The Best Ways to Exfoliate the Face

You may remember a time when all you had to do to care for your skin was wash your face. These days, our skin care routines are becoming more like marathons, and our bathroom cabinets and drawers are full to bursting. The exciting truth is, however, all these products aren't really necessary. Take exfoliators, for example: All you really need is one. Here's to choosing the best product -- and application -- for you.

Physical Exfoliants

"Microdermasion" or "exfoliating beads" are favorite catch-phrases on exfoliating face washes and cloths. These products rely on physical exfoliants to strip dead skin cells -- in other words, the product buffs skin away like sand paper. The visual is a little extreme, but it illustrates how harmful physical exfoliants can be. If you can feel sharp or scratchy particles in a face wash, skip it -- these products are better for less sensitive skin on the rest of your body. Round beads or smaller particles are less abrasive and better for facial skin. Using your fingertips, buff the product gently over wet skin in circular motions, avoiding the eye area. A washcloth can also act as a physical exfoliant, but should be used gently. No exfoliant should turn your skin red or blotchy.

Chemical Exfoliants

Many exfoliating face washes and lotions include an ingredient that may sound alarming: acid. These chemical exfoliants, called alpha hydroxy acids or AHAs, strip dead skin cells without the use of abrasive particles. The best AHA for you depends on your skin type and how often you use the product. Glycolic acid is the most effective AHA but is most likely to irritate, so it should be used infrequently or on particularly resilient skin types. Lactic acid hydrates as it exfoliates, so it is good for dryer skin types. Fruit acids (like citric acid) are the mildest and least irritating. They're a great way to get your feet wet in the sea of AHAs. Regardless of the type of chemical exfoliant used, follow the instructions on the product's packaging, and pair AHA usage with extra sunscreen -- chemically stripped skin is more prone to sun damage.

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