Exfoliation for beginners: what is an exfoliant & the benefits of exfoliating


Paula's Choice exfoliant: how to use

Exfoliating is a key step in your skincare routine. Gently removing built-up dead skin cells improves skin health and helps other products better penetrate the skin's surface.

A leave-on exfoliant can make a big difference for any skin type or concern and adding this step to your routine is the quickest and most effective way to get glowing, smooth, even-toned and hydrated skin.

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Why is it important to exfoliate your skin?

What is a chemical exfoliant? A chemical exfoliant is a product that includes an ingredient to "unglue" dead skin cells and help promote heathy cell turnover. These ingredients are usually AHAs (such as glycolic acid or lacid acid) or BHA (salicylic acid). AHA and BHA leave-on exfoliants gently remove the build up of dead skin cells without damaging your skin's outermost layer. They have numerous benefits including their ability to:

  • Gently but effectively smooth rough skin
  • Help unclog pores
  • Minimise the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Brighten and even out skin tone

How do you use Paula's Choice exfoliant for beginners?

Start by applying an exfoliant every other day and note your skin's response. Then use up to twice daily, as your skin becomes used to it.

STEP 1: Cleanse and tone
STEP 2: Using your fingers or a cotton pad, apply the exfoliant to your face and neck. Do not rinse
STEP 3: Apply your moisturiser. If you use an acid exfoliant during the daytime, always follow with a moisturiser with SPF 30 or higher.

What step in skincare is exfoliating?

You should apply your exfoliant after your cleanser and toner (if you use a toner) and before applying serums, treatments or moisturisers. When using an exfoliant during the day, always follow with an SPF rated 30 or above.

Should I use a BHA or AHA exfoliant?

So what is the difference between an AHA and BHA exfoliant ? AHA exfoliants are water soluble, so will only work on the skin’s surface. They are generally preferred for normal to dry or sun-damaged skin, as they can enhance the skin’s natural moisturising factors. Whereas a BHA exfoliant works on both the skin’s surface and deep inside the pores. It’s oil soluble, so best suited to normal or oily skin types.

bha products

BHA (salicylic acid)

BHA exfoliants can help with many different skin problems.

Recommended for:

✓ Oily skin
✓ Sensitive skin
✓ Breakouts and blackheads
✓ Rosacea-prone skin

Go to BHA Exfoliants
aha products

AHA (glycolic acid / lactic acid)

Water soluable AHA exfoliants work on the skin’s surface and aren’t suitable for more sensitive skin types.

Recommended for:

✓ Dry skin
✓ Sun damaged skin

Go to AHA Exfoliants
skin-care routine

Which texture of exfoliant should I use?

Paula's Choice exfoliants come in three textures, which are suitable for all skin types. The one you choose depends on personal preference, but some work particularly well for certain skin types. For example:

  • For dry skin: Lotion exfoliant
  • For combination skin: Gel exfoliant
  • For combination to oily skin: Liquid exfoliant

When to use Paula's Choice BHA

BHA has anti-inflammatory properties to soothe and calm red skin. It’s the best choice if you suffer from:

  • Clogged pores and bumps, as it easily penetrates pores and gently breaks up blockages that cause clogs. It can also be used if you suffer from Keratosis Pilaris
  • Sensitive skin: BHA has soothing properties that are ideal for sensitive, red skin, whatever your skin type

Try our award-winning, number one bestselling product worldwide: Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

It gently sheds dead skin cells, rapidly unclogs pores and reduces blackheads, leaving skin smoother, brighter and clearer.

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Why our customers use a Paula's Choice exfoliant


5 starsAlex

"Every time I finish this exfoliant I immediately get a new one, I remember 14 months ago when I tried my first bottle.. After 30 minutes-ish my skin completely changed.. It had a glow, not oily. My skin just changed. It's hard to explain but this exfoliant will be with me for life!"

Excellent product

5 starsJen7

"Since I started using this a few months ago I have had NO hormonal breakouts on my chin! The effect was immediate. It is the only product I have ever used that has consistently prevented breakouts. The pores on my nose have become less noticable and my combination skin with oily t-zone is much more 'normal' now. I only use it 2-3 times a week. I'll never go back to face scrubs!"

Life changing

5 starsLily

"I've had the worst skin of my life since I turned 20, a year later and I've tried what felt like every brand and every product but experienced continued dissppointment. This product has completely changed the game, I was doubtful to begin with so bought the sample size, only to buy the full size 2 days later! I love that you can use it twice a day, my skin is so much more comfortable (enough to barely wear any make up) and all of my acne like blemishes are clearing up!"

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