If you're not already using one as part of your skin care regimen — it's time to lift your game. The latest crop of exfoliators come in varying forms: physical, chemical, natural, peels, serums and masks. Knowing which one is best can be overwhelming which is why we're breaking it down for you.
Why Do We Need To Exfoliate?
Ever wondered why babies have perfectly smooth skin? While the secret behind eternally youthful skin is quite complex — science agrees that a big factor is the rate of skin cell turnover. Basically, our skin's texture becomes increasingly rough as we age because the rate of cell renewal slows down dramatically.
Dead cells on your skin’s surface stick around for much longer, this tends to accentuate those fine lines and can make your complexion look dull and lifeless. Good news: we can increase this natural turnover pretty easily via exfoliation, and chemical exfoliants in particular, are excellent for this.
What's The Difference Between Chemical Exfoliants And Chemical Exfoliants?
A physical exfoliant is any product that requires a rubbing or scrubbing action and work on the uppermost layers of skin. Think: facial scrubs, powders, loofah and konjac sponges, face and body brushes and various cleansing cloths. Chemical exfoliants on the other hand, are based on mild acids or enzymes that gently but effectively dissolve the 'glue' that holds dead skin cells together.
The two most common types of chemical exfoliants are AHA (alpha hydroxy acids), like glycolic acid and lactic acid, and BHA or beta hydroxy acids, like salicylic acid. These are rapid, oil-soluble formulas (that means they won't break down with water) so they can penetrate deep into your pores.
They are also hero ingredients that are used in many facial cleansers, toners, exfoliators, pimple treatments and body washes, targeting congestion and breakouts. Occasionally, some products combine both physical and chemical qualities, such as acid-infused swipeys.
We know the idea of "chemical exfoliation" might sound super intimidating, especially if you have dry or sensitive skin. However, chemical exfoliation can be used on all skin types — you just have to be mindful of what acid you're applying on your skin.
Luckily, PHAs (polyhydroxy acids) are alternative gentler acids that might be the solution for sensitive skin types who've yet to experience how effective regular chemical exfoliation can be.
The Best Exfoliators You Can Buy In Australia
Looking to add an exfoliant or swap out your current one? Whether you have dry, acne-prone, sensitive, normal, oily, combination or mature skin, scroll on for our round-up of the best exfoliators you can buy in Australia.
Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant 118ml, $38 at Paula's Choice
The brand's number one best-seller and an international cult favourite, this gentle leave-on exfoliant is great for acne-prone skin as it works quickly to draw out impurities, smooth wrinkles and brighten the entire face.
Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum, $144 to $215 at MECCA
Designed to elevate your nighttime skincare routine, this luxurious serum combines AHA and BHA to gently slough away dead skn cells, unclog pores, tackle tough pigmentation and smooth the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. If you have sensitive or easily irritated skin, you can dilute the formula with a little marula oil or a vitamin B serum to make it gentler.
Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment, $38 to $136 at MECCA
Touted as a "2-minute Hollywood facial in a bottle", this multi-action exfoliator comes straight from Kate Sommerville's clinic and is great for all skin types. Formulated with fruit enzymes and physical granules, as well well as a skin-loving cocktail of vitamin A, E and C, it works to restore the surface of your skin and reveal a youthful visage.
Dermologica Daily Superfoliant 57g, $91 at Adore Beauty
Combining the best of AHAs, enzymes and light physical exfoliants, you'll get three types of exfoliation in one with this potent elixir. Exfoliant prowess aside, it also features binchotan charcoal to remove excess oil, niacinamide to calm redness and target scarring and red algae and tara fruit extract for a dose of free radical-fighting antoxidants.
Tatcha The Rice Polish Classic Foaming Enzyme Powder, $104 at MECCA
Combining the best of physical and chemical exfoliants, Tatcha's cult classic Rice Polish transforms from a powder to a creamy, non-abrasive solution when activated with water. Great for all skin types, it features a core of nourishing Japanese rice bran and papaya extracts, which team up to tackle fine lines, uneven complexion, hyperpigmentation and congestion.
Go-To Exfoliating Swipeys, $46 at MECCA
Infused with a blend of lactic acid and aloe vera, these soft single-use pads gentle exfoliate and hydrate the skin (including sensitive skin) in as little as 60 seconds, all while refining texture and minimising the look of fine lines. Winning.
Pixi Glow Peel Pads, $44 at Adore Beauty
Ideal for sensitive skin and those who struggle with acne, these power-packed swipe pads tackle problem areas in one hit, thanks to a blend of 20% glycolic acid and salicylic acid. And to ensure it isn't too harsh, liquorice root and rose water work together to calm the skin and diminish the appearance of brown spots and uneven texture.
Elizabeth Arden Prevage Progressive Renewal Treatment, $205 at Adore Beauty
A four-week home peeling routine to help your skin comfortably adjust to the incredible powers of AHAs and PHAs, this luxurious set is great for sensitive skin. In other words? Spa-worthy skin in the comfort of your own house.
Paula's Choice The UnScrub, $9 to $37 at Paula's Choice
If you love a bead-style scrub but want one that's gentle on the skin (and the environment), it doesn't get much better than this one. Delicate but powerful, its milky, gel-textured formula whisks away makeup, sunscreen and impurities while renewing your face with biodegradable jojoba beads.
Ole Henrickson Pore-Balance Facial Sauna Scrub, $39 at Sephora
Inspired by traditional Scandinavian spas, this dual warm/cool action scrub uses a blend of glycolic and lactic acids to help lift and loosen dead skin cells, leaving a refreshing eucalyptus-peppermint scent in its wake. Ideal for oily skin types, it also employs volcanic sand, green fusion complex and neem seed oil also lend their sebum-absorbing prowess to effectively unclog pores.
Alpha-H Liquid Gold 100ml, $50.96 at Adore Beauty
No list of exfoliators would be complete without this home-grown wonder! Loved by thousands of Australian women, this fast-acting, high-performance harnesses the power of glycolic acid to deliver smoother, refreshed skin in as little as 20 minutes.