29 Jan 2019

Taking The Fear Out Of Chemical Exfoliators

Are chemical exfoliators as scary as they sound?

2018 marked the start of new beauty discoveries.

Our eyes and minds were opened to the possibilities of endless skincare solutions, especially those that sounded a little off beat and interesting.

We covered retinoids and sheet masks last year, which are now go-to products in our beauty routine.

So as per our Beauty Resolutions for the upcoming year, we’re continuing our investigations into the world of beauty.

Join us on the journey to get the scoop on the trends, the pro’s, the con’s and whether or not they’re worth adding to our processes.

This week we’re investigating chemical exfoliators, a product which although doesn’t sound like it is for the faint-hearted, or perhaps the sensitive skinned amongst us is a lot friendlier in reality.

What Are Chemical Exfoliators?

Chemical or any acid-based exfoliants are products containing active ingredients, like BHA (beta-hydroxy acid), AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) or other enzymes.

Most products advertising clearer skin or spot busting ingredients will contain one of these.

They work by dissolving the connection between skin cells, which simply means skin can shed faster.

Exfoliating removes the build up on the skin which means skin is a lot smoother and luminous.

Most chemical exfoliators are quite watery which helps them to penetrate deep into pores to clean them and get rid of any trapped dead skin cells, which most scrub style exfoliators can’t do.

Will They Irritate Sensitive Skin?

Surprisingly, chemical exfoliators are a lot better than the regular alternative as they’re less abrasive to our skin.

So even those with sensitive skin will be able to use them.

However, anyone with underlying skin concerns such as eczema or dermatitis should stay clear of chemical exfoliants, unless given the all clear by a doctor, as they may further any skin issues.

How To Use Them

When starting to use the products, start by only using one to three times a week to allow the skin to re-adjust, then slowly increase the frequency.

Add these exfoliators to the beauty routine after cleansing. They can replace toners as they do the same job, if not better.

Note that there may be a tingling sensation at first, but this is normal, it’s just a sign it’s doing its job.

There are also chemical exfoliating masks, designed to be left on. These sink into the skin, work their action and are rinsed away.

Keep a close eye on the time recommended to leave these on as they can be a little stronger and if left on for too long, may cause irritation.

Exfoliants make our skin a little more sensitive in the sun too, so make sure to apply plenty of SPF before stepping into the sunshine.

The Products

Now we’ve all got the scoop, these products are where to start.

Dr Dennis Gross Skincare’s Alpha Beta Peel Extra Strength Daily Peel

These are one of the easiest products to use.

The clever little pads are pre-soaked to glide onto the skin and work miracles.

Massage the face with Step 1 for two minutes and follow with Step 2.

Indie Lee’s Gentle Daily Peel

In a similar vein are these by Indie Lee.

Formulated with natural hydroxy acids, these help to optimize skin clarity and tone.

Estee Lauder’s Perfectionist Pro Instant Resurfacing Peel

Estee Lauder is a VA favourite and this Resurfacing Peel does not disappoint.

It promises to leave the skin feeling baby soft and reduce without irritation.

The Ordinary’s AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

There’s a reason why this cheap yet cheerful product is at the top of beauty editors lists. Its clever formula is extremely powerful and really packs a punch.

The consistency a liquid looking a little blood-like, but apply all over the face, leave for no longer than ten minutes, and rinse away.

A fun and cheap way to get into chemical exfoliating.

Lixir Skin’s Night Switch BHA

Finally is a serum, which although aimed at ‘problem skin’, targets an abundance of skin concerns such as pores, fine lines and plumpness.

Chemical exfoliators suddenly don’t seem quite so scary.

It’s a step I definitely won’t be missing out on anymore.

Beauty Detective: Taking The Fear Out Of Chemical Exfoliation

dr dennis gross  ||  indie lee  ||  estée lauder  ||  the ordinary  ||  lixirskin

*this feature contains affiliate links

image, stock imagery

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You all over at VA are amazing investigators! I’ve never used “chemical” exfoliating methods, and even back in high school, every morning I’d put a scoop of raw oats in my palm, mix that with milk, and gently rub into my face. I always had a sense of skin care, but I’ve learned a lot over the years! These days, it’s just an off the shelf brand that I use but I may look into these products. Thank you again!


Our pleasure Anita…
We love our “detective” work and take it very seriously ;) ;)
Happy experimenting

Gaylyn Bennett

Hello clever ladies at VA,
I am an excited reader of your daily website…thank you for the emotional writings and fantastic research you have shared with all of us.
I have not commented before, but felt it necessary after reading today’s article on exfoliants.
I am 65, fair, and have sensitive skin. I am often complemented on my complexion and can honestly thank you for weeding through the multitude of products I did not waste my money on when looking for something new to try.
Getting to the point, (as I’m not sure of the time allowed here or the space) I have discovered M-61 Power Glow Peel…….created by Bluemercury Co-founder and CEO, Marla Beck. It’s fabulous! Similar to dr dennis gross peel pads, ( which are 2 step) but M-61 are a 1 minute, 1 step exfoliating facial peel. They are 100% Paraban-free and 100% synthetic fragrance-free… a good idea for sensitive skin.
Please seek out this product and give it a try.
Thank you again for helping all us feel a little better every day.


Thank you so much Gaylyn… we will most definitely.. This product sounds excellent and especially with your recommendation.

Deborah Sutherlin

I love your blog! One question. I use a prescription strength retinoid on my face and hands every other night over my moisturizer. Is it still safe to use an exfoliating cream also?


I wouldn’t think you need to use it very often but maybe once or twice a month would be a good treatment…as long as any harsh weather was not on your agenda the next day.


Hi Vicki and Team
Absolutely swear by the likirskin products and follow their website’s recommendation for use to the tee and am loving the results! This and Sunday Riley are my 2 favorite skin care regimes at the moment to alternate with at night and good spf moisturisers during the day. I find as I get older that less fuss at night, when all I want to do is fall into bed is good, and the lixirskin is so easy to use and consequently has become my fall back when I don’t have heaps of time. Love that you just add a few drops of one of the ‘Night Switch’ products to their moisturiser/emulsion and gently massage into face, around the eyes, neck, cleavage and I do the backs of my hands and that’s it. The very affordable price is a bonus and added to the results I am seeing, it really is a win win all round.


Sue, thanks for the reminder about the backs of hands. I apply moisturizer to my hands throughout the day but should do exfoliation too. Noted! Gold Bond Ultimate dry skin relief lotion for diabetics’ works wonders as a moisturizer for mature hands, feet and elbows.


Hi Vicki

There is another one I’ve used, and should use more often. I tend to forget. It’s called Makeup Artists Choice. They have a variety of peels and this is the one I’ve used.


There is another one by Derma-E which full name escapes me (maybe just daily peel??) but it’s gentle enough to be used daily. I bought it at Whole Foods, or maybe Wegmans, if memory serves. IE an upscale grocery store. That one always seems to make a difference too and I also tend to forget to use it. This is a good reminder, thank you.


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