Exfoliate Types Explained

Feb 7, 2023 | Skin Care

There are many types of exfoliate products available on the skin care market which include; chemical, grain, rice powder, fruit enzymes, cloths, and specific tools, to name but a few.

Exfoliates can be formulated with a cocktail of ingredients and may include multiple exfoliating forms in one.

The diverse range of product types means that there is product to suit everyone and their skin condition, for the face and the body.

Exfoliates are widely available for home use as well as professional use such as ‘Skin Peels’ and ‘Skin Resurfacing’ treatments. Ensure you undertake the treatment type at a clinic by a professional aesthetician.

Typical Types Of Exfoliates At A Glance

  • Rice Grain Powder
  • Grain
  • Exfoliate Beads – Source bio-degradable
  • Chemical
  • Herbs
  • Cloth
  • Sponge
  • Brush
  • Mechanical Tool

It is important to recognise that all of the exfoliates listed can be blended into a complex formulation of ingredients (with the exception of the brush, cloth and tool), which means that each type of exfoliate can be suited to a particular skin type providing the ingredients meet the criteria of the condition of the skin.

Let’s take a look at these exfoliates in more detail.

Rice Grain Powder
Generally, rice grain powder exfoliates are at the gentle end of the spectrum and most can be used daily on all skin types. The powdery rice grain is super soft and is not aggressive on the skin surface. An excellent option for sensitive, acne skin and vascular prone conditions where abrasion should be avoided. However, what is important to check; if there are any other ingredients in the product formulation that could disturb the PH of the skin as this could affect the NMF (Natural Moisture Factor), the natural barrier of the skin.

Grain Exfoliates
Grain exfoliates are available from smooth to coarse in texture, the latter being more aggressive therefore not suitable for the face. They often are composed of a variety of botanical ingredients such as seeds, nuts and herbs. Natural botanicals such as herbs can contain powerful properties providing a multitude of benefits to the skin as well as to exfoliate. It is important to check; if there are any other ingredients in the product formulation that could disturb the PH of the skin as this could affect the NMF (Natural Moisture Factor), the natural barrier of the skin.

Exfoliate Beads
Shells and fruit stones are used to produce the biodegradable exfoliant beads. They are formed to create a smooth, bead type structure. Only selected environmentally friendly beads as they provide a natural degradability.

Chemical Exfoliates
Chemical exfoliates breaks down the intercellular glue that holds dead, dull skin cells together. The loosened skin cells are then able to detach from the skin surface more easily.

Chemical exfoliates are water and oil soluble acid-based solutions that vary in concentration. They can be formulated in liquid, gel and cream consistencies and are non-abrasive when used solely in these forms and are an excellent option for skin conditions where abrasion should be avoided. Chemical exfoliates are also found in grain or rice exfoliates.

Types of chemicals include;

Salicylic Acid, a BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid) which is particularly affective to break down excessive sebum on the skin. This acid suits an oily, acne prone skin type.
Caution – Salicylic acid must be avoided during pregnancy & lactating.

AHA’s (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) some include; Lactic, Citric, Glycolic, Mandelic, Malic, Kojic, Azelaic, Resorcinol and Phytic are extremely affective in detaching the old unwanted skin cells improving skin texture, signs of ageing, discolouration, pigmentation and overall skin texture and radiance.

TCA (Trichloracetic Acid) is not an AHA or BHA, but a monocarboxylic acid. It is a caustic chemical, meaning that it has the ability to burn or corrode organic tissue. Users may experience redness and skin sensitivity, but to some this can out way the excellent results in skin renewal achieved. TCA is to be used very conservatively for first time users, and cautiously for all users.

Retinol is a form of vitamin A that is suitable for the skin. It belongs to a group of vitamin A derivatives, known as retinoids. Retinol increases the skin cell turn-over cycle resulting in new skin cells making their way to the surface quicker. Retinol is an antioxidant, and an important skin-restoring ingredient that can impact how skin cells mature. A clear, bright, even skin tone, and more youthful appearance is achieved.

Chemical exfoliate found in aqueous, alcoholic or hydroalcoholic solutions penetrate and act fast. Use all chemical exfoliates conservatively for first time, and cautiously thereafter.

The depth, intensity and effectiveness of the exfoliate change with the increase of the concentration of the chemical substance used, and its PH.

Their effectiveness is dependent on frequent use.

Enzyme Exfoliates
Enzyme exfoliate is also a type of exfoliation that breaks down the intercellular glue that holds dead, dull skin cells together. However, it works more gently than a chemical exfoliant to shed skin cells and speed up the skin’s natural exfoliation process.

Enzyme exfoliates are commonly derived from proteases and fruit. The three main kinds; Bromelain (sourced from pineapple and kiwi), Papain (also known as Papaya Fruit) and Cucurbita Pepo (pumpkin) enzyme, lemon and passionfruit. Generally found in a non-abrasive cream form which digest old dead skin cells and suits sensitive, active acne and vascular prone skin types where abrasion is best avoided.

Exfoliate Tools
Exfoliate tools such brush mechanical or manual, cloth rough or smooth and sponge types slough away the surface dead skin cells. These create a stimulating action which increases blood flow to the surface of the skin and should be avoided on sensitive, active acne and skin conditions. Prolonged use can irritate the skin, cause redness, rosacea and dilate capillaries which may become permanent.

Micro-dermabrasion is a controlled technical method of skin exfoliation, which uses crystals or a diamond tip to gently lift and remove dull, dead skin cells, layer by layer. The intensity is adapted to suit your skin and condition. The skin will instantly become taut, smooth, fresh and bright. Although home systems are available it is advised to undertake Micro-dermabrasion by a trained professional aesthetician.

You may be over exfoliating the skin without even realising. There might be chemicals and enzymes in all products used on the skin twice daily; in the cleanser, toner, serums, and moisturisers. With, in addition, the use a cloth or brush, this overload could be detrimental to skin health unless managed well.

Take care to apply a gentle light pressure when using a cloth, brush or tool. Avoid completely if you have a tendency to redness and sensitive skin.

Depending on the type of exfoliate, the application procedure will vary. Grain types generally need to be applied onto the skin, then washed off with lukewarm water.

Chemical and fruit enzyme exfoliates are so diverse it is important to follow the specific product manufactures guidelines.

If in any doubt, seek a professional skin expert’s advice.

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Author: Angela Taffinder the founder of Emporium Treatment Clinic. A practising Aesthetician for 35+ years, holistic and wellbeing advocate and yoga instructor.

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