Beauty + Skincare

The Beauty Range: Chemical Exfoliators

Chemical exfoliators are a bit gentler on my aging skin than mechanical exfoliators.

Most chemical exfoliators include AHA (alpha hydroxy acid like lactic acid) and/or BHA (beta hydroxy acid like salicylic acid). You can read more about the types of chemical exfoliators on the market and what they’re for on Caroline Hirons site.

Here are a few of my favorite products.

The One For Wrinkles

There’s a lot to like about the Paula’s Choice brand — they’re transparency about ingredients and their commitment to educating the consumer for starters.  Their 8% AHA Lotion Exfoliant is the product you want if you’re trying to minimize fine lines and wrinkles.  It’s a popular product among my friends, but they will tell you that you need a good SPF to go with it and a hat in the summer.

The One for Pores

Unlike most acids on the market, Paula’s Choice BHA Gel Exfoliant is not a blend of different acids.  This product contains one acid, the BHA salicylic, and is made for unclogging and refining pores.  May it also help with wrinkles, sure, but it’s made to decongest pores and dissolve blackheads over time.

The One for Beginners

Pixi Glow Tonic is a great starter acid.  The formulation is 5% glycolic acid mixed with soothing ingredients like aloe to calm skin. You can also pick it up at many Target stores.

The One for Once a Week

This scary-looking peeling solution from The Ordinary is not for people with sensitive skin.  It is to be applied once a week (maybe twice if you’re brave) and used for no longer than 10-minutes.  It will freshen your skin in ways you cannot imagine.  But you better get a hat, or a parasol, for going outside, because you’ll need it.

{this post contains affiliate links that may generate commission for the author}

Leave a Reply to Monica T · cancel comment

    13 comments

  1. Mary says:

    Lots of skincare gurus also love the Biologique Recherche P50 lotion, which is great but expensive. Tarte Knockout is an excellent dupe, so give that a try as well. If you have sensitive skin, wet the cotton pad before applying the liquid.

    June 5, 2020/Reply
    • Patricia says:

      I use Biologique Recherche P50 lotion and it has completely transformed by skin. I have a travel/sample size of REN’s Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic which works pretty well… but not as well as the P50. I’ve also tried the Pixi Glow tonic and was disappointed.

      June 5, 2020/Reply
    • Betsy says:

      I have been using Moon Juice Acid Potion as a recommended dupe and I really like it. Have definitely seen an improvement in skin quality.

      June 5, 2020/Reply
    • Jessica C says:

      P50 actually did nothing for my skin, I was so disappointed considering how expensive it was (for me, at least)! I was surprised considering all the rave reviews but…

      June 5, 2020/Reply
    • Anokha says:

      I can’t tell if it’s the P50 lotion or the Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Acid or not wearing makeup for the past two months, but my skin has never looked better.

      June 5, 2020/Reply
  2. Monica T says:

    Seconding that The Ordinary solution is definitely not for sensitive skin types, I tried it once and it caused a very strange reaction with my highly sensitive skin, but from the reviews it is overall very well loved. I like the Peter Thomas Roth AHA/BHA Acne Clearing Gel, although it can be drying in the winter months.

    June 5, 2020/Reply
  3. RKT says:

    Seconding the recs for Paula’s Choice. Their products have made a big difference in my skin. For context, I am 41 and have very fair skin that is sensitive and more prone to rosacea as I have aged. I generally avoid the sun and wear sunblock, but I was starting to see dullness, bigger pores, drier skin, and some age spots and fine lines while still enjoying the occasional breakout. I started with just their 2% BHA solution (the liquid, not the gel here) and a moisturizer, and have branched out to a serum and the 8% AHA gel above. The products make a big difference in how soft and clear my skin is. When I stopped using the 2% BHA solution in a COVID-induced ‘who cares, I am working from home’ funk, my skin was very unhappy about it so I am now back to using it daily. I also love their SPF 50 lipbalm – the only sunblock lipbalm at that level of protection that I have found that does not taste like eating sunblock. The only PC products that I found disappointing were the eye gels and creams — my favorite eye cream was discontinued and I’m looking for a replacement, but no luck yet.

    June 5, 2020/Reply
    • sara says:

      try dr. loretta’s eye cream – they sell it at nordstrom. I’ve never liked an eye serum more!

      June 5, 2020/Reply
      • sara says:

        also, I hear ya on getting rosacea later in life. I’m 31 and started having issues last year (along with hormonal acne – YAY). now I’m under the care of a dermatologist so I’m not using any non-prescriptive creams or serums for my skin with the exception of dr. loretta and sunscreen.

        June 5, 2020/Reply
  4. SC says:

    I’ve been using the Alpha Hydrox 10% glycolic lotion for almost 15 years now — it is amazing. My skin has started drying out as I age so I have to use a separate moisturizer on top, but this product is worth its weight in gold. I tried some of the more liquid formulas and I don’t care for how long they take to absorb. The AH stuff goes right in! Sun sensitivity is real so you really can’t skip SPF…I learned the hard way. 🙁

    June 5, 2020/Reply
  5. Emily says:

    Yes! The Ordinary Peel is the best! I can see and feel smoother skin the morning after I use this. It feels kind of itchy on my skin when I use it, but it’s just for 10 minutes and the payoff is worth it.

    June 5, 2020/Reply
  6. JesS says:

    I had never used chemical exfoliates before trying the Tuel Power Peel that was recommended by my aesthetician. You leave it on overnight and wash it off on the morning. For my sensitive skin, it’s great – slight vinegar smell when you put it on though. I just tried the Ordinary peel a few nights ago at the suggestion of a friend and was impressed at how well it worked (and I only left it on for 2 minutes…I was afraid longer would be too much for my skin). I’m going to gradually work up to longer.

    June 5, 2020/Reply
  7. aNNE says:

    Kathleen Jennings Beauty suggested on her Insta Stories to use the Peter Thomas Roth Rose Stem Cell Bio-Repair mask after the Ordinary Peeling Solution, and it’s been very successful for me. I can’t get behind her intensive masking routine, but this works for me. My skin looks bright and refreshed afterward. I’ve also realized that I can only do an 8 min with the Peeling Mask, so it’ll burn my skin. Now that I’ve figured that out, I love it.

    June 8, 2020/Reply

contact the edit

For reader queries and PR inquiries, please send over an email.