What is the most gentle exfoliant for sensitive skin? We rank exfoliants from gentle to harsh.

Exfoliation is actually more complicated than just giving your face a scrub every now and then. Knowing how the exfoliant is doing its' job and how gentle or harsh it is on your skin is really important. 

Let’s get started with a bit of background on exfoliation.…

Our skins' natural ability to regenerate largely slows with age. For those of us the 'wrong' side of 30, our regeneration cycle could take a month instead of as little as a week when we were kids. This means fewer of the younger, healthier skin cells are pushing through to the surface, leaving more dead skin cells in place. Sun damage and hormones can extend this cycle even further. Dead skin is scaly, thickened, discolored and rough (think of your heels pre-pedi), contributes to the appearance of lines and wrinkles and can cause clogged pores.

Exfoliation speeds up this natural process getting rid of dead skin cells.

Exfoliation seems pretty simple, right? Unfortunately, it isn't. There are many ways to exfoliate and some are harsh and can lead to sensitive and aggravated skin, while others are gentle but might not be that effective.

One of the most important factors to consider is the harshness of the exfoliating treatment: the more aggressive the treatment the less frequently it should be used.

The following list of facial exfoliators are ranked in order from mildest to harshest. In terms of frequency (please keep in mind this is a general observation and varies based on individual's skin condition and also the concentration of the treatments such as AHAs and BHAs), the rule of thumb looks like this: items 1-2 can be used daily, 3-5 weekly, 6 monthly , and 7-9 should be at the direction of your dermatologist.

  1. Washing face with cleanser and washcloth
  2. Minerals (fine particle clay-based exfoliant, such as BOA exfoliant)
  3. Scrubs (harshness depends on particles type: polyethylene microbeads, walnut shells, sugar and salt scrubs)
  4. Salicylic acid
  5. Enzyme peels (Subtilisin based)
  6. Glycolic acid/Lactic acid (low concentration can be used on a weekly basis)
  7. Home dermabrasion (Aluminum oxide small particles, small)
  8. Professional chemical peels (higher acid concentration)
  9. Professional Dermabrasion (Aluminum oxide medium particles) and/or (Diamond particles, coarse grit)

The other thing to note is the ability of the exfoliator to discriminate between dead and healthy skin. Indiscriminately removing healthy skin cells can leave your skin aggravated and extra sensitive to any creams and serums you may put on after your exfoliation.  Your skin may also be more sensitive to the sun. 

For example, BOA exfoliant is a unique natural clay exfoliant that has the ability to discriminate between dead and healthy skin, meaning it only takes away the dead skin cells and leaves the healthy skin in place. It is also self-regulating so you can keep exfoliating until all the dead skin has been removed. After that, the product stops working. There is never a risk of removing healthy skin. You can exfoliate every day with BOA if you like – you just might not remove as much one day as the next. The beauty of the product is that it is a customized exfoliator, tailored to your skin.  It knows exactly where your dead skin cells are on any chosen day - and it gets rid of them!  Almost like magic!

 

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