Chapter 12: Let’s Talk About Liquid Exfoliants

Beauty Book

Exfoliating has always been an important part of my skin care routine. I used to stock up on physical exfoliants like the once-famous St. Ives Apricot Scrub (which I’m sure was on everyone’s shelf once upon a time) before finding out that it was doing more damage than good to my skin.

I introduced liquid or chemical exfoliants to my routine not too long ago and I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with them. As much as I love physical scrubs, I find that they don’t provide as many benefits as liquid exfoliants do.

For this chapter, I’m giving you the lowdown on liquid exfoliants and how they can change your skin’s life.

According to the Pinterest 100 roundup of beauty trends for 2019, liquid exfoliants are predicted to be big this year.

First, let’s talk about the differences between physical and liquid exfoliants. While these two exfoliants might do the same thing, the difference lies within their texture. Physical exfoliants contain various fine granules or scrubs while liquid exfoliants are formulated with acids such as AHAs, BHAs and PHAs.

Aside from the formulation, the way each type works and benefits the skin differs. Physical exfoliants can effectively slough off dead skin cells and give you that smooth, baby-like skin, but this is just at the surface level.

Liquid exfoliants are one step ahead, as not only do their ingredients exfoliate the skin’s surface, but they also penetrate below to remove dead skin cells that clog pores. They can also help with cell turnover and, apart from improving skin’s texture, the acids are also the secret ingredients to bright and glowing skin!

Now that you have an idea of what liquid exfoliants are, let’s talk about the different types and which products to try.

If you’re looking for smoother skin, go for AHAs.

Glycolic acid and lactic acid are the most common types of AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids); they’re effective at removing the upper layer of dead skin cells and evening out a bumpy or uneven skin tone. You’ll see a big difference in your skin’s health, especially if you have dry or mature skin, as AHAs are known to stimulate the cell renewal process and smooth out fine lines.


If you have oily and acne-prone skin, go for BHAs.

Unlike AHAs, BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids) are oil-soluble so they can penetrate beyond the surface of skin and deep into the pores. If excess sebum, blackheads and acne are some of your concerns, leave it to BHA to solve these pesky issues!

To treat acne, the best type of BHA to look for is salicylic acid. This type of exfoliant can get rid of dead skin cells that clog pores, and also offer anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial benefits. For oily skin, BHA is like a magic potion since it helps dissolve excess oil.


If you have sensitive skin, go for PHAs.

You think AHAs and BHAs are game-changers? Wait until you meet PHAs, also known as Polyhydroxy Acids. Although PHAs don’t penetrate as deeply as BHAs do, they improve the skin’s surface (for example, reducing pigmentation and locking in moisture) without causing irritation or redness.

If you’ve tried AHA- or BHA-based exfoliants and received a strong tingling sensation, chances are your skin is too sensitive for them. Luckily, PHAs are mild enough to exfoliate sensitive skin, even if you have eczema or rosacea.


So when exactly do you use liquid exfoliants and what are some things to watch out for? For starters, if you’re new to liquid exfoliants, slowly incorporate them into your routine, at first once a week before building up to two or three times a week. If you have sensitive skin, do a patch test first in case the acid is too strong for your skin – based on my experience, it’s worth doing this to avoid any unwanted skin reactions or breakouts!

The main things to watch out for are 1) don’t over-exfoliate as this can damage and weaken your skin’s natural barrier, and 2) always wear sunscreen if you’re applying acids in your morning routine as they make your skin more sensitive to the sun.

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