The key to a flake-free complexion is exfoliation. There are several different approaches to exfoliation. The one that's best for you depends on your skin's hydration and sensitivity level.
Flaky skin can be a pain. Not only can it feel tight, itchy, and uncomfortable, it can also interfere with makeup application.
Thankfully, flakiness can be easily managed by incorporating exfoliation into your skincare routine. Whether your skin is temporarily flaky or consistently dry, exfoliation is your saviour.
Exfoliation speeds up skin cell turnover by removing clumps of old skin cells and encouraging the production of newer, healthier cells.
There are two ways you can exfoliate:
- Chemically (e.g. salicylic acid or glycolic acid)
- Physically (e.g. facial scrubs or complexion brushes)
Both methods offer slightly different benefits to your skin. The approach you choose should depend on the dryness of your skin and its sensitivity level. You might even choose to use a combination of the two types of exfoliation. If you do, be sure not to use them both within the same day.
All About Chemical Exfoliants
Chemical exfoliation works to gently loosen the 'glue' that holds skin cells together and dissolve visible flakes. Chemical exfoliants also absorb into the skin and prevent the future build-up of dead skin and formation of flaky patches.
There are two types of chemical exfoliants commonly used in skincare products:
Salicylic acid is more soluble in oil, whereas glycolic acid is more soluble in water. Salicylic acid is most often recommended for oily skin types, because it can easily penetrate sebum-filled pores. However, salicylic acid has great benefits for dry and sensitive skin types too.
Salicylic acid is a very effective anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory. If your dry skin is also sensitive, this is the chemical exfoliant you should opt for.
Salicylic-acid-based exfoliants we recommend:
- Cosmedix Purity Balance Exfoliating Prep
- Thalgo Exfoliating Lotion
- Bioderma Hydrabio Gommage Exfoliating Cream
Water-soluble glycolic acid is traditionally thought to be best suited for dry skin types. Dry skin lacks natural oil, which makes glycolic acid well-suited for the job of exfoliation. Glycolic acid can be irritating, so make sure to patch-test this ingredient first.
Glycolic-acid-based exfoliants we recommend:
- Alpha-H Liquid Gold (5% glycolic acid)
- Alpha-H Balancing Moisturiser and Gentle Exfoliant (10% glycolic acid)
- SkinCeuticals LHA Solution Priming Toner (also formulated with salicylic acid)
All About Physical Exfoliants
Physical exfoliants use tiny grains, beads, or particles to physically rub dead, flaky skin from your complexion. These products don't penetrate skin the way a chemical exfoliate does, so they work only on the very top layers of your skin.
It's also possible to exfoliate mechanically with a tool such as a flannel, microfibre mitt, or cleansing brush. The fibres or bristles sweep away dead skin. However, it's important to clean these items after every use. Many people prefer the convenience and hygiene of a rinse-away scrub, but the choice is yours.
Most skincare products take several weeks or even months to produce results. However, physical exfoliants leave your skin smooth and flake-free almost straight away.
You might want to design an exfoliation routine that features both a physical and chemical approaches. But remember that it's not advisable to use them within the same day. For skin that isn't sensitive, exfoliation is recommended two to three times per week.
Physical exfoliants we recommend:
- Dermalogica Skin Prep Scrub (finely granulated corncob meal)
- Alpha-H Micro Cleanse Super Scrub (beads of jojoba wax)
If you still feel unsure about which exfoliating product is best for preventing flaky skin, contact one of our skincare experts via our skincare recommendations form.