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Your Guide to Chemical Exfoliation
Dana Manuel
Published on

For chemical exfoliation newbies, the idea of using acids on your face might be a little scary. In reality, chemical exfoliants do wonders for the skin. It gets rid of dead skin and accelerates cell turnover to give you healthy, glowing skin. This step is a must if you want a luminous, bright, and dewy complexion.

Ready to upgrade your skincare routine? Here’s everything you need to know about chemical exfoliation. 


Derived from plants, alpha hydroxy acid (lactic, glycolic, and citric acid) is suitable for sensitive skin because it gently sloughs off dirt and unwanted debris from the top layer of the skin, allowing new cells to develop. AHA is best for dry, normal, and sensitive skin types and great for treating rough patches and pigmentation.

iamClaire. Recommends: The Relumins Advance White Glycolic Max Soap (AHA-Mild Peel w/ Aloe) has glycolic acid to encourage gentle exfoliation.



The most common type of beta hydroxy acid is salicylic acid, a popular ingredient for acne treatment. Compared to AHAs, BHAs penetrate the pores deeper, making it ideal for oily and acne-prone skin. It also brightens the complexion, helps minimize large pores, prevents blackhead build up, and lessens the appearance of wrinkles.

iamClaire. Recommends: COSRX One Step Pimple Clear Pads are toner pads that contain betaine salicylate to reduce acne breakouts without dehydrating the skin. 


How to use

If you’re new to chemical exfoliation, ease your skin into it by using it only once a week, especially if you have sensitive skin type. AHAs and BHAs also have a tendency to increase photosensitivity, so consider doubling down on sun protection.

Don't use AHAs with other products that contain retinol and vitamin C. Mixed together, those ingredients may cause skin irritation or cancel out each other's benefits.

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Share your own experience with chemical exfoliation in the comments.