Chemical vs Physical Exfoliator: Everything You Need To Know About Exfoliators
Exfoliation is that one step in a skincare routine that feels super satisfying. There’s something about seeing your skin instantly light up—probably that’s what gets everyone reaching out to their exfoliators at least once a week. But, why is it so loved? Well, exfoliation is the perfect way to slough away dead skin cells that sit on the surface of your skin, deep cleanse your pores from grime, dirt, and pollution, and even reduces the appearance of sun damage. It’s the ultimate go-to for that immediate glow, and with consistent use it helps maintain a healthy and bright complexion. Plus, with the layer of nitty gritties removed from your skin, it’s able to absorb your other skincare products making them far more effective and efficient as before.
But, here’s where the confusion arises! There are two types of exfoliators—physical and chemical. So which one is right for you? Here’s everything you need to know about the difference between chemical and physical exfoliators.
The Common Ground
Both types of exfoliants work to help remove dead skin cells, boost the regeneration of new cells, brighten, clear out, and improve your complexion. There is an instant gratification where your skin feels smooth and soft after one use. But, there is a major difference in the way they exfoliate.
The OG ‘scrub’, physical exfoliators often contain microgranulated particles that help physically exfoliate the skin. These literally scrub off the debris, polish the skin, and help improve the texture of your skin. You can also physically exfoliate your skin with an external tool, such as a gentle washcloth or a cleansing brush, both of which provide similar effects as exfoliating products.
The Benefits Of Physical Exfoliation:
Physical exfoliation often helps improve uneven skin texture and brightens the skin instantly. Regular use of a physical exfoliator aids in boosting the production of collagen, leaving your skin with a plump and healthy glow. The downside of using a physcial scrub is that the microparticles can be too abrasive on the skin, and can cause microtears resulting in infection. That is why it is important to pick a scrub that is creamy and gentle, and won’t disrupt the skin’s barrier.
Chemical exfoliators, on the other hand, use enzymes and acids to help exfoliate the skin. Unlike physical scrubs, the formulations for these products don’t contain particles and rely on acids. These acids help dissolve the glue that binds the dead skin cells to your skin. This allows the debris to be gently sloughed away, resulting in exfoliation. Earlier, due to its potency, chemical exfoliation was only available in-clinic, under professional supervision. However, nowadays, you can find different versions of chemical exfoliants that can be used at home, which gently help exfoliate the skin too.
The Benefits Of Chemical Exfoliation
Since chemical exfoliants help dissolve the glue that binds the debris and dead skin cells to the surface of the skin, they aid in improving uneven skin tone and can even brighten the skin. There are three types of chemical exfoliators —AHAs, BHAs and PHAs. AHAs help resurface the skin, while BHAs have the ability to penetrate deeper into the skin, allowing for better exfoliation. If you have sensitive skin, PHA is the chemical exfoliator for you – it’s the least irritating. While chemical exfoliants are potent, they are milder on the skin as compared with physical scrubs, if used correctly.
Which Is Better For Your Skin
There are multiple benefits of exfoliation for all skin types and is a great step in your routine. The million dollar question, however, is which one is right for you?
It is highly dependent on your skin type and your requirements. Physical scrubs are great for those looking to remove the debris that sits on the surface of the skin and also aids in cleansing any clogged pores. They can, however, disrupt the skin’s barrier and cause irritation if overdone. Those with sensitive skin often prefer using chemical exfoliants as the chances of irritation are less. Similarly, if you are someone who tends to breakout easily, or are experiencing dullness and hyperpigmentation, chemical exfoliation is the way forward.
Word Of Caution:
Whether you’re using a physical or chemical exfoliator, the chances of getting carried away and over-exfoliating your skin is very high. This can lead to irritation, inflammation, dryness, and can even disrupt the skin’s barrier. Always start small and build it up, to avoid stripping your skin off its natural moisture and oils. The rule is to acclimatise your skin to the exfoliator before increasing the frequency of use.