How to exfoliate chemically without tearing up your epidermis, and why St. Ives is a tempting mistake
I can’t even begin to count the amount of times I’ve been standing in the skincare aisle, staring down at the appealing, $3 bottle of St. Ives Apricot Scrub. It smells good, it feels good and your skin always looks super healthy immediately following use. I always find myself wondering, Why did I ever stop using this last time? as I toss the tube into my basket.
Fast-forward three weeks: My skin is irritated, I’m mildly broken out and I find myself reaching for a gentler cleanser once again. Six months later, and the cycle repeats.
I get it. St. Ives is a really tempting product, as are other physical exfoliants. These products, usually containing microbeads (which have recently been banned by environmentalists because the tiny beads don’t break down in sewage systems, funny enough), exfoliate and clean your face by physically removing the dead skin on the surface. Sounds fantastic, right? And it is, when done sparingly. Much like the Clarisonic, overuse of products like these can really aggravate your face, because your dead skin cells (a) usually slough off naturally and (b) don’t regenerate between morning and nighttime.
It always frustrates me when exfoliants are marketed as two-in-one cleansers, because it misleads the consumer into thinking that both cleansing and exfoliation should happen every single time you wash your face. This isn’t true!
St. Ives’ products, while natural, are especially harsh offenders, because the exfoliants in their products are natural — i.e., they’re jagged fragments of apricot shell ground down into particle size. These fragments, while “natural,” are uneven and sharp, and they create something called microtears all over your face. Over time, this accumulation of microtears exposes the raw surface of your skin to even more bacteria and oil accumulation, which is why you may notice breakouts or redness after a few weeks of continued use.
I’ve been on the chemical exfoliation bandwagon for awhile, because I think the chemical breakdown of dead skin is more effective than physically scrubbing it off your face. Chemical exfoliants also attack premature wrinkling, which is a nice plus for those of us transitioning from adolescence to young adulthood and spent too many hours in tanning beds and on the beach. Plus, if you’re using a cleansing device like a Clarisonic, your skin is already being physically exfoliated (hopefully only once) daily.
I mentioned this product in one of my earlier posts, but the CeraVe Skin Renewing Cream Serum is an excellent chemical exfoliant gentle enough to use nightly. If you’re looking for something more high-end, I really like the Perricone M.D. Blue Plasma. It’s a non-acidic daily peel that you can use after cleansing and moisturizing each night, and it’ll leave you glowing. The downside? It’s $98. I’ve never purchased it for myself since it’s out of my price range (I used to get samples every so often), but if you’re desperate and have the cash, it’s a really nice product. I’m including a photo at the end of this post of my face after a week or so of using it — I literally got texts from friends back home saying, “Wow, you must really love Alabama, because you’re glowing!” Little did they know…
Thanks for reading!
All things beauty.