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How to Exfoliate with Serums

How to Exfoliate with Serums

Exfoliation can work wonders for your skin. Whether you're looking to improve skin texture, fade hyperpigmentation, eliminate acne, or brighten up your complexion, exfoliating serums can help you achieve your skin care goals.

Unlike scrubs, which contain hard, rough particles to slough away dead skin, serums rely on chemical exfoliants to gently dissolve dead skin cells on the skin's surface to reveal fresher, brighter, clearer skin.

All skin types can benefit from regular exfoliation with serums. And since most are blended with hydrating or soothing ingredients, it makes them particularly helpful for dry skin and sensitive skin.

Wondering how to get started? Here's your guide to exfoliating with serums.



Exfoliating serums typically use acids such as alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta hydroxy acids (BHAS) to penetrate the layers of the skin, break down dead cells, and promote clear, glowing skin

The most common AHAs are lactic acid and glycolic acid. These dissolve cells and help surface brighter and healthier skin cells. The most common BHA is salicylic acid. Unlike AHAs, BHAs are oil soluble and can penetrate the skin's surface. They're great for clarifying pores, dissolving dead skin, and calming breakout-related redness. 

If a serum contains one or more of these active ingredients, you'll know it's a chemical exfoliant



Physical exfoliation used to be much more widespread when it came to buffing the skin. Nowadays, most dermatologists recommend acids in favor of face scrubs to remove oil and dead cell buildup without irritating the skin. 

The trouble with many physical exfoliating products is that they're way too harsh on the skin. Some contain large particles like walnut shell which can actually cause tears and damage to the skin. 

Chemical exfoliation, though irritating when over-used, is generally more well tolerated by most skin types than physical. Plus, you'll find these exfoliants in a range of skincare products, including cleansers, toners, moisturizers, and of course, serums. 



It's not at all difficult to find the right serum to suit your skin's needs. Here are some tips for finding your ultimate exfoliating serum.


Acne-Prone Skin

Look for a formula containing salicylic acid. The BHA is a well-known acne-fighter that targets breakouts and congested pores by shedding dead skin, removing excess sebum and impurities, and attacking acne-causing bacteria. Salicylic acid can help clear up your blackheads, whiteheads, and pustules -- and prevent them!


Oily Skin

Any chemical exfoliant should benefit your skin type. If you're not dealing with breakouts, try glycolic, lactic, or mandelic acid. 

Try: Rainbow's Glow Serum


Dry Skin

Dry skin types need to be a little careful when it comes to resurfacing. Too much, and you can end up exacerbating your dryness. Choose a formula that blends an exfoliating acid with a hydrating acid such as hyaluronic acid. And always finish with moisturizer

Try: Rainbow's Hydrate Serum


Aging Skin

If you're looking for an anti-aging formula, most derms would recommend choosing a serum powered by retinol. Retinol speeds up cell turnover, helping to fade dark spots, smooth out fine lines and wrinkles, and improve skin tone. In spite of that, retinol isn't actually an exfoliant. For exfoliating benefits, choose a serum formulated with AHAs and antioxidants. Alternatively, pair an AHA serum with a vitamin C serum.  

Try: Rainbow's Tighten Serum



To get the most out of your exfoliating serum, try following this routine.

  1. Cleanse

Start by cleansing your skin with a gentle face wash. It's always important to start with a clean base before applying serums. This way, they can properly absorb into the skin. 

If you don't cleanse before using other skincare products, they won't be able to penetrate the skin -- or at least, not as effectively, anyway. You can maximize the benefits of exfoliating simply by starting with cleansing.

  1. Exfoliate

While your skin's still a little damp, apply a thin layer of your selected exfoliating serum to your face and neck, and massage it in using circular motions. Avoid applying too much product as this may irritate the skin and lead to issues like redness and peeling. Let it absorb before continuing with the next step.

  1. Moisturize

Next, use a nourishing face cream or serum to hydrate the skin and ward off dryness. If you've got dry or aging skin, it's best to use a cream as this will seal in the products as well as promote lasting hydration

If you've got oily or acne-prone skin, stick to using lighter creams or hydrating serums to keep your skin moisturized without clogging your pores and triggering further breakouts.

  1. Apply SPF

Sunscreen is a must if you're using exfoliating serums in the morning or daytime. It's also a must if you're not using them. Sunny or cloudy, UV rays are also present, which leaves your skin vulnerable to sun damage and premature aging. 

Invest in a quality broad-spectrum SPF to keep your skin protected.

  1. Exfoliate 2-3 Times a Week

Avoid exfoliating daily as this can weaken the skin barrier and cause irritation. If you've got normal, oily, acne-prone, or aging skin, exfoliate 2-3 times a week for best results. Those with sensitive skin, however, should limit exfoliation to once a week. Exfoliating any more than that can lead to undesirable side effects such as redness, itching, and flaking.


Every skin type can benefit from regular exfoliation. Ideally, you should be exfoliating at least once a week to keep skin clear, smooth, and glossy. 

As great as scrubs can be for buffing away dead skin and dirt, we recommend opting for chemical exfoliation in the form of serums to get the most out of your exfoliation sessions -- without any unpleasant side effects. 

Happy exfoliating beauty babes!


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