When cult skincare brand Drunk Elephant finally arrived in the UK in 2018, it changed the game. From the C-Firma Vitamin C Day Serum to the T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum, each product placed a focus on dermatologist-loved ingredients, excellent results and, of course, Instagram-worthy packaging. But one hyped product was missing here: the T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial.
Babyfacial is an exfoliating face mask and the star ingredients are 25% AHA (or alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic acid, which exfoliate the surface of the skin to increase brightness) and 2% BHA (or beta hydroxy acids like salicylic acid, which gently exfoliate deep inside the pore to prevent blackheads and breakouts). The concentration of acids is high, and while it has been available to buy in the US for years, UK regulations meant the brand had to provide enough data to demonstrate that it didn't fit the definition of a 'professional-use only' formula. As you might imagine, this took quite a while, but now the product is finally stocked at Cult Beauty and it's selling out fast.
I have combination skin, which is prone to breakouts. When they heal, they leave behind red, pigmented marks. I often look to exfoliating products containing AHAs like lactic acid, and religiously use Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, £23, to keep spots and blackheads at bay, so acids feature regularly in my skincare routine. They are also a great option for skin that appears dull and grey, is clogged, or needs a glow-boost.
I'd heard so many great things about Babyfacial and the 5-star reviews are very convincing, so I had to give it a go. The peach-coloured formula looks and feels exactly like a gel-cream moisturiser and isn't at all sticky or pungent like other exfoliating masks. Tiny little pieces are suspended in the product (that'll be the chickpea flour, which supposedly brightens skin) but they aren't gritty and you can't feel them. On applying, I must admit, I winced at the tingle thanks to the combination of lactic, glycolic, tartaric, cirtic and salicylic acids (that's a lot of acids) but the label reads that it's to be expected. Thankfully, the initial tingle soon fades as the mask gets to work. The instructions advise leaving the product on the skin for up to 20 minutes max, which I think is quite a long time for acids as strong as these. It's why this should be a once-weekly product. I was wary at first, but my skin seemed happy, so I persisted for the best results. I'm glad I did.
After 20 minutes, I rinsed the mask off with warm water and I was impressed by how much softer my skin felt. I guess that's why they call it Babyfacial! Granted, my skin was slightly red, like it usually is after a professional facial, but the redness subsided and left behind a really nice radiance. A big, under-the-skin spot that had been brewing for a while on my forehead also felt much smaller. That'll be the anti-inflammatory salicylic acid.
When it comes to aftercare, Babyfacial comes complete with a complimentary 3ml bottle of Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil to soothe skin and encourage more of a post-facial glow. As someone who breaks out easily, I thought it best to avoid this in fear of clogged pores. Instead, I applied a light layer of gentle moisturiser, Honest Beauty Hydrogel Cream, £25, and a heavy helping of Murad Invisiblur Perfecting Shield Broad Spectrum SPF30 PA+++, £65. A great cheaper option is the Garnier Ambre Solaire Sensitive Advanced Protecting and Hydrating Face Mist SPF50, £11.
Would I use Babyfacial again? Yes, in particular when my skin is clogged, spotty and oily. But in my honest opinion as a beauty editor, there are masks out there that do a lot more. ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment, £72, is unrivalled. It takes dull, lacklustre skin and imparts a gorgeous glow. I know it's a splurge, but a little goes a long way and it works in just two minutes thanks to lactic and salicylic acids, and exfoliating particles. Ole Henriksen Transform Plus PHAT Glow Facial, £42, is also excellent. While the texture is sticky (almost like a melted Drumstick lolly!) the results are clearer, brighter, smoother skin. TikTokers also can't stop posting about The Ordinary's AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution, £6.30, which is a steal.
There are a couple of key points to remember when using any exfoliating face masks. Acids can make your skin very sensitive to sunlight, so it's important to use a high factor, broad-spectrum sunscreen every morning to prevent sun damage. If your skin appears red, sore or flaky when using acids, stop immediately and take your skincare routine back to basics with a very simple, gentle, fragrance-free cleanser and moisturiser as not to exacerbate any skin issues further.
If you'd like more advice on how best to incorporate acids into your skincare routine, it's best to consult an expert, and plenty are offering digital consultations throughout lockdown 3.0.
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