Chemical exfoliants remove dead skin cells with the use of natural acids and enzymes that help loosen bonds between the cells so they slough off. They can be created from natural sources like sugar, fruits and milk. At AbsoluteJOI, we prefer these exfoliants because they are a great option for people with sensitive skin and have a lower risk of causing damage as compared with physical exfoliants. However, they do make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so you should wear sunscreen when using them. The two types of acids used in exfoliating skin care products are alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs).
The most common AHAs used in skincare are glycolic acid, which is made from sugar, and lactic acid, which is from milk. They are both water-soluble and work to gently release dead cells and debris from the surface of your skin. Glycolic acid is a smaller molecule and penetrates more deeply into the skin. Lactic acid is our favorite because it is a humectant attracting water to the skin, and is gentler, making it great for all skin types including sensitive skin. Both are effective in reducing the visible signs of sun damage and help with skin turnover to treat hyperpigmentation.
BHA’s include salicylic acid, which works inside pores; as it is oil soluble. It is the preferred exfoliating ingredient for oily acne-prone skin and helps relieve clogged pores and bumps, prevents blemishes, and reduces enlarged pores.
You can regularly use products at home that contain low concentrations of AHAs and BHAs. However, if you want to use products with higher levels of acids for a more aggressive exfoliation, go see a skincare professional qualified to use these ingredients in high concentrations. If you decide to get these services, make sure the skincare professional has experience in taking care of melanin-rich. When peels are too aggressive, they can cause burns and leave hyperpigmented scars. If in doubt, a gentle approach is always best.