Facial pads. Little flimsy rounds of cotton, soaked with strong-smelling stuff that is prone to making your eyes water… God, these bring back memories! Who else had the Clearasil pads when they were a teen? Double-sided – one side like sandpaper, the other only slightly less so, and both of them saturated with enough acidic stuff to strip the paint from a small car.
The pads I’m talking about today, it has to be said, are not like the ones from my teen years. These are far more sophisticated – less abrasive, more effective and far less irritating to sensitised faces. And they’re not just useful for acne-prone or oily skin, either – though they will work a treat to keep skin nicely exfoliated and toned; these are all-round saviours for pretty much any skin type, apart from perhaps the very sensitive, helping to brighten and clarify and treat fine lines. The alpha hydroxy acids in the formulas can also help to boost collagen production and increase the plumpness of the skin as well as sloughing off dead cells to make it brighter and fresher, making them very worthwhile additions to any skincare routine.
I tested out two types of exfoliating facial pads; firstly the Facial Radiance Pads from First Aid Beauty and then the PHA+ Bio-Peel Resurfacing Facial Pads from Zelens. The First Aid Beauty pads cost £20.50 for 60, the Zelens, £65 for 50. Quite a difference in price, but also, as you’ll see, quite a difference in performance, too!
At first glance, the Facial Radiance Pads from First Aid Beauty seem like the perfect dupe for the Zelens version. They contain AHAs, they are pleasant to use and promise to leave skin bright and glowing. The pads are pre-soaked in the formula and housed in a screw-top pot, which does a perfectly adequate job of keeping the pads juicy and fresh. But here’s the thing: a quick swipe over with one of these pads and you feel virtually no tingle at all. Maybe a slight one, to the acid-exfoliant-uninitiated, but really, they are as gentle as can be. Perfect if you’re new to this type of exfoliation and want to ease yourself in; perfect if normal AHA exfoliants are simply too harsh for you. It’s almost just an exfoliating gesture; a kind of half-exfoliant.
The Zelens PHA+ Bio-Peel pads, however: whoosh! Dr Marko Lens doesn’t do things by halves and these exfoliating pads are like powerful one-step mini-facials. If you appreciate an AHA tingle then you’ll love these, but it’s interesting to note that rather than being all harsh and bolshy, these pads have been specifically formulated to be non-irritating and easily tolerated by most skin types. They include “next generation” hydroxy acids that are less prone to causing irritation and the formulation is hydrating as well as exfoliating, leaving skin plumped out and brightened. I actually find that I don’t need to moisturise afterwards – I like to just swipe and leave – but if you want the extra hydration, just wait for five or ten minutes so that the acids can do their business.
Verdict? The Zelens exfoliating facial pads are in their very own little league, I think. This is effective-yet-gentle exfoliating at its very best; great for tired skin, dull skin, skin with large pores or fine lines, any skin that needs a proper overhaul. If you can afford to splash out, then they are worth every penny. The ones from First Aid Beauty are mild and non-offensive; they don’t stick their head above the parapet but they are affordable and a wonderful place to start. If you don’t want to pay for pre-soaked pads and want an AHA exfoliant that you can apply with your own cotton pads, then Liquid Gold from Alpha-H has always been right up at the top of my list. You can read about that here.
Zelens PHA+ Bio-Peel pads are £65 at Cult Beauty here, the Facial Radiance Pads from First Aid Beauty are £20.50 with free delivery at FeelUnique.com. With both, apply after cleanser and then wait a few minutes before continuing with your beauty routine. Have you tried either of these? I’d be very interested to know how you got on, especially if you have relatively sensitive skin.