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Chemical vs Physical Exfoliation

What is Exfoliation?

Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells from the outer layer of your skin. Exfoliating your skin gives it a fresh glow, helping it look better and radiant. It also allows moisturizers and serums to better penetrate the skin and helps your foundation glide on smoothly instead of sitting atop flaky skin.

Why is exfoliation important?

  1. Unclogs pores
  2. Improves skin complexion
  3. Improves skin texture and appearance
  4. Fades acne spots and prevents whiteheads and blackheads


Exfoliation can either be:

  1. Physical/mechanical exfoliation- this uses scrubs and products containing small particles, like coffee, jojoba beads, or sugar granules. This requires you to manually rub the product into the skin to allow the particles to do their job and buff away dead skin.
    Physical exfoliation can also be done using a textured washcloth, exfoliating gloves, and an exfoliating face wash which sometimes contains charcoal granules, crushed seed particles, etc.
    Microdermabrasion also employs mechanical exfoliation.

  1. Chemical exfoliation- as the name suggests, chemicals are applied to the skin to remove dead skin and debris. Chemical exfoliants are further categorized into two:
  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) which include Glycolic acid, lactic acid
  • Beta Hydroxy acids (BHAs) include salicylic acid.
    These chemicals are ingredients in toners, serums, creams, and cleansers.


Please note:

Deciding the type of exfoliant to use depends on your skin type, therefore it is best to understand your skin type first. If a product that is incorrect for your skin type is used, it may cause microtears on the surface of your skin. This damages the skin barrier which will then allow bacteria to enter your skin, therefore, causing inflammation and acne, and blackheads as a result.

For chemical exfoliants/peels please always follow instructions on the pack or those given to you by your dermatologist or skincare expert.

DO NOT leave the product on longer than recommended as this will burn your skin and make it sensitive. For physical scrubs DO NOT apply too much pressure when exfoliating as this will cause tears on your skin.

How often should one exfoliate?

It’s key to understand your skin and its needs before exfoliation. This will help you make a decision on how often to exfoliate. Generally, normal to oily skin types should be exfoliated twice weekly with a gentle exfoliant. However, if the exfoliant is strong once a week suffices.

Once a week is recommended for dry and or sensitive skin. Also, if your skin feels sensitive after exfoliation then you should reduce the frequency of exfoliation.

How to Exfoliate

  1. Wash your face with a gentle cleanser and warm water.
  2. After gently washing off your cleanser and while your skin is still damp, apply a pea-sized amount of exfoliant all over the face and neck.
  3. If it’s a chemical exfoliant leave it on as recommended on the product package before rinsing it off with warm water. Some chemical exfoliants though should not be rinsed off.
  4. Apply your serum and moisturizer


Do not forget to apply your sunscreen. Exfoliation tends to make the skin sensitive to the sun and therefore causing sunburns.