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Instantly reset dead, dull skin with this 2-product combo

Zoe Weiner

Zoe WeinerApril 27, 2020

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When you’re dealing with a dull complexion, you might find yourself looking in the mirror and thinking, “Man, I wish I could start from scratch.” The easiest way to actually start from scratch? With double exfoliation.

While over-exfoliating comes with its fair share of risks—like irritation and damage to your skin barrier—combining two different types of gentle exfoliants (emphasis on the word “gentle”) can offer an instant retexturing to the top layer of your skin, leaving you radiant. “I like combining a physical and chemical resurfacer,” says Loretta Ciraldo, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta Skin Care. “The physical resurfacer allows the chemical resurfacer to penetrate deeper for a more effective resurfacing.”

Physical and chemical exfoliants work in different ways. Physical ones, like scrubs, dislodge dead skin cells from the surface and swipe them away, while chemicals, like AHAs and BHAs, break the bonds between the dead skin cells and the new, healthy ones, allowing them to come off on their own. Using them together allows you to reap the benefits of both methods at the same time, without having to add an extra step into your routine.

However it’s important to note that Dr. Ciraldo is not advising that you scrub your face with a walnut scrub and follow it up with a hardcore AHA. Instead, she suggests using a gentle abrasive surface, like a textured pad (or, if something with gentle beads such as jojoba), along with a weaker acid like lactic, mandelic, or low-percentage glycolic. Our favorite serums that fit the bill? Sunday Riley Good Genes ($85) and The Ordinary 7% Glycolic Acid Solution ($26).

Doubling down on exfoliants can be particularly helpful for anyone with oily skin, as it helps clear out your pores and smooth out surface texture in one-fell swoop. Dr. Loretta says that as long as you’re dealing with gentle exfoliants (on both the physical and chemical fronts), you should be ok to use this method three to seven times a week. If you’ve got dry or sensitive skin, you can try it once a week, but be sure to avoid any spots that are already red, peeling, or sensitized. And one thing to keep in mind, no matter what type of skin you’re dealing with? “It’s always best to do resurfacing at bedtime since it can make you more light sensitive,” says Dr. Loretta.

When you’re using intense actives, it’s important to remember that more is not necessarily better. “You will generally feel sensitive and irritated as you are resurfacing,” says Dr. Loretta. “If you get this sensation I suggest applying a cool water compress and a skin calming and hydrating serum afterward.” She suggests Dr. Loretta Intense Replenishing Serum ($70), or for something more affordable (that you can grab on your next drugstore run), we love Olay Deep Hydration Serum ($38).  Remember to listen to your skin, and lay off if it starts to become overly dry or irritated. Otherwise, you’ll have a shiny new complexion in no time at all.

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