When I first got into more natural skincare, I always imagined that I would have to give up my new found love for chemical exfoliation. I was heavily attached to the iconic Alpha-H Liquid Gold and what it did for my skin. Unfortunately, not only are Alpha-H not up to my anti-animal testing standards, but Liquid Gold's ingredients aren't up to scratch either.
Fortunately, chemical exfoliation also exists in the natural skincare world and I continue to favour it over physical exfoliants. Chemical exfoliants are much more suited to my combo/oily skin type and they offer quick (but also longer lasting) results without the risk of micro-tears. Of course, you still need to proceed with care with chemical exfoliation but as long as you are careful, it's a safe and relatively easy method for seeing quick results.
I use chemical exfoliants relatively often - maybe 2-4 times a week - but I have oily/acneic skin and skin types like mine are naturally more resistant to over-exfoliation. If you have more normal or dry skin, I would suggest only using them once a week. However, oiler skin types can still get damaged and it is important to follow product instructions and pay attention to how your skin reacts. If you've never used a chemical exfoliant before, it is common practice to start with lighter use (maybe 10 mins once a week) until your skin is used to it and you know your own limits. A patch test is never a bad idea either. It's also EXTREMELY important to religiously use SPF if you use chemical exfoliants as they do temporarily affect your skin's sensitivity to the sun (but you should really be using SPF anyway).
So what is a chemical exfoliant?
'Chemical exfoliant' refers to any product that uses 'chemicals' as their method of exfoliation as opposed to physical particles such as oats or almond meal. These chemicals usually consist of acids like lactic acid, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, or a combination of a couple. Each acid has a slightly different effect on the skin. I've haven't had much experience with lactic acid, but I find glycolic to be mainly brightening & resurfacing and salicylic to be de-clogging and calming on acne.
This beautiful Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask from old favourite Herbivore Botanicals is true luxury. The inclusion of blue tansy gives the mask and absolutely stunning blue colour and a spa-like scent, whereas the aloe vera base makes for a cooling and soothing texture. This mask's formulation is more liquid and so you only need a thin layer to see it working. I find this one to be gentler than the others but maybe overall more effective as this means I can apply it for longer and more often. This mask uses salicylic acid (in the form of willow bark extract) and various fruit acids and I find it most effective at calming cystic acne breakouts and healing them without any major scarring. This mask is great if you have skin prone to acne that can be sore and inflamed.
The Madara Brightening AHA Peel Mask* is a great option if you prefer something easy and low maintenance. It's easy to wash off quickly and the small packaging and squeeze tube also makes it great for travel. In my experience, this is the middle ground when it comes to these masks. It is a little bit stronger than the Herbivore mask, meaning I don't usually leave it on longer than 15-20 minutes as it can be irritating. However, it's super effective at loosening up skin cells and my face is also super smooth after using it. This mask uses lactic acid and it's great for tired skin, ageing skin, or just when you need a little glow.
Last but not least, we have the Bravura London Salicylic Acid 2%. In fact, this is the strongest of the bunch and can be more accurately described as a peel rather than a mask. This option is not strictly natural meaning that the acid involved is highly potent (and also highly effective). I turn to this when my skin is seriously playing up and calling out for a good de-clogging. This water-like formulation can be used in a variety of ways. It is marketed to be left on for about ten minutes and then washed off, but I have also used it as a leave-on spot treatment to great success. However, with this one I definitely suggest sticking to the instructions if you're a beginner and definitely patch testing if your skin can be sensitive. As mentioned this is truly calling in the big guns and works well on skin that is congested and/or acneic.
What are your favourite brightening masks?
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