Exfoliation! You probably have heard of this term, though do you know the benefits of exfoliation and how often to do it? Also, do you know there are three types of exfoliation? Enzymatic, Chemical and Physical or Manual as some people call it. Let us dive in to learn the difference!
Physical or Manual Exfoliator
How to tell if your product is a physical exfoliators? Look at the texture! Look for a grainy texture. I love that I can fell and control where the grains are loosening dirt clogged in my pores. Goodbye blackheads! It’s a double win if a product is a physical and enzymatic or chemical exfoliator because there are brightening benefits of both that help you achieve the coveted healthy glow!
Cue the song, “Let’s get physical”. My first exposure to exfoliation was from an esthetician saying it would help unclog my pores as I struggled with acne in middle and high school. I loved using Dermalogica’s Daily Microfoliant which was a gentle rice powder exfoliant which made my face feel squeaky clean and soft. I stopped using it because I learned their company does not use super clean ingredients and then switched to Tata Harper’s Regenerating Cleanser which I use one to three times a week, and Josh Rosebrook’s Active Enzyme Exfoliator which I use 1x a week. Both products are packaged in glass and have repurchased both!
Tata’s Regenerating Cleanser is awesome if you want to exfoliate quickly in 10 to 60 seconds in the shower or over the sink. I find a full pump is excessive for my face and neck, so 1/2 a pump works wonders when applied to dry skin. In a gentle circular motion feel the apricot microspheres buff your skin as the product turns from pink to white. Note, this is a much higher quality version of apricot than used in the infamous St. Ive’s Apricot Scrub that was found to compromise many people’s skin barriers.
Tata’s Regenerating Cleanser also has beta-hydroxy acid commonly referred to as BHA from white willow bark. BHAs are a chemical exfoliant that help brighten your skin as it zaps all the dead skin cells on your face that can make your skin appear dull. I also enjoy the subtle floral scent, definitely not overpowering. It is also COSMO’s certified – over 80% of the ingredients are organic and 100% of the ingredients are certified for natural origin. My boyfriend I both use this cleanser and the first bottle lasted just shy of a year so I think it’s money well spent! This cleanser is Tata’s number one selling product for a reason – it lives up to the hype.
Enzymatic exfoliation comes from fruit enzymes which break down and basically eat your dead skin cells that make your skin appear dull. After washing the enzymatic cleanser or mask your face will be radiant! Enzymatic is my favorite type of exfoliation because it usually smells awesome from all the yummy fruits in your products and the glow is what I seek from a face mask.
Josh Rosebrook’s Active Enzyme Exfoliator is worn as a mask for 45 to 60 minutes. If you love masking as much as I do I cannot recommend it enough! The main ingredient is raw honey so it gives you an incredible glow after using this mask. The physical component of the mask is from finely ground, round walnut shells. Josh says walnuts help stimulate collagen production which is wonderful if you have some bumpy skin texture like I have on my cheeks – middle school Moira sure loved to extract zits herself which unfortunately damages your skin.
I recommend removing this mask in the shower with warm not hot water as it’s a dark brown color so it can lead to a messy skin or floor if you are really talented like me. Also because you have to gently rub the product off your face with water I would not recommend vigorously scrubbing it off as that can damage your skin, Josh also does not recommend this. This mask is also an enzymatic exfoliator so being gentle will actually give you the best results. Gentle is key when dealing with physical exfoliators!
Leahlani’s Honey Love is another enzymatic exfoliator and unlike Josh’s, it is a flash mask. Two to three minutes is what I would recommend for someone using it the first time. I used it for five minutes the first time and my skin was pink for a bit. It’s a powerful exfoliant because of the fruit enzymes like Maqui Berry, Sweet Hawaiian Nectars and Noni Fruit. It smells like exotic raspberries though I’m sure it’s just all the delish sounding fruits that I’ve never had the pleasure of eating because I have never been to Hawaii!
Leahlani is based in Hawaii so they use as many organic and wildcrafted products as they can to avoid shipping ingredients from out of state. I fell in love with their brand in December of 2020, and now I want to go to Hawaii on vacation once safe. The texture is to die for, the THICK raw honey texture with corrundum crystals. Like Josh’s I only use it as an enzymatic exfoliator not a physical or manual exfoliator.
Enzymatic Exfoliating Cleansers
Pleni Naturals’ Enzyme Cleaning Oil is my favorite enzymatic cleanser. The enzyme used here is papaya which gently dissolves dead skin cells which is exactly what I’m seeking when I cleanse with this at night. It removes all sunscreen and makeup if you wear it. It’s also unscented which is fabulous for sensitive skin or noses. As someone with combination skin, though more dry in the winter, I only use oil cleanser at night so when I say I love Pleni it’s because it’s the only cleanser I’m using 5/7 days a week. I have a detailed blog post on it here. Also the code MOIRA20 saves you 20% off of this cleanser, and her whole line, excluding gift sets.
Chemical Exfoliators are the most complicated because they are so powerful, and they are invisible so you must be mindful of the instructions to make sure you are not over exfoliating. If the product says five minutes, do not leave it on for 10 minutes or you may be left with a pink face.
I enjoy a gentle chemical exfoliator. Indie Lee’s Brightening Cleanser is one of my favorites and comes to mind immediately. To be used as an exfoliating mask, apply to damp skin and leave for five minutes before rinsing. You will see a glow and your skin will feel extra soft. This is because the tomato extracts gently exfoliate your skin to remove dead skin cells.
Alpha-hydroxy Acids or AHAs are chemical exfoliators like glycolic and lactic acids. AHAs only can penetrate your skin on the surface. They are often in products targeting wrinkles from age and sun damage. Mature, dehydrated and dry skin (regardless if you’re acne prone) would prefer AHAs over BHAs. You actually want to treat your skin type over your skin condition like acne. If you skin is too dry (lacking hydration and or moisture) it can break out even more.
Beta-hydroxy Acids or BHAs are chemical exfoliators that dissolve keratin, a protein that is a key part of the skin structure. BHAs helps to loosen dead skin cells on the surface of our skin. Salicylic Acid is the BHA you hear most often that’s great for acne. BHAs are more for acne-prone skin, because they can help unclog your pores or if you have oil-prone skin. Though you don’t want to use too many BHAs because it can impair your skin barrier like I did in the fall of 2020. In a future post I’ll discuss how I nursed my skin back to health.
I do not recommend One Love Organic’s Vitamin A cleanser to be used more than once a week or only when you feel very oil prone because daily use of this product with the Vitamin B cleanser is how I impaired my skin barrier. I wish more of a warning or education was needed to use this product, though I hope others learn from my mistake.