The best ways to exfoliate cranky, sensitive skin, according to dermatologists

It can be frustrating when you have
sensitive skin
. Just like being a sensitive person, the
smallest thing can set you (or your skin) off. Before trying a face
mask, chances are you inspect ingredient lists for anything that
could be irritating; you may or may not slather on

beauty products that are meant for kids
(or even babies); and
the rest of the time you’re just living on a prayer that nothing
causes a fiery reaction on your complexion.

Exfoliation gets trickier, though. The practice of sloughing off
dead skin cells is something you should do at least weekly—but
there are so many different methods to go about it, with options
ranging from a chemical peel to a facial scrub. The thing is,
they’re not as typically marked as sensitive skin friendly—and
that’s because exfoliating is a more intense treatment and is
more likely to cause irritation than other parts of your beauty
regimen.

“Exfoliating can help remove dead cells from the surface of
the skin, but you have to be careful not to cause irritation if you
have sensitive skin,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a New York-based
dermatologist. He notes that you can go down two basic roads:
chemical or manual exfoliating. There are perks to both, you just
have to know what to look for.

Self-care and depressionPhoto: Stocksy/VeaVea
Chemical exfoliating

When using a physical exfoliant, you are the exfoliant, manually
working in the scrub to lift away skin cells. With a chemical
option, however, you just slather on an assortment on acids and let
them get to work. But…some can be a bit much if your skin’s
really irritable. “Chemical exfoliators like hydroxy acids help
dissolve connections between skin cells so they can be more easily
shed,” explains Dr. Zeichner. “The most commonly used are alpha
hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic acid. While effective, they’re
strong and cause irritation, making them a challenge for people
with dry or sensitive skin.”

Instead, he recommends turning to a more gentle form of acid.
“Stick to one of the newer generation hydroxy acids known as poly
hydroxy acids (PHAs),” says Dr. Zeichner. “Ingredients like
gluconolactone offer similar exfoliating benefits, but work more
slowly and are more tolerable to sensitive skin types.” Another
perk is that they’re a humectant that pulls water into the skin,
he adds.

Want a different option? Invest in a trusty retinol serum. While
it’s not technically an exfoliant, it works in a similar way.
“A great way to exfoliate sensitive skin is to use a retinoid,
which normalizes skin cell turnover, helps to de-clog pores, and
treats and prevents acne,” says Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, a
board-certified dermatologist and founder of Entière Dermatology. However, take
note: Retinol can cause irritation, and you kind of have to train
your skin to use it. Start off by trying it a few times a week, and
when your skin can tolerate it, work up from there.

Chemical exfoliants

Buy Now
Glow Recipe Avocado Melt
Sleeping Mask
$45

Buy Now
Marie Veronique Gentle
Retinol Night Serum
$110

Buy Now
Tammy Fender Epi-Peel
$80

Physical exfoliating

So, yeah, like I was saying, physical exfoliants are totally
dependent on you. A lot of times, they can be abrasive if you’re
really going to town on your face, but the thing about physical
exfoliants is that you have full control over them, so you can also
lighten up your touch. “I recommend using a physical exfoliant
for sensitive skin because you can control the intensity
yourself,” says Robert Anolik, MD, a New York-based
dermatologist. “If you’re getting irritated, you can just
stop.” Dr. Zeichner agrees, whereas sometimes it take more time
to neutralize an acid on skin.

If you’re going with this route, Dr. Anolik recommends
exfoliating this way one to two times a week. And remember: Be
gentle!

Physical exfoliants

Buy Now
Acure Brightening Facial
Scrub
$10

Buy Now
Goldfaden M.D. Doctor’s
Scrub Exfoliator
$75

Buy Now
Tatcha The Rice
Polish Foaming Enzyme Cleanser
$65

Oh, and this is how
hard you should scrub your face
when exfoliating. Also: Don’t
forget to exfoliate
your feet
(yes, really). 

Source: FS – NewYork-W Fashion
The best ways to exfoliate cranky, sensitive skin, according to dermatologists