It’s not uncommon for cleansing and exfoliating to be used interchangeably when talking about skincare routines. But, as the names clearly suggest – they’re two different things and serve unique purposes. Today, we’re going to give you the complete lowdown on the key differences between cleansing and exfoliating, what each does for your skin and how you can make the most of both to get that radiant, flawless face.
What do cleansers do?
Any cleanser’s main job is to get rid of dirt, dust, grime, makeup, pollutants and acne-causing bacteria. A quick walk through the skincare aisle of your supermarket will show you few cleansers with one exfoliating compound, such as Salicylic Acid. These cleansers are still not to be confused with exfoliants, mainly because the concentration of the acid is too low to be fully effective as an exfoliant. However, it's not advisable to use cleansers everyday with exfoliating acids unless advised by your Derm!
Cleansers job is to clean and lets just leave it at that. Cleansers come in a variety of forms – gels, oils, balms, creams and so on. You can take your pick based on your skin type.
What do exfoliants do?
Exfoliants basically slough off the topmost layer of your skin that mainly comprises of dead skin cells, to reveal brighter, younger, new and firm skin. Exfoliation also gets rid of blemishes, sun damage, clogged pores (blackheads and whiteheads). There are two methods of exfoliating – chemical (acids) and physical (facial scrubs, brushes etc.). Within the context of this post, let’s focus on chemical exfoliants. These are mainly AHAs (glycolic acid, lactic acid) and BHAs (salicylic acid). They deep clean your pores and leave you with brand new skin, literally.
AHAs are recommended for dry and sensitive skin types, while BHAs are good for oily, mature and acne-prone skin.
Frequency of use:
You should use a cleanser every single day (especially if you step outdoors in a city like Mumbai). Whether you use a cleanser once or twice a day is entirely up to you and how much exposure your skin has faced. Generally if the cleanser is mild, you can use it couple of times a day without a second thought.
Exfoliants, on the other hand, should be limited to twice a week – thrice at most depending on your skin type! It is important to exercise maximum caution with exfoliants, as overuse can cause deep damage to your skin’s barrier, age it quickly, destroy healthy cells, stimulate melanin activity possibly resulting in hyper pigmentation.
Also, it’s always a better idea to exfoliate in the pm, as exposure to the sun soon after exfoliating can cause photosensitivity.
How do both fit into a skincare routine?
Always, cleanse first. That way, your exfoliant has fewer barriers to fight through and can do its job effectively.
Whether you follow the basic CTM routine or are a layering pro, the rule is the same. Exfoliants go in after cleanser and toner, but before serum and moisturiser.
Now that we have this cleared up, who’s ready for some exfoliation?!