Master Class in Exfoliation with Dr. G

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Get ready to put an end to exfoliation confusion. 

AHA, BHA, salicylic, glycolic, lactic, exfoliation, concentration.  Give us a few minutes, and we’ll make it easy for you to choose – with zero fear of your head exploding.

Saying good-bye to decision fatigue has never felt so good, weary skin care shopper. We’ve got dermatologist Dr. Goldfaden, sharing his smarts with us. With 40 years as a practicing dermatologist and decades spent researching and creating products, Dr. G’s gonna make sure we get things straight. 

Exfoliation is about removing dead skin cells, so skin will be more smooth and clear. For dry skin, buildup of dead skin cells can skin make dull, rough or flakey. For oily and combo skin, extra dead skin cells can clog pores and lead to more blackheads or acne. Dr. G explains: "The process of exfoliation is a lot like peeling away the dry, outer skin of an onion to reveal the living layers beneath. Whether the exfoliation is done using mechanical abrasion or a controlled chemical reaction, removing dead and damaged skin cells on the surface allows the fresh new skin underneath to become visible. This newly exposed layer of skin feels much softer and smoother. Its surface reflects light better, making fine lines and other small imperfections harder to see. Age spots and other areas of unwanted pigmentation are less noticeable because the dead skin cells containing the pigment have been removed. Exfoliation unplugs clogged pores and allows for the release of natural skin oils. Regular exfoliation also helps to maintain open pores, decreases pore size, and minimizes many types of superficial scarring."



AHA and BHA are two types of chemical exfoliators. They work by loosening the bonds that keep dead skin cells hanging on. (BTW, you won’t actually see these dead skin cells as they fall away. You shouldn’t have peeling or flaking with any of the products we are talking about.)

Physical exfoliants (coffee grounds, your Clarisonic) don’t have the same dissolving powers as the chemical solutions. They rely on a brute force approach to getting rid of dead skin cells. Physical exfoliation can be irritating and redness-inducing, unless you are very careful – skip the walnut shell, go with jojoba beads.


01.  AHA

Alpha-hydroxy acid. There are several AHAs used in skin care, with lactic acid and glycolic acid among the most common and well-studied. AHAs are multi-taskers that can clear pores, smooth texture, hydrate, and boost collagen. They can increase sun sensitivity so pair with sunscreen. 


02.  BHA

Beta-hydroxy acid. Salicylic acid is another name for the same thing. Best known for taking down blackheads and acne. 

03.  Physical exfoliation

Physical. Scrubs, beads, brushes. Rough ones can irritate skin. The physical exfoliant we recommend is made with jojoba beads – gentle and spherical – so you won't damage your skin.


What's right for you?

We're gonna break down what works best for each skin type, or condition.

AHA is the best choice for most

DRY AHAs are the best choice for dry skin of any age because they hydrate as well as exfoliate. Dr. G explains: “Lactic acid actually helps to pull moisture to the surface of the skin.”

AHA is the great multi-tasker and the choice for combination or oily skin over 30.  AHA does more than just exfoliate. It helps with blemishes, fine lines, dullness and discoloration. AHA boosts needed collagen and hydration (both in shorter supply in the skin as it ages).

As you grow older, the rate of skin cell turnover slows down dramatically. Dead cells on your skin’s surface hang around much longer, a fact that tends to accentuate those fine lines and make your complexion look dull and lifeless. By removing these dead skin cells, exfoliation helps make up for the gradual slowing down of your natural skin renewal process, improving the tone and texture of your skin,
— Dr. G

BHA is best for blackheads and acne

As Dr. Goldfaden puts it: “Salicylic acid is one of acne’s biggest enemies. Salicylic acid is an oil-soluble acid which allows for the acid to penetrate the dermis layers easily by loosening and softening the cells. This action encourages exfoliation of the skin and unclogs the pores. The acid is considered lipophilic, which means it can penetrate oily skin and clogged pores very effectively and efficiently.”

Great news! You don't have to choose just one :)

Looking to take on blackheads, larger pores and blemishes ­– at the same time as you want to ditch dryness and dullness that can start to show up in your 30s and beyond? You can use both a BHA and an AHA in your routine. An easy way to start is by using your BHA once a week, and your AHA once a week (with a few days in between). You can increase the frequency if you like the results, just alternate. 


Jojaba beads for sensitive skin & during pregnancy

DURING PREGNANCY, we recommend using jojoba beads as your exfoliant. The perfectly rounded shape gently exfoliates and without irritating. Many doctors recommend skipping the BHA during pregnancy (salicylic acid is a cousin of aspirin). Lactic acid and glycolic acid are not classified as unsafe to use, but have not been studied for safety in pregnancy either. If breakouts are a major concern. please do talk to your doctor about what ingredients are safe to embrace and what to avoid. LEARN MORE

FOR SENSITIVE SKIN, exfoliation can be tricky.  So, test first and go slowly. Lactic acid is considered the most gentle of the AHAs, but can still irritate some sensitive skin. We think jojoba beads – with their rounded shape – are the best choice for very sensitive skin. Other physical exfoliants can inflame sensitive skin when the material used is too rough. Dr. G explains: “In general, choosing the right exfoliating scrub from all the commercial products on the market today depends a great deal upon the thickness and sensitivity of your skin. It’s important to remember that all kinds of particles can be used for exfoliation, and mainstream products encompass a wide and varied selection. Those with drier, sensitive skin should generally use products with smaller granules such as jojoba beads but always keeping in mind that the particles should be perfectly round in shape to avoid tearing and/or abrasion of the skin. Patch testing, which is simply done by testing a small area of the face with any exfoliator is an effective way to trial a product prior to overall use to ensure that your skin adapts to the materials appropriately.”

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Goldfaden is the star of our exfoliation collection

We looked at every exfoliant we could dig up. Finding the right acids in the right concentrations to actually be effective was hard enough with all the poorly formulated products out there. Finding the right AHA and BHA products without the toxic chemicals we avoid in our store was another huge challenge. As much as we love the difference in our skin when we exfoliate, it’s obviously not worth upping our odds in the cancer lottery or otherwise dosing ourselves with toxic mix-ins, just because it feels nice having smoother skin. With Goldfaden we found the physician-strength, nontoxic glow-makers we were looking for.

Thank you, Dr. G, for making our skincare kit safer and better!

— Margot