Chemical Exfoliation – Glycolic Retinol Enzymes Oh My!

chemical exfoliation

Chemical Exfoliation, there is a new way to exfoliate your skin and I am down with it! We are used to physical exfoliation i.e. using scrubs containing grains to exfoliate the skin. Depending on the type of scrub you use, these are not all bad. However if you use without caution you can damage your face! Not only that but exfoliators that contain little plastic beads is actually harmful to the environment!! The skin on your face is thinner than your body and therefore should be treated differently. Physical exfoliants can cause micro tears in the skin, mostly due to scrubbing too harshly or using too frequently. This in turn provides a home for bacteria causing breakouts and irritation. So while we think we are doing our skin good, we are actually damaging it. Here in comes chemical exfoliation. Don’t be scared, I’m going to try to break it down for you to make it less scary.

chemical exfoliation

When you see chemical exfoliation you probably think of face peels and bright red faces like Samantha from Sex In The City. Remember that episode? Fear not, you won’t be forced in doors or have to wear a veil. In salon, professional skin peels are a topic for another blog post. Here I want to talk about gently exfoliating your skin at home. Fortunately for us there is a product for everyone, all skin types and all budgets. Lets start with the benefits of chemical exfoliation.

Benefits Of Chemical Exfoliation

  • Less damaging to the skin by chemically loosening dead skin cells
  • Brighter Smoother Skin
  • Reducing appearance of fine lines
  • Plumper smoother skin
  • More even skin tone

Types of Chemical Exfoliation

I am not a qualified skin therapist so can not prescribe a course of treatment for your skin, however I can talk about the products I have used and share the knowledge I have learned through working in Aesthetic Nursing. Chemical exfoliation is the use of acids, enzymes or retinol to smooth the skin.

Acids refer to AHA’s (alpha hydroxy acids) or BHA’s (beta hydroxy acids). Glycolic Acid is probably the most commonly known AHA and my personal favourite, followed by Lactic Acid. Glycolic is gold standard as it is widely researched and has the ability to penetrate the outer layers of skin to reveal that beautiful skin underneath! Lactic Acid behaves similarly to Glycolic but works more slowly as it is larger in size.

BHA’s are more commonly known as salicylic acid. The difference between BHA’s and AHA’s are that AHA’s are water soluble while BHA’s are oil soluble. This is why you will find salicylic acid in products for acne prone or oily skin. They penetrate through oil to target pores with their antibacterial properties.

Retinol is a derivative of Vitamin A.

It is gentler than Retinoic Acid found in professional treatments, therefor available over the counter products. They both do the same thing but it takes longer for Retinol to show results. Slow and steady winning the race and all that! Most people give up on retinols (me included) as they don’t like the side effects i.e. dry peeling skin, redness, itching etc… The advice is to persevere for a few weeks, only discontinuing use if there is no improvement or the skin worsens.

Lastly we have exfoliants that contain Enzymes such derived from fruits like papaya or pineapple. These are just as effective at exfoliation but much gentler. These enzymes work by breaking down the protein (keratin) that binds dead skin cells to your skin. They are said to be more suitable for sensitive skin but like all of the other methods we are talking about today, you won’t know untill you try!!

Before we get onto product recommendations now that we have an understanding of what we are dealing with, here is where I tell you that SPF is essential once you introduce Chemical Exfoliation into your routine.

Chemical Exfoliation Product Recommendations

I have tested each of the products below for you and included as many options as I could for you to consider. The only products I do not have featured are those containing BHA’s as I have a dry skin. However, my followers have sent in recommendations which I will list below!!!

Products Containing Glycolic Acid

Alpha-H Liquid Gold is my holy grail glycolic acid!! I have repurchased this product over and over and judging by your recommendations, you guys love it too!!! Containing 5% glycolic acid this leaves my skin smooth without drying or irritation. You can buy for 40 euro HERE.

L’oreal Revitalift Laser Renew Anti-Ageing Glycolic Peel Pads contain 9.6% glycolic complex. These have a higher percentage of glycolic acid but also have soothing agents to prevent irritation. They are approx 30 euro and you can buy HERE.

Lacura Daily Glycolic Pads are under 4 euro and available at your local Aldi store. Seemingly good value for money as the pot houses 60 pads. Almost identical to the Nip and Fab pads that I have used in the past. However, I know the Nip and Fab pads have 5% glycolic. I can not find the percentage of glycolic in the Aldi pads listed anywhere. Glycolic is listed as its second ingredient so I’m hopefull it is at a high enough level to be therapeutic. The formula also contains fruits acids so it certainly ticks all the boxes.

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toning Solution has 7% glycolic acid. My skin felt tighter and drier than usual after using so it might suit you if you have oily skin. You can’t beat the price at under 10 euro, however I do encourage caution with The Ordinary. Lots of active ingredients and no real direction on how to use them. Tread carefully with this brand. If you do want to try their Glycolic you can purchase HERE.

Alpha-H Liquid Gold Resurfacing Cleanser is an option for you if that extra skin care step is too much for you! You get a second cleanse and exfoliation in one. Containing Glycolic and Lactic acids I use this maybe once a week as I prefer my Liquid Gold Lotion. You can buy for about 40 euro HERE.

Ren Ready Steady Glow AHA Tonic contains Lactic Acid so if your skin is sensitive to Glycolic Acid this might suit you better! Bottle has a really handy pump top and is slightly cheaper than Liquid Gold at 32 euro HERE.

Products Containing Retinol

Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules are the brands newest launch. I have only been trialling them for a few days but I wanted to include them in this post as I believe the formula might change your mind about Retinol. As I mentioned I gave up on retinol because I didn’t like the side effects. Elizabeth Arden have combined retinol with skin barrier protecting ceremides which prevent that drying and flaking effect. I am going to continue to use these for a month and update you in a dedicated blog post. You can purchase for 30 euro HERE.

Image MD Restoring Youth Cream is a product I used last year. Another retinol product that didn’t drive my skin crazy! It combines Retinol with Vitamin C and Glycolic Acid and was developed by plastic surgeons. Visit your local Image stockists for more information and to purchase.

Alpha-H Beauty Sleep Power Peel has 0.5% retinol and 15% glycolic acid so it is a powerful concoction of exfoliating properties. I would tread carefully with this if you are not used to using acids for exfoliation. Apply a little once a week building up the frequency of application. You can purchase HERE for approx 60 euro.

Products Containing Fruit Enzymes

Yonka Alpha Peel is a night time product containing hydrating :AHAs from lemon, orange, sugar cane, maple, blueberry as well as hyaluronic acid, urea and aloe vera. This is a beautiful product to use and doesn’t feel too harsh on my skin. It is under 60 euro HERE.

Elemis Papaya Enzyme Peel. I LOVE this stuff!!! It contains papaya and pineapple enzymes to gently smooth and ingredients that sooth and hydrate. I use this once a week without irritation or redness. If you have sensitive skin then this would be my top recommendation. You can buy for 41 euro HERE.

Mario Badescu Alpha Grapefruit Cleansing Lotion is a product I had a trial size of and then went on to purchase a full size. I love this in the mornings or before makeup application. It helps prevent that flakey skin you get around your nose after a few hours of wearing foundation. Anyone else struggle??? Containing grapefruit and lemon to revitalise and aloe to soothe, it is a beautiful product. It costs approx 18 euro HERE.

Clarins Gentle Exfoliant contains Tamarind and white nettle to give you brighter, smoother skin. I have been trialling it in place of my Mario Badescu Lotion over the past couple of weeks and I really enjoy using it. I feel my serums go on better and my foundation applies like a dream. I have been very impressed with Clarins skincare in recent times and a dedicated blog post is coming. You can buy the toner for 32 euro HERE.

Products My Followers Recommend For Chemical Exfoliation

  • Nip and Fab Glycolic Pads (very very popular)
  • Pixi Glow Tonic (again hugely popular. I have gifted this to friends, recommended to colleagues and purchased for my sister. It is definitely a great starting point. You can buy HERE.
  • Sunday Riley Luna (contains retinol, I haven’t tried it yet but lots of you raved. You can buy HERE.)
  • Skyn Iceland Nordic Peel Pads
  • Pestle and Mortar Superstar
  • Image Overnight Retinol Creme
  • Murad Retinol Range
  • Allumier
  • Enviorn Glycolic Toner

These were the most popular products or brands recommended by my Instagram followers. I haven’t tried them myself so I encourage you to do a little research and see for yourself. If you have any other suggestions then leave them under tonights Instagram post! Remember to slowly build up your tolerance before trying any new active product and discontinue use if irritation occurs. Oh and wear and SPF!!

Make sure you catch yesterday’s Double Cleansing Post HERE.

Louise xxx







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