You go for the burn
istock/GSPictures There are many ways to exfoliate, which is the the number one way to get that covetable glow, even in winter. Physical exfoliants (also called manual exfoliants) are the most common, and they work by mechanically sloughing off the dead cells that make skin look dull. They include loofahs, granular cleansers (like sugar scrubs), a sonic brush, and microdermabrasion, as well as plain old washcloths—basically anything with a texture that you use to manually scrub your face. Physical exfoliants are not inherently bad; it’s how we use them, or abuse them, that presents problems. “People use physical exfoliates for too long, or they press too hard, and they exfoliate their skin away. That’s like giving yourself a first or second degree burn,” says dermatologist Neal Schultz, MD. “People make the mistake of thinking that if a little is good, more must be better, but that’s not the way exfoliation works,” he explains. When you’re too rough, or when you apply intense pressure, you can actually cause your blood vessels to break under the skin. If you’re bent on using a physical exfoliant, apply it with a tender touch, and don’t use it longer or more often than directed.
You’re not sensitive to the needs of your sensitive skin
istock/AzmanL The second most popular type of exfoliant is chemical, but many people avoid them, assuming they’re harsh (maybe because of the word ‘chemical’?), especially for sensitive skin. But chemical exfoliants can actually be gentler than scrubs. “Chemical exfoliants very gently dissolve the ‘glue’ that’s holding dead cells on, causing them to fall off, and uncovering brighter, fresher skin,” Dr. Schultz explains. “They’re available in varying grades, and many can be purchased without a prescription.” The three most effective types are alpha-hydroxy acid, beta-hydroxy acid, and retinoids, according to Dr. Schultz, who prefers glycolic acid, a type of alpha-hydroxy acid, for most skin types. For women with sensitive skin, including those who have had sun damage, alpha-hydroxy acids such as glycolic or lactic acid, are excellent choices. They glide on easily, exfoliating skin without the need for manual rubbing. Try Hydropeptide 5X Power Peel Daily Resurfacing Pads with a non-irritating blend of glycolic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid. Beta-hydroxy acids, such as salicylic acid, are excellent for people with coarsely-textured skin, acne, or large pores. Try Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant.