I’ve said it before, but skin care products are not one-size-fits-all.
Your skin is as unique as you, and you have to find what works for your concerns, budget, etc. The best thing is there are about a million products, ingredients and formulas that all will yield the same results, so you can tailor your products to your needs.
That being said, we’re all pretty united in thinking that healthy, smooth, glowing skin is the kind of skin we want.
Exfoliation is a great way to achieve this, as it eliminates texture and dullness, makes pores look smaller, fades scars and hyperpigmentation, softens lines and wrinkles, and even helps other products work more effectively since it clears the way for your skin to absorb more ingredients and nutrients.
Traditional sugar- and shell-based scrubs (think the original St. Ives Apricot Scrub) might be a popular choice, but sometimes the particles meant to exfoliate the skin contain jagged edges, which can cause microtears in your skin and lead to inflammation, redness and breakouts.
Thankfully, there’s more than one way to reveal smooth, glowing skin, and today I’ll go over a few ways to exfoliate skin without using a scrub. These products are still active, however, so only use them a few times a week to avoid overexfoliation and irritation. And don’t double up with more than one exfoliating product in one night.
These exfoliating toners include either one kind or a blend of acids, all of which work to break up dead skin cells and slough them away. There are alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), such as glycolic, lactic and malic acid; beta hydroxy acid (BHA), aka acne-fighting salicylic acid; and the newer poly hydroxy acids, which are the gentlest of the three.
Toners are quick and easy to use, and it’s simple to remember where they go in the order skin care order (after cleansing and before serums and moisturizer). For any congestion or breakouts, I always recommend using toners containing BHA or BHA blends, like Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant or Tarte Knockout Tingling Treatment. For dullness, dark spots or dryness, choose one with AHAs or AHA blends, including Ole Henriksen Glow2OH Dark Spot Toner. Those with sensitive skin should opt for a formula with PHAs, such as The Inkey List Polyhodroxy Acid Toner. You also can find products that contain all three acids, such as Glossier Solution.
Enzymes are another form of chemical exfoliant that gently dissolves the “glue” holding your dead skin cells together. Enzymes also are usually derived from fruits (papaya, pineapple and pumpkin are the most popular), so those who prefer more natural or “clean” products may gravitate toward them.
Enzymes can be found in lots of different forms, from cleansers to creams to masks, and many times, these products also contain acids for an extra punch. In Your Face Skincare Deep Enzyme Cleanse or Herbivore Botanicals Brighten Instant Glow Mask both contain pineapple enzymes. Peter Thomas Roth Pumpkin Enzyme Mask and Bliss Pumpkin Powerhouse Resurfacing & Exfoliating Enzyme Mask are choices made with pumpkin enzymes. Elemis Papaya Enzyme Peel uses papaya enzymes to get the job done, while Kate Somerville Liquid ExfoliKate Triple Acid Resurfacing Treatment contains papaya, pineapple and pumpkin enzymes plus a 10% blend of different AHAs.
At-home spa services usually send me screaming for the hills, but at-home chemical peels sound way scarier than they actually are. In a pro treatment, a high concentration of acids causes your skin to (safely) peel like a snake shedding its skin. At-home versions contain higher concentrations of acids but are not medical-grade, so you won’t actually peel. They still can reveal fresher, smoother and even younger-looking skin almost immediately, though.
The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution and Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial are rinse-off products that reveal smooth, glowy skin in minutes. Products such as Good Molecules Overnight Exfoliating Treatment and Bliss Clear Genius Clarifying Peel are naturally a bit gentler since they’re meant to be worn overnight for fresh skin by morning. Peels also can come in pad form, which is great for those on-the-go. I love a prestige version, such as Goop GOOPGLOW 5% Glycolic Acid Overnight Glow Peel or a drugstore favorite, such as Bliss That’s Incredi-peel Glycolic Acid Pads.
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT