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All exfoliators function differently and can help to improve your dry skin in different ways depending on your skin type. When picking a product to exfoliate your skin, there are some key ingredients to opt for and ones you should avoid. It’s also good to consider your skin’s needs.
The main dry-skin exfoliant types are granular scrubs and acid-based toners, but nowadays, there are exfoliating cleansers and moisturisers too. Pick the product you think will fit best within your skincare routine, or consider trying something new!
A face wash with exfoliating properties lets you remove dry skin layers whilst you go about your usual cleansing duties, so they're very easy to slot into your routine.
The downside is that you’ll potentially be exfoliating your skin daily, which isn’t ideal for drier skin types. Certainly if you do choose an exfoliating cleanser, something with very tiny gentle grains will work best.
Toners, which you run gently over your skin after cleansing using a cotton pad or facecloth, are often associated with oily skin, but the exfoliating versions – containing acids to work away dull surface layers – are very effective for dry skin, and penetrate deeply without causing tightness.
While it can be seriously tempting to scrub your skin raw in an attempt to reveal a glowing new you, the reality is that treating your dry skin roughly will often exacerbate things.
This is certainly a satisfying experience, and if done carefully it can be one of the best ways to exfoliate with instantly noticeable results. In addition, scrubs often contain natural oils which provide deep nourishment for dry skin as they work.
Many exfoliating products contain acids which gently dissolve the layer of dead cells that can lead to a dull, depressing complexion. Known as chemical exfoliants, they typically contain either AHAs, BHAs, or PHAs which can affect your skin in slightly different ways. Here's the lowdown on each.
Though they perform similarly, glycolic acid has a smaller molecular structure so can penetrate deeper, and may even help with acne as it has antimicrobial properties. However, this can lead to irritation in sensitive skin types or those prone to redness, which is why a patch test is generally advised.
Both types of acid have moisture-boosting properties and will leave skin feeling smooth and looking plump without aggravating skin cells like a scrub might.
However, BHAs are not to be overlooked completely for your dry skin, especially as there are many people with dry skin who still have congestion or blemishes to contend with! If you look out for an alcohol-free BHA-containing product, you’ll avoid the risk of drying out your skin that can be come from using these acids.
PHAs don’t penetrate as deeply as other types of acid, simply working on your skin’s top layer. This means they’re compatible with dry skin as well as more problematic conditions like rosacea and eczema. They can also improve the efficiency of other products in your routine such as your moisturiser, which is great news for thirsty skin!
Fruit extracts are also perfect to replenish your thirsty cells as they contain vitamin A – which accelerates the the reproduction of cells, meaning a fast turnover of brand new skin – and vitamin C, which boosts collagen product to add firmness and smooth fine lines.
Though almost all skincare products do contain hydrating ingredients, oils, and humectants, for dry skin it's worth remembering that the higher up on the ingredients list, the greater the percentage it contains!
Just as certain ingredients are a dream for dusty, thirsty skin, there are other names you should watch out for when shopping for exfoliators. Here are the two main culprits that will take your skin from dry to disaster if overused.
Alcohol is one of the most common skincare ingredients there is, but unfortunately (as you may well have experienced after several glasses of wine), alcohol can have a drying effect on the skin. Just as consuming it leaves us with a dull complexion, rubbing alcohol-rich products onto the skin can leave your face as thirsty and sad as a bad hangover.
Simple alcohols like ethanol and propanol are added to products for their antibacterial properties, while benzyl alcohol is a useful cosmetic preservative. However, these are the types to avoid if you have dry skin, particularly if it's easily irritated.
That being said, not all types of alcohol are necessarily the enemy. Fatty alcohols cetyl and cetearyl alcohol can actually be beneficial for dry skin as they have hydrating properties.
Once again, if you have particularly sensitive skin, check the ingredients list to avoid exacerbating your dry skin troubles unnecessarily. When using products containing alcohol or SLS, opt for ones with a lower content and make sure you hydrate your skin extra-carefully after each use.
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6. Superdrug Naturally Radiant Glycolic Acid Toner
The Best Glycolic Acid Toner from Skincare Experts
2. Paula’s Choice Exfoliating Lotion
Show Dead Skin the Door With a Gently Acidic Lotion
Neal’s Yard Remedies
1. Neal’s Yard Remedies Rose Facial Polish
An Organic Scrub That Exfoliates the Natural Way
3. Skinfood Korean Wash-Off Black Sugar Mask
Excellent for Acne-Prone Dry Skin
The Body Shop
5. The Body Shop Vitamin C Microdermabrasion Facial Polish
A Zingy Polish Packed With Fruit Nutrients
4. Radha Beauty Exfoliating Moisturiser with Retinol
Overnight Exfoliation to Wake Up Hydrated and Radiant
8. First Aid Beauty Radiance Exfoliating Pads
A Gentle Yet Effective Exfoliating Toner
La Roche Posay
9. Derma E Anti-Wrinkle Toner
Hypoallergenic and Soap-Free for Sensitive Dry Skin
10. Ren’s Clarimatte Clarifying Toner
AHAs and BHAS for Dry and Combination Skin
7. Clarins One-Step Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser
A Fruit-Infused Cleanser to Gently Renew
The Ordinary's incredibly popular toning solution contains a generous 7% dose of dry skin’s best friend; glycolic acid. It's pH formulated for maximum effectiveness, free from any unnecessary additives and chemicals, and really will improve the appearance and feel of your dry skin.
Easily incorporated into your routine, simply swoosh over your face with a soaked cotton pad to slough away tired old skin cells and fix an uneven skin tone and texture, all while soothing with aloe vera, Tasmanian pepperberry, and ginseng root. Affordable and effective, no wonder it's our winning exfoliator for dry skin!
Though made with quality, organic ingredients, this bottle will last for ages as just a small dab will suffice when lathered up with warm water. It's designed to be used once or twice weekly and is certainly gentle compared to other scrubs, plus, it's chock-full of hydrating plant oils too.
We also love that the formula is gentle enough to be used every day and a great all-rounder for many skin concerns including anti-aging, but especially those with dry skin that's also prone to acne, breakouts and pore congestion. At over fifty pounds it's a luxury buy, but if you fancy the splurge we won't blame you!
With a slightly milder 5% glycolic acid concentration than some toners, it contains just the AHAs your dry skin needs to penetrate through its rough surface layers without irritation. It's also alcohol-free and the addition of hydrating and soothing aloe vera gets our approval, too.
Using physical exfoliants to gently purify pores and eliminate dead skin cells, it's also ideal if you're looking to clear up breakouts, and, being non-comedogenic, it won't cause future congestion either. Follow up with a rich moisturiser and your dry skin will thank you!
The right caring and nourishing ingredients can bring real relief to dry skin, and with winter on the way, it's probably a good time to get your skincare arsenal sorted! Check out our suggestions for the best products to add to your routine.
Overall you can see that taking care to select the perfect exfoliator for your skin will have countless benefits. Whether you opt for a chemical or physical exfoliant to get rid of gloomy dead cells, remember everyone’s skin is different, so it’s always best to experiment carefully with a new product.
Author: Annie Hopkins
No. 1: The Ordinary ｜6. Superdrug Naturally Radiant Glycolic Acid Toner
No. 2: Paula's Choice｜2. Paula’s Choice Exfoliating Lotion
No. 3: Neal’s Yard Remedies ｜1. Neal’s Yard Remedies Rose Facial Polish
No. 4: Dermalogica｜3. Skinfood Korean Wash-Off Black Sugar Mask
No. 5: The Body Shop｜5. The Body Shop Vitamin C Microdermabrasion Facial Polish
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