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Baalm's Guide To Exfoliation

Ever feel like there’s something missing from your routine? Is your skin feeling a bit rough around the edges? This is when exfoliation comes in handy. Exfoliation removes the dead skin buildup from your skin. When implemented regularly, it retexturizes, lightens acne scars and hyperpigmentation, and clears out clogged pores. While we are truly blessed to have so many options with which to exfoliate, this can be a blessing and a curse: wading through option after option can be exhausting and overwhelming. True to form, we have gathered your options into one handy place so you can decide once and for all which form(s) of exfoliation is best for you and your skin.

What Kind: Mechanical

What It Is: Any kind of exfoliation that requires a tool, like a Clarisonic or even a washcloth, that physically lift away dead skin cells.

How To: You can use any exfoliating tool of your choosing and gently massage over damp skin with your cleanser (also your choice!).

How Often: As addicting as they can be, only use your tool 1-2x a week, 5x if you don’t use any other method of exfoliation. For those of us with sensitive skin, try exfoliating once a week so as not to aggravate skin.



The ever-famous cleansing brush. The great thing about Clarisonic is that they offer multiple heads that cater to different skin types. There’s one for acne-prone skin, sensitive skin, dry skin, you name it! This brush’s bristles get deeper into pores than traditional cleansing and exfoliating, making sure all your nooks and crannies are sparkling clean.


Sure these look like a sex toy sitting in your bathroom cabinet, but that’s totally chill. The Foreo Lunas also comes in different bristle patterns for different skin types. This one is made from waterproof silicone which is nonporous so it won’t hold onto bacteria–definitely something to consider with other face brushes!

Aquis Exfoliating Washcloth

This is a bit rougher in texture than your average washcloth for prime exfoliation, so it should be used sparingly and not as an everyday situation. As with all washcloths, remember to wash this one frequently because wet towels are a breeding ground for bacteria.

What Kind: Physical

What It Is: Physical exfoliation encapsulates the scrubs of the world. Physical exfoliators contain solid particles that smooth the skin by rubbing off and lifting dead skin cells away.

Also, a quick environmental disclaimer: many scrubs use microbeads, which are teeny tiny plastic particles that do not degrade. When you wash your microbead scrub down the sink, they go into the ocean, and then into little fishies’ bellies. Always be sure to use a scrub that has an environmentally-friendly alternative!

How To: Dispense a small amount of scrub into your hand and then gently massage into damp skin. When I say gently I mean gently. Think of your face like a baby’s bottom, you’d never vigorously scrub! It’s too cute and precious and delicate! Well, news flash: so is your face. If you look super red and your skin feels irritated, you may have chosen a scrub that’s too intense for you. In that case, go for a micro-scrub, which has smaller particles.

How Often: Same as mechanical, about 3x a week, once if you’re a sensitive angel.


Ren Micro Polish Cleanser

This one has very fine beads that are super gentle and won’t tear your skin a new one. It has clean ingredients and uses amber for its microbeads, so no bad stuff will end up in the ocean. Win-Win!

Acure Brightening Facial Scrub

This looks like poop, but I find that most good things do. This scrub is all-natural and cruelty-free and uses walnut shell powder as its exfoliant. If you have sensitive skin you should probably steer clear of this one. It contains lemon peel and french clay, and the walnut powder can be a tad rough.

Caudalie Gentle Buffing Cream

This scrub (if you can even call it that) is one of the most gentle ones out there today. It’s suuuuper fine and creamy with grape oil and honey to nourish. This one is for you if you are sensitive and/or dry.

Want to see if these products are right for your skin goals? Check them out on rateyourroutine.com!

What Kind: Chemical

What It Is: Chemical exfoliation is a process in which AHA and BHA acids (such as glycolic acid and lactic acid) lower the skin’s pH to loosen and break down the glue that holds dry skin cells onto the rest of your skin. AHAs are water soluble, which means they give a more surface-level exfoliation, while BHAs are oil soluble so they can break through the oil in pores.

How To: Apply a small amount to freshly-cleansed skin. Depending on whether the product is a mask, you will either leave it on for the specified time or if it’s a toner, apply it with a cotton pad and leave on.

How Often: No more than a couple times a week. Chemical peels can be a lot for your skin to take so be conscious of using them too much! Telltale signs of over-exfoliation are redness, sensitivity, and peeling.


Biologique Recherche Lotion P50

This cult classic exfoliates, hydrates and balances the skin. It has lactic acid, salicylic acid and onion extract, which makes it smell like garbage juice, but it’s worth it. If you have sensitive skin, this formulation will burrrrn, but they do have gentler versions as well!

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

This is a quick 10-minute peel for v cheap. Just leave it on, go about your business, and then rinse off. This one is an amazingly affordable option, but sensitive skin beware, leave this one on only for 3 minutes.

First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads

These bad boys are alcohol-free with soothing cucumber extract, which makes them the perfect fit for sensitive skin.

What Kind: Enzyme

What It Is: Enzymes are derived from fruit and give a gentler exfoliation compared to acids or physical exfoliation. Enzymes break down the keratin protein on the surface of the skin but take a longer time to work than acids. Enzyme exfoliation is best for sensitive skin that doesn’t respond well to chemical or physical exfoliation.

How To: Enzymes are activated by water and best applied to damp skin in a mask form and left on for the specified time so they can do their work.

How Often: It’s recommended to do an enzyme mask about 1-2x a week


Peter Thomas Roth Pumpkin Enzyme Mask

This mask uses pumpkin enzymes, AHAs and crystal particles for a triple-action exfoliation. Leave this one on for 3-7 minutes and rinse off.

Renee Rouleau Dual Enzyme Softening Peel

This one is specifically formulated for sensitive skin using pineapple and papaya enzymes and a creamy, nourishing base. When used weekly it will brighten skin and reduce fine lines.

Alba Papaya Enzyme Facial Mask

This $6 is a bang for your buck! It’s packed with papaya and pineapple enzymes and is free from harsh chemicals like sulfates, phthalates, and parabens. Throw this one on for 5 minutes before makeup application and you’ll be glowing, sis!

Photo via ITG

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