A good exfoliant should be part of everyone’s skincare routine. Exfoliants remove the dead cells that buildup on the surface of the skin which can cause breakouts and reveal the brighter skin underneath, making you look younger and healthier. But not all exfoliants work in the same way. There are two types of exfoliants: chemical exoliants and physical exfoliants. What’s the difference between them and which type should you use?
What are chemical exfoliants?
Chemical exfoliants work by dissolving the “glue” that binds skin cells together and to the skin, thus allowing them to fall off. They can also dissolve the dead skin cells themselves. Chemical exfoliants can be used by everyone but are particularly suitable for those with sensitive skin as they don’t contain small particles or grains that could scratch and irritate skin. But which chemical exfoliant should you choose? The most common types are AHAs and BHA. AHAs, which include Lactic Acid and Glycolic Acid, are suitable for dry or sun-damaged skin and, in addition to exfoliating skin, they also improve its moisture content. Those with oily, acne prone or breakout-prone skin should, instead, use BHA (Salicylic Acid). Salicylic Acid has the ability to exfoliate both the surface of the skin and inside the pores so it eliminates and prevents clogged pores that can lead to acne or pimples. In addition, BHA also has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, making it even more suitable for those with acne.
What are physical exfoliants?
Physical exfoliants work by mechanically removing the dead cells on the surface of the skin. One of the most common types of physical exfoliants are granular scrubs that contain small particles or grains (such as oatmeal or apricot scrubs) to exfoliate. But if these particles are too big or have uneven surfaces and textures, they can tear up the skin, causing more harm than good. Nut shells or fruit pits are the most irritating types, so try to stay away from those. A more gentle form of physical exfoliation, suitable for everyone including those with sensitive skin, is using a washcloth. They are soft and don’t irritate skin. And did you know that shaving with a razor is a type of physical exfoliation too?
Which type is best?
If you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, definitely opt for chemical exoliants as they are less likely to cause irritations and, those with Salicylic Acid, can help treat acne. Personally, I prefer chemical exfoliants as I find them to be gentler on the skin. I use physical exfoliants too at times but I find it is harder to come across one whose particles aren’t too rough or big. You can also alternate between physical and chemical exfoliants if you like both types, but just be sure not to use them both at the same time, as that will definitely irritate your skin.
Do you prefer to use chemical or physical exfoliants?