There’s no denying that scrubbing your skin with an exfoliant featuring sugar, nuts, or seeds can feel intensely satisfying. But in recent years, the popularity of physical exfoliants has waned as experts have warned that these scrubs can cause inflammation and even create micro tears in your skin. In response, skincare brands have expanded their offerings of chemical exfoliants. Despite the intimidating name, these products are actually gentler on your skin, and they’re great for removing dead skin cells or combating blackheads.
What Makes a Chemical Exfoliant
Some chemical exfoliants might also be marketed as serums, toners, or peels. Don’t be put off by the confusing names; instead, look for the active ingredients listed on the bottle and the word “exfoliating” in the product description. Chemical exfoliants will usually feature acids like AHAs (including lactic acids and glycolic acids), which take off the top layer of dead skin cells to reveal fresher skin underneath, and BHAs (the most common of which is salicylic acid), which penetrate pores to combat breakouts. Chemical exfoliants might be liquids, gels, or creams, but they won’t feature the granular texture of their physical counterparts, and you may not “feel” them exfoliating your skin. That’s a good thing. With consistent use, they’ll give your skin a more refined texture without damaging it.
Many, but not all, chemical exfoliants should be used only one to three times a week (i.e. not as part of your daily skincare routine). Your goal is to clear away dead skin as it forms, not break down your epidermis entirely. No matter what chemical exfoliant you use, always check the product description for instructions on how often to use it. If you’re concerned about your skin having an adverse reaction, perform a spot test on a discreet part of your face, and then slowly integrate the product into your routine.
Whether you’re already a seasoned exfoliating expert or just getting started, we’ve rounded up the best chemical exfoliants to keep your skin feeling, and looking, fresh.
The Best Chemical Exfoliants for Men
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