can be used from your twenties onwards and are gentle enough for using both morning or night. Both of these are based around glycolic acids and are good for brightening up your complexion and increasing cell turnover.  They are also both under £20 so ideal if you just want to dip in your toes.

Intermediate Acid Exfoliators

You can then up the game to something a little stronger like Nip+Fab Extreme Glycolic Fix £7.45 on offer or Skinceuticals Resurfacing Activator £35.00.  The Nip+Fab Extreme contains Glycolic and Salicylic acids which make it a perfect choice for those of us prone to breakouts and clogged pores. The Skinceuticals Resurfacing serum is a unique formula using hydroxyethyl urea which is an excellent exfoliator and humectant (traps moisture) it also contains hyaluronic acid to further promote moisture retention in the skin.  I really like that the Skinceutical's formula can be used both day and night, it sinks straight in and makeup can be applied immediately.

For a complete bargain a super cheap and easy exfoliating mask can be made using 2 dispersible aspirin dissolved in a tbsp of water and smoothed into the skin.  You leave it for 5 mins and voila! A bright, fresh complexion for about 10p.

Masters Acid Exfoliators

For those who have been using exfoliations for a while or need something stronger to slough away their skin I would recommend Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel Extra Strength £57. These are a 2 step process and you can feel them working straight away. As the name suggests, they contains both AHA's and BHA's. I keep these for the day before special occasions, so that my skin gets maximum effect.  For those willing to go the extra mile then Biologique Recherch√© P50 is the undisputed queen of exfoliators but is only available through salon stockists as they like to know people are using it correctly and at the right strength for their personal needs.  This sounds like a bit too much to be honest, just a few lines on the box about proper use would do.

Hopefully this has helped you feel more confident about giving acid's a go, or if your already use them about upping your exfoliating game.

Does anyone have any other acid's to recommend?  I am coming to the end of the Dennis Gross which I will definitely will repurchase and would like to try something similar so recommendation definitely appreciated.


  1. Helpful breakdown! My skin is oily, acne-prone, and sensitive, and totally loves BHAs. My current fave is Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid :)



  2. Look nice :)
    BLOG M&MFASHIONBITES : http://mmfashionbites.blogspot.gr/
    Maria V.

  3. Great post. I love when you write about skincare, you have so much knowledge. Do AHAs help any with uneven pigmentation? I do love the Nip + Fab pads xx

    Sarah | www.seriouslyshallow.co.uk

    1. Hi Sarah, I don't think AHA's are any good for pigmentation but Niacinimide (like in La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo) is very good, is it the post-pregnancy hyper-pigmentation, it's a real pain as mine goes with products then comes back with Sun :(


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