Which exfoliator to use for flaky dry skin, age spots, hyperpigmentation

Here are my ‘general’ recommendations, going from the mildest form of exfoliator to the strongest form. 

Everyone is unique and the skin may react differently from person to person using these different exfoliator solutions. See NOTES at end of the article.


For dry/flaky skin use an enzyme exfoliator like No Dry Skin + Enzyme Gel at a 4.0pH. Enzymes catalyse the break down the dry dead cells on the surface of the skin. Use it a minimum of 3 nights per week after cleansing – and you can go up to 7 nights per week as long as you don’t have sensitive skin. The result will be smoother, softer, non-flaky skin.

For skin that has a little dryness, a little oiliness, a little pigmentation, a little rough texture, use Gentle + Exfoliate Gel. It is a very light alpha and beta hydroxy acid formula at a 4.0pH. It will not irritate the vast majority of skin types. It may tingle/sting slightly. Apply it on dry (non moist) skin. Use it 3 nights per week after cleansing. Non sensitive skin can use it 7 nights per week. Most mild adult acne problems can be controlled by using this exfoliator.

For skin that is combination or oily, experiences regular adult acne outbreaks, has more pronounced hyperpigmentation caused by the acne pimples, and has stronger keratin growth (like little skin bumps that form over old pimples and take a while to go away), use either the 3.9pH Clear Skin Ultra Gel, or the stronger 3.5pH Age Limit. By increasing cell turnover rates you will see less congestion of pores, hyperpigmentation and rough texture. Apply it on dry (non moist) skin. Use it 3 nights per week after cleansing. Non sensitive skin can use it 7 nights per week. These are not ideal products for very sensitive skin.

For oily or combination skin that experiences strong keratin growth (often represented by many sebaceous cysts along the jaw and chin, but can also be seen on cheeks and forehead) and other ‘annoying’ bumpiness on the skin use Power Peel (it is not a peel – just an exfoliator). This aggressive 3.2pH alpha hydroxy acid will definitely tingle and sting on most skin types. Some people feel it makes their skin ‘itch’. These are natural reactions to an AHA of this intensity. Use it 3 nights per week, and you can build up to 5 nights then 7 nights a week (over a 1 month period) if your skin can accommodate it (i.e. your skin should not get and stay red, irritated or flaky). Severe adult acne sufferers usually benefit from this exfoliator. Use at night on dry (non moist) skin, after cleansing. This exfoliator usually works well at lifting and lightening most forms of pigmentation caused by acne and sun damage. Often this is the best exfoliator for ‘oily’ teenage skin.

Sometimes I recommend a stronger exfoliator like the 32% GlySalLac at 3.0pH – but only after consulting with the client, or, preferably performing a facial on them, and in so doing I get to know more about the strength and condition of their skin. I never believe in being aggressive on the skin just for the sake of it….

A peel, performed by an experienced esthetician, will deliver great results in terms of reducing hyperpigmentation, acne scarring, and rough texture. It is not for everyone. I will never do a peel on anyone unless I have worked on their skin before, and thus know whether they can accommodate an intense exfoliation peel. I only do peels from late Fall through to early Spring. I never do peels in Summer. Read this article for information on home care and peel expectations. It’s the only skin you will ever have, so if you screw it up by being too aggressive, you have to live with it….

NOTE: Stronger and more aggressive does NOT mean better results. Use the correct exfoliator suited to the level of sensitivity of your skin. Have patience…use a milder exfoliator and get better results of a longer period of time…expect improvements within weeks rather than within days.

NOTE: Once you have achieved your primary exfoliating skin care goals, you should try using a milder form of exfoliator as your ongoing home care maintenance product.


For more information on exfoliation, see the SkinCareTV video.

NOTE: The general rule of thumb with skin care exfoliators….expect some kind of sensation on the skin….expect a little redness – but it goes away within 5 minutes after removing the exfoliator. STOP using a product that results in prolonged or intense redness or any ongoing irritation or increase in skin sensitivity where the exfoliator was applied. Never use a strong exfoliator on inflamed or irritated or abraided skin or wounds. Never get an exfoliator in the eyes. ALWAYS use cool water to remove exfoliators – NEVER warm or hot water. Use cool water to calm any skin irritation.


The information provided here is not meant to diagnose or cure any medical conditions. Please see your doctor or a trained medical professional should you have any concerns.

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