Chemical vs physical exfoliation: which one is better?
One thing’s for sure. If you’re not exfoliating, you’re missing out. Exfoliants remove all those dead cells that make your skin look tired, dull, and old, giving your face a brighter and healthier look.
But, not all exfoliants are created equal. There are two types: chemical and physical exfoliant. One type is way, way better than the other.
Which one? The answer may surprise you…
What Are Chemical Exfoliants?
HOW DO CHEMICAL EXFOLIANTS WORK?
Chemical exfoliants dissolve the “glue” that holds skin cells together, allowing them to fall off. They can also dissolve the dead skin cells themselves.
WHICH INGREDIENTS DO CHEMICAL EXFOLIANTS USE?
Chemical exfoliants are often called acid exfoliants because they use exfoliating acids to the do the job. The most common ones are:
- Glycolic acid: Can also boost collagen production and hydrate skin, making it ideal for dry and sun-damaged skin.
- Lactic acid: Hydrating and super gentle, it’s perfect for sensitive skin.
- Salicylic acid: Reduces breakouts by exfoliating the pores from within, so it’s most suitable for oily and acne-prone skin types.
Related: Glycolic Acid VS Salicylic Acid: Which One Should You Use?
Don’t know which skincare products you can mix and match together and which ones deactivate each other? Download your FREE “How To Layer Actives Like A Pro” cheat sheet to get the most out of your skincare products:
DO CHEMICAL EXFOLIANTS HAVE ANY SIDE EFFECTS?
Chemical exfoliants can cause irritations when used too often. Start by using small concentrations a couple of nights a week and build dose and frequency from there.
- Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum ($68.40): available at Cult Beauty, Sephora and SpaceNK
- Paula’s Choice Resist Daily Smoothing Treatment With 5% AHA ($33.00): available at Dermstore, Paula’s Choice and Selfridges
- Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid ($29.00): available at Dermstore, Look Fantastic and Paula’s Choice
- The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2% (£5.50): available at Cult Beauty and Feel Unique
- The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution (£4.25): available at Beauty Bay and Cult Beauty
What Are Physical Exfoliants?
HOW DO PHYSICAL EXFOLIANTS WORK?
Physical exfoliants mechanically remove the dead cells on the surface of the skin.
WHAT INGREDIENTS DO PHYSICAL EXFOLIANTS USE?
Physical exfoliants use all kinds of natural or synthetic particles that can brush dead cells off your skin. The most common are:
- Apricot kernels
- Britstles (Clarisonic)
- Silicone brushes (Foreo)
- Walnut shells
Related: Is The Clarisonic Good Or Bad For Skin?
DO PHYSICAL EXFOLIANTS HAVE ANY SIDE EFFECTS?
These little particles can have jagged edges that can scratch and tear up skin. Apricot kernels are the absolute worst. Avoid!
Plus, physical exfoliants may not exfoliate evenly. If you scrub your chin for 2 minutes and your cheeks for 2 and half, your skin will be more exfoliated in some places than others.
- Foreo Luna ($49.00/£29.00): available at Cult Beauty, Selfridges and Ulta
- The Body Shop Luxury Facial Flannel (£5.00): available at The Body Shop
Chemical VS Physical Exfoliation: Which Type Is Best?
Chemical exfolition all the way. Why?
- It exfoliates skin evenly.
- It’s less likely to irritate skin (unless abused).
- Chemical exfoliants also do other stuff like hydrate skin and boost collagen production.
Seriously, who said that chemical is bad?