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Exfoliation And The Sun: What You Need To Know

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This column features weekly tips and advice from a revolving cast of industry leaders, on hand to discuss your beauty dilemmas, from blemishes to Botox. To submit a question, e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

I’ve been really into regular exfoliation with these pre-soaked lactic acid pads. Do I need to stop using them before concentrated sun exposure? Are there general rules about this that I should be aware of?

If you use any alpha-hydroxy acid, your skin is going to be much more sensitive, so it’s going to take less sun exposure to make your skin burn—either because of the lactic acid or the abrasion of the buffing pad. Same thing with peels, depending on the strength. If it’s a very superficial peel, you should wait several days to go out into the sun; if it’s a more significant, deeper peel, it could be several months. With anything that exfoliates your skin, it’s best to wait at least a few days prior to sun exposure, although I don’t think daily exfoliation is good, anyway—maybe every other night or three to five times a week so you can give your skin a rest and not over inflame it. Too much inflammation in and of itself induces aging. When I do recommend exfoliation, I like alpha-hydroxy acids for gentle skin turnover, which I increase in intervals.


Once in the sun, SPF 15 to SPF 30 is a good range for adequate protection for people with normal skin types; if you burn easily, you’re up in the 30-45 range. It’s about SPF and antioxidants for me, though. I like resveratrol. I think it’s the key antioxidant at the moment with the greatest amount of science behind it at keeping your inside and your outside healthy.

New York-based Dr. Neil Sadick, MD, FAAD, FAACS, FACP, FACPh, is a clinical professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College, the President of the Cosmetic Surgery Foundation as well as the Global Medical Adviser for Christian Dior Beauty, specializing in dermatology, cosmetic surgery, internal medicine, and hair transplantation. His newly launched skincare collection, Park Avenue Prescription, will make its nationwide debut at Sephora in July.

Photo: Getty Images
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