Help with Choosing the Exfoliant

Radiant skin thanks to the Exfoliant

You can find this in more of my blogs; exfoliating is a very important part of good skincare. And there is no other product that will give you such fast results! Your skin will have a fresh radiance and an even aspect. But exfoliating needs to be treated carefully, if not then your skin won’t improve at all… As I receive many questions about exfoliating and the lack of good exfoliating products, once again some further explanation together with a few example products below to help you in choosing.

How do you use an Exfoliant and what does it do?

With exfoliating, people immediately think of scrubbing the skin. Although you can also remove dead skin cells by using a cream containing fine granules, exfoliation of the skin with an “acid” is based on a different principle. The Exfoliant is an unknown product for a lot of people. But there is a great deal of independent and scientific proof of the effectiveness of exfoliating ingredients such as Lactic Acid, Salicylic Acid or Glycolic Acid.

The effects of an Exfoliant

Although the cosmetics industry will sometimes let us believe that these type of ingredients are new, they have actually been in use for a long time. While at a young age help is not required, the natural removal of dead skin cells becomes more difficult after the age of 25. As a result of the build up of dead skin cells the skin becomes dull and grey and there is an increased risk of impurities and flaking. Because an Exfoliant removes dead skin cells the surface of the skin becomes more smooth giving it a fresh, even and radiant appearance. But, depending on the concentration used, an Exfoliant does even more:

  • It can improve collagen production,
  • It can reduce pigmentation,
  • It prevents sebaceous glands from becoming blocked: therefore reducing the chances of spots,
  • It retains moisture,
  • And according to scientific papers, Glycolic Acid (provided it is used in combination with a sun cream) can reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Glycolic Acid and Salicylic Acid

The two most researched exfoliating ingredients are Glycolic Acid and Salicylic Acid. With very promising results, provided they are used in the correct way and in suitable concentrations! Glycolic Acid is water soluble and the fruit acids have the smallest molecular size. This enables it to penetrate more deeply into the skin, but can also cause irritation. It is particularly suitable for the more mature or dry skin that is less sensitive. Salicylic Acid is fat soluble and penetrates deeper into the pores. This makes this ingredient more suitable for oily skin with blackheads and spots. As it causes less irritation it is also suitable for sensitive skin. The more recent Poly Hydroxy Acids Gluconolactone and Lactobionic Acid, like Salicylic Acid, have a slightly larger molecule and are therefore more mild for the skin, but according to a number of recent studies, they are also less effective. Choosing a product with Niacinamide is another option for people with very sensitive skin, this also has a mild exfoliating effect.

Choosing fruit extracts as an Exfoliant?fruitzuren

The fact that many of the exfoliating substances occur naturally in fruit, has ensured that fruit extracts are regularly used in cosmetics. Unfortunately this is not the same. In fact, some of these extracts can be very irritating to the skin without having any beneficial effects. Even so, ingredients such as citrus and orange extract are added to the ingredients list because of the positive association which has been deliberately generated by the cosmetics industry. So choosing these products is usually not a good idea.

The conditions of use: choosing the right percentages

In order for an Exfoliant to be effective, one requirement is choosing a product with a high enough concentration: if you really want Glycolic Acid to exfoliate properly then a concentration of around 8% is required. In concentrations of less than 5% Glycolic Acid mainly retains moisture and works as an anti-oxidant. Salicylic Acid is not effective as an exfoliant under 0.5%. In order to be effective, a concentration of 1-2% is recommended. The concentration used is usually stated on the packaging. As a general rule you can expect an exfoliating ingredient to be found in each case, in the first third of the ingredients list. Glycolic Acid, in concentrations of up to 70%, and Salicylic Acid, in concentrations of up to 30%, are also used in peelings. The same applies to both Glycolic and Salicylic Acid peelings: The higher the concentration the deeper the peelings can penetrate and do their work. That also means more irritation and a greater risk of complications but also a better result. Before someone starts a peeling process, it is recommended that the skin is prepared by using a Vitamin A Acid or a cream with a low concentration of an exfoliating ingredient. Even then, the concentration of the peeling must be gradually increased. As there is a risk of a complication, peelings with high concentrations must always be carried out by a Doctor, or a Skin Therapist working under the direct supervision of a Doctor.

The pH value of an Exfoliant

Apart from the concentration used, another factor of great importance is the pH value. If the pH is too high then the substances neutralise and their effectiveness is lost, and if the pH is too low the substances irritate the skin. The optimal pH is between 3 and 4. This means that an exfoliating substance cannot be added to a normal day or night cream. Exfoliants which are claimed to be mild are often “neutralised” and not effective. Although you can test the pH of a product with so-called litmus paper this is probably not so easy in practice. If you don’t know it then contact the manufacturer.

Be careful!

My advice is to gradually increase the use of an Exfoliant. In this way you can keep an eye on how your skin reacts to this product. Is it going well? Then you can increase its use. Is the skin irritated? Then take a step back. Almost everyone will benefit from using an Exfoliant and almost everyone can, with a good “step-up programme”, get used to these products. Depending on your skin type, you can eventually use an Exfoliant every day. Try and find out what is the best for yourself. Always take a step back if your skin starts to become irritated. For more information you can read the blog ‘An Exfoliant; Instructions for Use’.

If your skin is more sensitive or if you suffer from Rosacea, I would recommend choosing an exfoliant containing Salicylic Acid. Glycolic Acid may be too overpowering for this type of skin. As an Exfoliant can cause some irritation, especially at the beginning, it is important that the product also contains soothing ingredients. Although many exfoliating substances also have an anti-oxidating effect and can therefore protect against sun damage, the skin can also become more sensitive to sunlight through its use. This is due to the removal of dead skin cells which makes the stratum corneum (uppermost skin layer) become thinner. So protecting against the sun is even more important when using an Exfoliant!

Product advice

I am often asked to help in choosing branded products. A good question, but not so easy to answer as you can see from what you have read above. After much detective work, I’ve managed to succeed in finding some products. You’ll find them below.

For the (somewhat) oily skin which shows impurities such as blocked pores:   

 

Dr. Jetske Ultee Exfoliant (normal to oily skin) – 1% Salicylic Acid*

Contains 1% Salicylic Acid and has the correct pH 3.5 to 4.

Ingrediënten: Aqua, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Citric Acid, Salicylic Acid, Methyl Gluceth-20, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Evodia Rutaecarpa Fruit Extract, Allantoin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Sodium Hydroxide, Ethylhexylglycerin, Butylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA.

(Last updated April 2017)


Oil Control Gel by Neostrata *

Contains 4% gluconolactone & 4% mandelic acid and has a pH Value of 4.

Aqua (Water), Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone, Gluconolactone, Mandelic Acid, Glycerin, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, PEG/PPG-18/18 Dimethicone, Polysorbate 20, Sodium Chloride, Silica Silylate, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Chlorphenesin, Ammonium Hydroxide

(Last updated April 2017)


T.L.C. Raspberry Glycolic Night Serum by Drunk Elephant

Contains a combination of Glycolic acid (12%), Salicylic Acid (1%) and lactic acid plus soothing ingredients. pH between 3.8 and 4.

Water, Glycolic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Citric Acid, Lactic Acid, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Aesculus Hippocastanum (Horse Chestnut) Seed Extract, Arctostaphylos Uva-Ursi Leaf Extract, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit Extract, Buddleja Davidii Meristem Cell Culture, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae (Yeast) Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Juice Extract, Opuntia Ficus-Indica (Cactus) Extract, Sclerocarya Birrea (Marula) Seed Oil, Allantoin, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Propanediol, Xanthan Gum, Galactoarabinan, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Disodium EDTA, Hexylene Glycol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjustor), Phenoxyethanol.

(Last updated April 2017)


Clear Days Ahead / Oil-Free Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment & Moisturizer by Philosophy *

Contains 1% Salicyl Acid, but pH is unknown.

-1% Salicylic Acid
Water, Dimethicone, Polysilicone-11, Butylene Glycol, Acacia Decurrens/Jojoba/Sunflower Seed Wax/Polyglyceryl-3 Esters, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Sodium Acrylates Copolymer, Squalane, Lecithin, Oligopeptide-10, Tocopheryl Acetate, Trimethylpentanediol/Adipic Acid Copolymer, Octyldodecyl Neopentanoate, Ceteareth-20, Cetearyl Alcohol, Polysorbate 60, Ppg-12/Smdi Copolymer, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Ethoxydiglycol, Sodium Hydroxide, Disodium Edta, O-Cymen-5-Ol.

(Last updated April 2017)

 

* = Also suitable for very sensitive skin, whether dry or oily.

 

 

For the (somewhat) drier skin, or skin which has been damaged by the sun, and/or shows some flaking, but is not very sensitive: 

Dr. Jetske Ultee Exfoliant normal to dry skin – 1% Glycolic Acid

Contains 8% Glycolic Acid and has the correct pH Value (3.5 to 4). Also contains the ingredients bètaglucan and allantoïn which help hydrate and repair the skin. This Exfoliant is best suited to drier skin types with some sun damage (such as pigmentation spots) and perhaps some flaking.

Ingrediënten: Aqua, Glycolic Acid, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Sodium Hydroxide, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Methyl Gluceth-20, Sodium Carboxymethyl Betaglucan, Allantoin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Ethylhexylglycerin, Disodium EDTA, Citric Acid.

(Last updated April 2017)


Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant by Paula’s Choice

This Exfoliant also contains 8% Glycolic Acid and has a good pH Value between 3.5 and 3.8, plus other important ingredients.

Ingrediënten: Aqua, Glycolic Acid , Sodium Hydroxide, Chamomilla Recutita Flower Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice , Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Panthenol , Sodium PCA, Propylene Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Polyquaternium-10, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate.

(Last updated April 2017)


Glycolic Acid 10% Hydrating Gel by Peter Thomas Roth

Contains no less than 10% Glycolic Acid, but unfortunately the pH Value is unknown. I’m also not so thrilled with the preservative Imidazoldinyl Urea.

Water (Aqua), Glycolic Acid, Glycerin, Ammonium Hydroxide, Arginine, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A), Ascorbyl Palmitate (Vitamin C), Phospholipids, Methylparaben, Imidazoldinyl Urea, Disodium Edta, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Bht, Alcohol Denat.

(Last updated April 2017)


Resurface Ultra Smoothing Cream by Neostrata

8% Glycolic Acid and 2% Citric Acid and a pH Value of 3.8.

Aqua (Water), Glycolic Acid, Cetearyl Alcohol, Ceteareth-20, Decyl Oleate, Isopropyl Palmitate, Citric Acid, Propylene Glycol, Isocetyl Stearate, Arginine, Isostearic Acid, Ammonium Hydroxide, Dimethicone, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Dicetyl Phosphate, Ceteth-10 Phosphate, Shea Butter (Butyrospermum Parkii), Phenoxyethanol, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Xanthan Gum, Disodium EDTA, Chlorphenesin, Methylparaben

(Last Updated April 2017)


T.L.C. Raspberry Glycolic Night Serum by Drunk Elephant

Combination of Glycolic Acid (12%), Salicylic Acid (1%) and lactic acid. pH Value between 3.8 and 4.

Water, Glycolic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Citric Acid, Lactic Acid, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Aesculus Hippocastanum (Horse Chestnut) Seed Extract, Arctostaphylos Uva-Ursi Leaf Extract, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit Extract, Buddleja Davidii Meristem Cell Culture, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae (Yeast) Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Juice Extract, Opuntia Ficus-Indica (Cactus) Extract, Sclerocarya Birrea (Marula) Seed Oil, Allantoin, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Propanediol, Xanthan Gum, Galactoarabinan, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Disodium EDTA, Hexylene Glycol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjustor), Phenoxyethanol.

(Last updated April 2017)

 

 

Regards Jetske

(Dr. Jetske Ultee-Research Physician Cosmetic Dermatology)

You can read more blogs about the Exfoliant:
The Removal of Dead Skin Cells; An Exfoliant or Scrub?’
An Exfoliant; The Instructions for Use
The Secret of Exfoliating: Glycolic Acid or Salicylic Acid’
An Exfoliant as Part of the Step-By-Step Plan’
Glycolic Acid’

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