In this era of ingredient transparency and plant-based everything, entertaining the idea of chemicals as something you might want in your skin-care routine is like announcing to everyone in the natural beauty section of Sephora that you've been stockpiling mustard gas for the past five years. "Chemical" is a dirty word, a vague, catch-all term for a substance that is bad for you. It's why we switch to aluminum-free deodorants, avoid parabens and phthalates, and flock to brands with well-established "clean" reputations. Right? Right.
And yet when it comes to achieving smooth, glassy skin without harsh scrubs... well, you're gonna have to get some chemicals involved. Alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids — like lactic, citric, glycolic, salicylic, malic, and mandelic — are your most powerful weapons against dullness, clogged pores and breakouts, hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and uneven texture. These chemical compounds, also found in chemical peels, work their magic through a process called chemical exfoliation, which sloughs away dead skin and encourages new cell turnover, for fresher, clearer skin over time without the abrasiveness of physical exfoliants.
Chemicals! Sometimes, they're your friends. Ahead, five exfoliating formulas that are gentle, effective, and readily equipped to clear up any misgivings — and your breakouts, dullness, and dark spots, too.