Want to banish breakouts? Liquid exfoliants hold the key to unlocking a clearer complexion.
Before we get into how liquid exfoliants (also known as chemical exfoliators and acids) can help prevent blemishes, let’s first recap what causes breakouts to form in the first place. Spots are formed when dead skin cells and sebum (the oil within your skin) build up and create a blockage. Think of it like a traffic jam in your skin, caused by a barrier placed in the middle of a busy road. With traffic unable to pass through, a queue of cars will form behind it, complete with irate drivers.
Our skin is constantly in the process of creating new skin cells, which in turn pushes older cells to the surface. As we age, the rate at which our skin turns over these more mature cells slows, and it holds onto them for longer. The more dead skin cells there are hanging around, the higher the chance of blockages, as oil has nowhere to go. This leads to congestion, and is why some people find that they experience more breakouts as they get older.
This is where chemical exfoliants come in. They work to dissolve the glue that holds dead skin cells to the surface, whisking them away from your complexion. With these out of the way, the oil within the skin can flow more freely. To continue the traffic jam analogy, the traffic barrier has been removed, allowing cars to pass.
Chemical exfoliants have become increasingly popular not only for their complexion-boosting effects, but also as they treat the skin in a really respectful way. When we have breakouts, there’s a tendency to retaliate with force. But scrubbing at an already inflamed spot will only make it more angry, increasing not just redness but also the risk of scarring. Liquid exfoliants just need to be swiped or smoothed onto the skin and left to work their magic – no rubbing required.
As with all things related to skincare, it’s important to remember that everyone’s skin is different, and what may work for one person may not work for another. The most commonly recommended chemical exfoliants for tackling blemishes are beta-hydroxy acids (or BHAs for short) like salicylic acid. Unlike alpha and poly-hydroxy acids which are water soluble, salicylic acid is oil soluble – a feature that makes it perfect for bringing down breakouts. It will not only help to lift away dead skin cells on the surface, but dive into the pores too, clearing congestion. If you have regular breakouts and count spots as your number one skin concern, then a beta-hydroxy acid is a great choice.
If you have occasional spots or skin that is sensitive, you may want to consider a poly-hydroxy acid instead. The next generation of chemical exfoliants, they have a larger molecule size than AHAs and BHAs, meaning they are unable to penetrate the skin as deeply. They’re therefore gentler, but still offer effective exfoliation. Think of BHAs as a really deep cleanse and PHAs as a light dust and polish. Both will help to remove dirt and debris, but at different strengths.