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Liquid Exfoliants: The Key to Glowing Winter Skin

Ask any skin expert about the best way to achieve visibly smooth, bright, even skin and the first thing you’re likely to hear is that regular exfoliation is key. While your skin naturally exfoliates itself about every 28 days, there are numerous factors at play that can delay this process (like age, arid environments and cold, winter air). So to keep skin healthy, it’s important to exfoliate on a regular basis.

But not all exfoliants are created equal and there are numerous ways to nix those spent skin cells. Physical exfoliators (think cleansing brushes, facial scrubs or polishes) physically remove dead skin from your face. However, liquid exfoliants dissolve dead surface skin cells and gently slough them away, bringing brighter, fresher skin to the surface. 

What are liquid exfoliants?

You’ve probably heard about alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids (commonly referred to as AHAs and BHAs). AHAs and BHAs work to break apart bonds between skin cells and help slough them away.

Liquid exfoliators also help with:

  • Visibly smoothing skin texture
  • Clearing out congested pores
  • Prepping skin to absorb active ingredients in serums, treatments and moisturizers
  • Reducing visible signs of discoloration

This last one is especially important because cellular turnover slows down naturally as your skin ages, leaving your skin looking and feeling more uneven in texture (and, well, dull). A liquid exfoliator supports natural, healthy cellular turnover and helps restore vibrant looking skin. Plus, they offer a variety of benefits without irritating the skin Over time you’ll notice fine lines are visibly minimized, overall skin texture looks smoother and areas of pigmentation are visibly reduced because you’re replacing dull skin cells with fresh, new ones.

How to select the right liquid exfoliant for you

Choosing the right liquid exfoliant for your skin depends on your skin type and your desired results. Here are three of our favorites.

GlycoSolution 5%

For non-reactive skin, a low dose of glycolic acid makes the perfect addition to your glow up skin care routine, and it's an essential ingredient in many uneven skin tone products. Plus, it offers a variety of benefits without irritating the skin. For best results, start with a milder solution like GlycoSolution 5%, which contains an effective blend of glycolic acid, sodium PCA (designed to balance hydration in the skin) and an amino acid complex. Over time you can build up to GlycoSolution 10% for continued and enhanced results. 

Hydrating Brightening Solution

A solution that exfoliates and moisturizes at the same time? Yes please! Lactic acid, an AHA, combined with kakadu plum (which has the highest recorded amount of natural vitamin C in food) brightens and gently resurfaces while binding moisture to the skin. That means it’s great for more mature, dry or sensitive skin types and is still one of our best uneven skin tone products.

Beta Clarifying Solution

Best for blemish-prone and oily skin, this solution combines salicylic acid (a BHA) with niacinamide (vitamin B3) and naturally medicinal herbs. Together they help clear congested pores, soothe blemished skin, lessen existing breakouts and help prevent new ones from surfacing. This liquid exfoliant is also helpful for calming irritated skin after extractions, shaving or waxing. 

How to use liquid exfoliants

If you’re nervous about using AHAs and BHAs, don’t be! As with everything, there can be too much of a good thing, so the best way to begin using liquid exfoliants is to start slowly (a couple of times per week) and gradually ramp up your use, both in frequency and concentration.

Once your skin is accustomed to exfoliation, we recommend an exfoliation frequency of about 3 to 4 times per week. A slow, graduated method will help your skin adjust to the active ingredients, so you can get the best results without experiencing dryness or irritation.

Finally, it’s important to note that when you’re using a liquid exfoliant with AHAs or BHAs, sunscreen is a must! New cells—which you’re exposing for that radiant and fresh complexion—are highly susceptible to sun damage, so always be sure to thoroughly apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day when using your favorite glow up skin care.

Reviewed by Alexis Mayne

Love what’s in our bottles? Alexis is a big part of the team that makes it happen. For more than 10 years, she’s been instrumental in formulating and producing the Sanitas Skincare you love. Her areas of expertise include the science of skin, finding active ingredients that get results and connecting with the purest and most responsible ingredient suppliers. She also works closely with our Boulder-based manufacturing team to make sure our products are effective, safe and consistent each and every time.