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Exfoliating is the third step in the routine right after cleansing.

Step 3

Exfoliating, also known as peeling, is essential for removing dead skin cells. When dead skin cells build up too much around the pores, it can cause blockage and inflamation to your skin, resulting in redness and acne. Exfoliators effectly help

Minimise pores

Improve circulation

Prevent breakout

Even out skin tones

Smooth out rough texture

There are two types of exfoliators. Physical and chemical.


Physical exfoliants use friction with fine grained particles to dislodge the dead skin cells. When you apply them onto the skin, you would need to massage the particles in a circular motion across the entire face. Some well-known natural exfoliants are sugar, seeds and grains.


Physical exfoliating can also be achieved with texture. The most well known exfoliant in the world is loofah. Its natural texture with strong fibre scrubs away dead skin cells effectively. Brands like Neogen have done something similar with their most renowned exfoliator pads where they are made embossed with special texture to achieve exfoliating results.


Tips: when using physical exfoliators, be sure not to be too harsh with force, as it can damage your healthy skin cells and result in irritation and redness.


Chemical exfoliants use acid and enzyme to remove dead skin cells without needing scrubbing, which some people prefer over physical exfoliants. The most commonly used acids are AHA, BHA and PHA. These acids are derived from natural sources like fruits.

AHA stands for Alpha Hydroxy Acids and it stays on the very surface of your skin to work towards removing the dead skin cells. They do so by breaking down the bonds between dead skin cells. AHA also has hydrating properties as it locks in skin's moisture.

BHA stands for Beta Hydroxy Acids. Due to its oil-soluble property, not only do they help remove dead skin cells on the surface, they also go deeper into the pores to help disolve sebum. This is why people with dry and sensitive skin may find BHA exfoliants too harsh.

PHA stands for Poly Hydroxy Acids. It's very similar to AHA, however PHA contains larger molecule sizes. This means it takes longer to be absorbed into the skin compared to AHA, resulting in a milder effect. Hence more suitable for sensitive skins.

Enzymes also remove dead skin cells by breaking the bonds between them. However, different from the acids, enzymes help exfoliating your skin without changing its natural pH level, less likely to irritate the skin.

Tips: when just starting on acid-type chemical exfoliator, choose a product with lower percentage of the acid; use a small amount weekly until your skin gets used to it. Then gradually increase to no more than 2-3 times per week. 

Image by Milad B. Fakurian

in the morning

Always apply sunscreen after exfoliating during day-time to avoid exposing sensitive skin to sun damage.

at night

Exfoliate 2-3 times per week to avoid dead skin cell build up. Use a skin calming/soothing sheet mask or sleeping mask after to avoid redness the next day.

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