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If there’s one habit we’re carrying with us into 2019 and beyond, it’s a skin care routine that doesn’t skimp on exfoliation. This probably isn’t the first or last time you’ll hear about the benefits of chemical exfoliation, but it may be an introduction into body exfoliation that goes beyond your standard loofah or body brush. Because while physical scrubbing does your arms, legs and everything in between a whole lot of good, it needs a more clarifying cleanse, just like your face.
The good news is there isn’t much new information to take in here. According to Dr. Ellen Marmur, dermatologist and founder of Marmur Metamorphosis Skincare, chemical exfoliation for the body is an often overlooked, but necessary part of ensuring your knees and elbows don’t get scaly and flaky.
“Chemical exfoliations go deeper within the skin than scrubs do. They tend to produce desired results with fewer problems,” she says. As you probably know, these fall into two major categories. Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), or fruit-derived, water-soluble molecules that slough away top layers of dead skin. The most popular ones are lactic acid (derived from fermented fruits and veggies), citric acid (derived from citrus fruits), glycolic acid (derived from sugar cane), malic acid (derived from apples) and tartaric acid (derived from grapes and apricots).
Beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) are the ones that penetrate deeper, eliminating debris from our pores, which in turn treat breakouts and prevent future ones. You’ve probably seen this in the form of salicylic acid, a popular ingredient in acne products. There are also enzymes, which are simply gentler versions of AHAs. The most popular types are pumpkin and papain (derived from pineapple). You’ll find these in a lot of body scrubs and polishes.
So which ones are best for your body specifically? Dr. Marmur recommends salicylic acid and glycolic acid especially for back acne and chest acne because they “work to exfoliate the skin plus dissolve the proteins that clog pores and lead to acne.” She adds, “We also love lactic acid for dry skin.”
With that being said, here are some top-rated body exfoliators to get started with.
Paula’s Choice Resist Weightless Body Treatment
This silky lotion packs way more punch than meets the eye. Infused with 2 percent salicylic acid, it refines rough skin in addition to moisturizing. A dose of antioxidants also coat the skin in an effort to ward off future dryness.
$28 at Paula’s Choice
REN AHA Smart Renewal Body Serum
Skin looking dull or feeling like it needs to be revived? This pre-SPF moisturizer includes lactic acid to exfoliate and brighten the top layer of skin. Probiotic extracts are also included to help shed dead skin, while xylitol reduces dehydration.
$42 at Sephora
DERMAdoctor KP Duty Body Scrub
Consider this physical exfoliator a microdermabrasion and chemical peel in one as glycolic acid, lactic acid and algae extract work to soften skin and remove dead layers.
$46 at Sephora
Cane + Austin Retexturizing Body Pads
Made with 10 percent glycolic acid, these pre-soaked pads work to reverse discoloration and dry patches over time (and with consistent use).
$70 at Amazon
Neutrogena Body Clear Body Scrub
This drugstore fave contains salicylic acid for the prevention and treatment of pesky breakouts on your body.
$13.94 at Amazon
Amlactin Daily Moisturizing Body Lotion
Made with a whopping 12 percent lactic acid, this daily moisturizing is key to warding off itchiness and rough patches through the winter season and beyond.
$23.93 at Amazon
SkinFix Renewing Scrub
This post-cleansing and pre-moisturizing treatment activates and accelerates your skin’s exfoliation process with 7 percent glycolic acid and 6 percent lactic acid.
$30 at Ulta
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