The average groomer is well acquainted with the benefits of exfoliating. The process itself is simple: Dead cells are removed from the surface of your face, revealing a brighter complexion and a striking improvement in skin tone. However, like any overhaul, the process takes its toll, and exfoliating to excess can irritate fresh cells, leading to dryness, redness, and even full-on breakouts. For men with sensitive skin (myself included) those downsides can be a dealbreaker.
That said, there’s more than one way to crack an egg, and this case is no exception. The answer lies in chemical—not physical—exfoliators, which break down the bonds between cells rather than buff them away by force. It’s the skincare equivalent of solvent, as opposed to a hammer and chisel.
When supported by other ingredients, the results are truly impressive. The first example I tried was a cleanser in this month’s lineup, Billy Jealousy’s White Knight Gentle Daily Facial Cleanser. It exfoliates with the help of natural papaya enzymes (a.k.a. pepsin), which loosen dead cells without harming the skin beneath. Willowbark extract serves a supporting role: It contains Salicylic acid, which cleans out pores, and has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce irritation. The byproducts of both are cleansed away by glycerin, which also locks in moisture to avoid drying out skin.
The combination is intricate, but the results are refreshingly simple: Softer, smoother skin that won’t flake or inflame. This doesn’t mean you can skin your daily dose of moisturizer, but it’s safe to say that the days of dryness are firmly at an end.