Chemical Exfoliation: Not as Radioactive as it Sounds

Stay tuned for an update on a new favourite in my skin care collection: Andalou Naturals’ Pumpkin Honey Glycolic Mask!

This is the side of exfoliation that gets me extremely psyched! It definitely is not as intense as it sounds, and can actually be quite gentler than the mechanical methods of exfoliation I mentioned in my previous post.

Chemical exfoliation refers to the use of certain chemicals to facilitate a sloughing off of dead skin cells, and these chemicals also promote the regeneration of new skin cells. When you see words like brightening, or regenerating, it is often referring to the chemical exfoliation process. This is the ideal method of exfoliation if your skin is dry, sensitive, acneic, or if you’d like to get rid of red/brown spots from acne!


The most common chemicals used to provide chemical exfoliation are AHAs, and BHAS (alpha & beta hydroxy acids). To find these ingredients in products, you want to look for ingredients called glycolic acid, salicylic acid, or lactic acid. offers a10% AHA 6 oz tube (or 16 oz) for a pretty decent price (not to mention their version of AHA is fragrance and dye-free, and specifically formulated for those with acne-prone skin).

AHAs work by encouraging the skin to regenerate itself, and using them will result in a thinner outer layer of skin, that reflects light better and ensures dead cells aren’t sitting on the surface, dulling your complexion.

There are unique benefits to using either of the AHAs mentioned, but they all work on the skin in similar ways. Salicylic acid, a BHA, works very well at exfoliating our pores. It is used in 2% doses for spot blemish treatments, but used in other concentrations in products to promote exfoliating of the skin.

From what I have read (and I did research for this article – I will specify my sources below), lactic acid is the most effective of the AHAs, as well as being less irritating. It must be said, though, that what works well for one person may not work at all for another.

A warning for those interested in using AHAs – they can make your skin sun-sensitive, so it is either best to invest in a good sunscreen / makeup with SPF, or to only wear your AHA products at night.

Retinol (or Vitamin A), is also a commonly used product in products that claim to be anti-aging, exfoliating, or brightening. It can be harsh if used too often, but definitely effective in a mask or treatment that you use 3 times a week!

Be sure to pick up a papaya, pineapple, or pumpkin fruit enzyme mask, if you’d like to try a gentler form of chemical exfoliation! Alba makes a really great one (IT IS CLEAR AND GREEN, HA!), that I really enjoyed.

You need not grab that facial scrub to get the super smooth and soft skin you so-eagerly desire!


The Dermal Institute:

Discovery Health: How to Exfoliate Skin:

Exfoliation (Cosmetology):

Acne.Org’s take on AHA: