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An Esthetician Weighs in on the Best Exfoliators to Use From Head to Toe

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When you think of essential skincare products, items such as face wash, moisturizers, and serums tend to come to mind. But exfoliators are just as important. While many women tend to shy away from this step in their skincare regimens out of fear of irritation, Florida-based esthetician and InstaNatural brand director Heather Wilson, LE, explained to FIRST why every woman should make them a part of their beauty routine. Keep reading to learn more about exfoliation and where to get your hands on one of the best exfoliators for your particular skin. 

What do exfoliators do? 

While skin cells naturally shed every two to four weeks, sometimes, they need a little bit of help — that’s where an exfoliator comes in. Exfoliation is the process of physically or chemically removing dead skin cells from the outer layer of your skin, something Wilson calls a “crucial element to skin health.” 

By exfoliating, you’ll be allowing the skin to properly breathe, a process that can aid in skin ailments such as clogged pores, ingrown hairs, and acne. 

If you’re still wondering if exfoliation is right for you, Wilson explains why your answer should be a resounding yes — particularly if you’re in your mature years. “Often when a client comes to me with skin struggles, it can be linked to improper or inadequate exfoliation,” she shares. “Our skin cells naturally renew, but as we age, the rate at which this occurs declines, which can cause signs of aging, dehydration, dull tone, breakouts, or general skin imbalance.” 

In need of a little more incentive? Wilson shares, “If your skin isn’t properly exfoliated, you reap fewer benefits from your skincare products.”  

By making exfoliation a dedicated part of your process, you’ll not only be helping your skin look its very best, you’ll also be super-charging your favorite lotions and potions to help them work their magic.

How to Use Exfoliators 

There are two types of exfoliators: physical and chemical. Physical exfoliation is the kind most of us think of when we hear the word exfoliation (think basic scrubs, loofahs, and body brushes). Chemical exfoliants, on the other hand, use compounds known as alpha and beta hydroxy acids, which work together in these skincare products to gently dissolve and remove dead skin (think exfoliating liquids, like glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acids). 

“While physical [exfoliators] provide great surface benefit and [have their] place in a [skincare] routine, I tend to recommend chemical exfoliation to most clients  — especially those that have aging or breakout concerns,” says Wilson. “While physical exfoliation forces the surface layer of skin off, chemical exfoliation works deeper to dissolve the sebaceous glue that is keeping the dead skin cells attached to the skin. Additionally, chemical exfoliants absorb deeper into the skin and offer enhanced results, such as boosted collagen, reduced look of pigmentation, or softened lines and wrinkles.”

Best Exfoliators for Women 

Ready to find your perfect exfoliator? We’ve rounded up 15 of the greatest ones on the market today, from best-selling facial formulas to scrubs that will keep your body velvety smooth, Keep scrolling for FIRST’s picks for the best exfoliators that will keep your face and body looking (and feeling!) its best. 

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