Main content


3 min read

What are chemical exfoliants?

All skin types can benefit from regular exfoliation to stimulate cellular turnover, and it’s particularly important for those with acne-prone skin and pimples. But what is the best way to exfoliate for pimple-free skin? Using a physical exfoliant isn’t always the best course of action for those prone to skin congestion. Furthermore, physical exfoliators, or scrubs, only address the surface of the skin. So, how can you use gentle exfoliants in your skincare routine to target acne?

Used in skincare products, chemical exfoliants are acids which lift and remove dead skin cells – which can   result in brighter and clearer complexions. Acids like LHA in skincare also promote faster skin cell turnover.

The difference between chemical and physical exfoliants

Physical exfoliants are textured products that manually clear dead skin cells – these can be in the form of brushes, sponges or loofahs, or skincare scrubs. Where physical exfoliators can be tough on the surface of skin, acids like LHA for acne are gentle exfoliants. Formulated with other supportive ingredients, chemical exfoliants like LHA for skin can complement skin’s pH level and be gentle enough for sensitive skin types.

What is LHA or Lipo Hydroxy Acid?

While alpha-hydroxy and beta-hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs) are well-known ingredients in skincare, you might not have heard of LHA for skin. A derivative of salicylic acid, the major benefit of beta-lipohydroxy acid (LHA), lies in its gentle mode of exfoliation - meaning it is tough on acne and gentle on sensitive skin.

LHA's keratolytic (exfoliating) action lifts dead skin cells from the surface of the skin for a visibly smoother complexion. With a similar pH level to the skin, it's less acidic than many chemical exfoliants such as benzoyl peroxide and is well tolerated by even the most sensitive of skin. 

While it penetrates the skin less deeply than salicylic acid, lipo hydroxy acid is more lipophilic. This means it is better able to dissolve in oils and lipids and sinks into the skin slowly, making it better tolerated by acne-prone skin types.

Benefits of LHA for Skin

Thanks to the gentle exfoliant’s compatible nature, LHA benefits for skin extends to most types. Dead skin build-ups can happen to anyone – whether due to dry air, as a result of environmental stressors like UV exposure, or the natural skin ageing process. By implementing this gentle chemical exfoliant into your routine, you can access the following benefits:

  • Brightened skin appearance
  • Refined pores
  • Cleared impurities such as dirt and excess oil
  • Reduction in the appearance of blackheads and pore size
  • Reduction in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Collagen stimulation
  • Evened skin texture
  • Helps with the absorption of some other skincare products

LHA for Acne-Prone Skin

Chemical exfoliation is a more gentle option for acne-prone skin, however, it’s important to err on the side of caution. Over exfoliating can be counterproductive, causing an unwanted rebound effect. This means the skin may in fact respond by producing more oil, leading to further breakouts.

The answer to gentle exfoliants with acne lies in using ingredients that are mild on the skin without compromising on effectiveness. Using LHA for acne-prone skin can help to target blemishes and breakouts without causing further stress to skin.

LHA Skincare

Used across our Effaclar range, this gentle chemical exfoliant features in a range of skincare products. Found in cleansers and moisturisers, as well as formulas that target specific concerns, lipo hydroxy acid is a multi-functional and supportive addition to skincare routines. See which LHA skincare product is right for your concerns and skin type.

Pure Niacinamide 10 Serum For Dark Spots

A potent daily serum, this LHA skincare product is specially formulated for dark spots and uneven skin tones. Pure 10% niacinamide is combined with hyaluronic acid and lipo hydroxy acid, delivering hydrated results. Suitable for all skin types including sensitive.

Effaclar Anti-Acne Salicylic Acid Serum

An ultra-concentrated, gentle chemical exfoliant serum, used to reduce the appearance of breakouts and fine lines on the face. Ideal for acne-prone skin, mature skin types and those who experience redness in skin. Three chemical exfoliants are combined in the formula, including LHA, glycolic acid and salicylic acid.

Effaclar Duo (+) Anti-Acne Moisturiser

Ideal for oily and acne-prone skin, this moisturiser can be paired with our exfoliants for acne-related issues. The non-comedogenic formulas combine LHA with niacinamide and mannose, to provide comfort and balance to skin while encouraging skin cell renewal. Results can include improved skin tone, cleared pores and reduced appearance of acne breakouts.

Effaclar Micro-Peeling Purifying Gel Cleanser

For oily skin types and those prone to pimples or blackheads, this refreshing cleanser doubles as an exfoliant for acne. The gel-based formulation combines LHA with zinc and salicylic acid to purify, cleanse pores and micro-exfoliate skin. The use of gentle exfoliants helps to comfort skin, leaving it feeling renewed and clean.

Effaclar K (+) Anti-Blackhead Moisturiser

Ideal for oily and combination skin types, this moisturiser improves hydration while reducing shine. From the initial application, skin feels refreshed. Through consistent use, pores are unclogged and the appearance of blackheads reduced. LHA is combined with vitamin E and airlicium to absorb and remove excess sebum.

Found this article helpful? Keep reading to find out the difference between acne and pimples.


Stay In Touch

Orientation message
For the best experience, please turn your device