It seems that with age comes a more complicated skin care routine. But of all the products that beauty companies push at women over 50, exfoliators tend to fall by the wayside. We’re not sure why, because removing dead skin cells allows other products — particularly those that need to penetrate the top-most layer of skin and work on a cellular level — to be more effective. Plus, skin-cell turnover slows with age, and a good exfoliator speeds the process to uncover glowing new skin, and it helps decrease hyperpigmentation and lessen wrinkles.
But before you invest in the apricot scrub of your youth (remember that?), realize that exfoliators come in a variety of types and formulations. Mature skin responds better to some of these than others. You can use tools such as brushes and loofahs to manually whisk away dulling skin cells or scrubs, which include granular abrasives like ground nutshells or round mica beads, to buff skin smooth. However, both of these forms of mechanical exfoliation can compromise delicate facial skin by creating micro tears; it’s best to relegate these types of exfoliators to the rest of your body.
On the other hand, mature skin does well with chemical exfoliators, because they do more than simply loosen and dissolve dead cells to make way for new cells; they also encourage cell turnover and can even do anti-aging acrobatics like building new elastin and boosting collagen production. Their exfoliating agents, chemicals like hydroxy acids, retinol, and enzymes, tend to be gentler on skin and can even help thicken the weakened stratum corneum (your treasured outermost layer of skin) that gets thin with age.
All of this considered: Which should you choose? We rounded up five exfoliators that we think complement beauty routines perfectly.
Your Skin Is Super Sensitive
Try: SkinCeuticals Serum 10 AOX+
Why: SkinCeuticals has long been on dermatologists’ lists as a trusted brand for over-the-counter glow-getting. This serum, packed with 10 percent pure vitamin C (known as l-ascorbic acid), is a great way to either prime skin for more serious sloughing or address sensitive skin that acts finicky with peels and acids. Still extremely effective at ridding skin of superficial skin cells, it also wards off current and future free-radical damage from UV rays — which is important if you want to stop new age spots from forming.
You Need a Collagen Boost
Try: SkinMedica Age Defense Retinol Complex 1.0
Why: Retinoid acid, a derivative of vitamin A, found in this serum not only sloughs away dead skin cells for a healthier, more radiant complexion, but it also stimulates collagen synthesis to plump fine lines and wrinkles while improving skin’s elasticity. Just know: If you’re using a product with retinol, you’ll want to slather on a sunscreen with SPF 20 or higher daily, as it causes sensitivity to sunlight.
Sun Damage Is Showing
Try: Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel
Why: One of the most deeply penetrating alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) due to its miniscule molecule size, the glycolic acid in step one of this two-step system delivers its cell-turnover magic where it counts — deep down — while weakening the “glue” that helps dead skin cells cling to complexions. Step two strengthens the exfoliation process with retinol, ascorbic acid, and reservatol, a free-radical-fighting polyphenol.
Your Skin Is Dull and Parched
Try: The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA
Why: Though some chemical exfoliators can be drying, the 5 percent lactic acid in this serum delivers milder sloughing than other AHAs while also acting as a humectant to pull moisture into skin and keep it there. Add to that: The serum’s hyaluronic acid amps up the hydrating benefits.
Rough Patches Are a Concern
Try: Peter Thomas Roth Pumpkin Enzyme Mask Enzymatic Dermal Resurfacer
Why: The name may be a mouthful, but this smart exfoliator full-stop improves lackluster skin in three ways: Pumpkin enzymes provide gentle exfoliation with anti-inflammation benefits, a mix of AHAs brightens, and aluminum oxide crystals gently polish smooth any rough, stubborn patches.