The Difference Between Physical and Chemical Exfoliation

The Difference Between Physical and Chemical Exfoliation

Regular exfoliation is an important part of any skincare routine. There are two ways to go about it: chemical or physical. Here we will talk about the difference between the two and you can decide what’s right for your skin.

Regular exfoliation plays a vital role in your skincare routine. It helps to remove any dead skin cells that are attached to your skin that can contribute to a dull, uneven complexion. Without it, pores can become clogged, leading to breakouts.

When most people think of exfoliation, facial scrubs are probably the first thing that comes to mind. However, there are other ingredients that can be applied to the skin that perform the same function. Below are the two primary forms of exfoliation and how they work.

The Difference Between Physical and Chemical Exfoliation

You should only physically exfoliate two to three times a week.

Physical exfoliation

Also known as manual exfoliation, this refers to using a facial scrub to physically remove dead skin cells. This delivers instant results, and you will immediately feel that your skin is smoother, making it a satisfying option for many.

A lot of people who use scrubs tend to over-exfoliate. By scrubbing too hard, you can cause your skin barrier to become disrupted which can cause irritation. Clay-based scrubs that contain clay-based spherules (such as SkinBetter Science Detoxifying Scrub Mask) are ideal, because sugar and salt scrubs may have sharp-edged crystals which may cause micro-tears in the skin and accelerate skin aging.

Dermaplaning is a minimally invasive cosmetic procedure that shaves away the uppermost layers of your skin, revealing the healthy skin below. Similar results may also be achieved by shaving the face with a razor, as men do. I recommend to my female patients that they shave their face once weekly. This is one of the simplest and least expensive things that you can do for your skin. This will unveil the smooth, soft skin below and promote collagen growth. I have been shaving my face once weekly for over 20 years, at the recommendation of our Aesthetic Consultant, Leslie Ware. I do it for beauty, not for hair removal.

Chemical exfoliation

This type of exfoliation has become increasingly popular over the last few years. It refers to the use of certain ingredients – namely alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) – that speed up the turnover of dead skin cells. While not effective immediately, they deliver and maintain a glowing complexion over time.

While this has been common in dermatological treatments for some time, the ingredients have now been harnessed for at-home use. Some popular ones include the AHA glycolic acid and BHA salicylic acid. They both dissolve the bonds holding dead cells to your skin to encourage them to shed. There are products specifically designed for home use, such as SkinBetter Science Exfoliating Peel Pads, and stronger products formulated for in-office procedures.

As you may have guessed, these ingredients need to be used correctly. Follow the directions on the label and look out for any signs of irritation. Follow up AHAs and BHAs with restorative skincare. They can also make skin more photosensitive, so make sure you use sunscreen daily to stay protected.


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