Chemical and Physical Exfoliators – What’s The Difference?

by / Aug 02, 2019
Chemical and Physical Exfoliators – What’s The Difference?

Skin looking blah? Breaking out? You probably already know that to restore your glow, you need an exfoliator. But with so many options out there, which one is right for you? Chemical? Physical? What’s the difference, even? That ish is confusing! We broke it down for you here:

Exfoliating 101

First, a little background: As dead cells build up on your skin’s surface, they reflect less light, making skin look dull and drab. Plus, if you’re prone to zits, that buildup can accumulate in your pores and trap dirt and oil, causing breakouts. Exfoliation can help brighten, renew, and degunk pores by sloughing away these dead cells and revealing fresh, radiant skin.

Physical Exfoliators

What they are: Typically grainy, textured scrubs made of sugar, crushed nut shells, seeds, or jojoba beads that physically buff away skin.

Who they’re best for: Dry or normal skin types 

Who should avoid them: Sensitive or acne-prone skin types 

How often you should use them: Once or twice a week. Because you’re manually rubbing your skin with grainy particles, it’s easy to overdo it and cause irritation. Avoid if you’re acne-prone, rough scrubbing can inflame blemishes and risk introducing bacteria to deeper layers of skin.

Chemical Exfoliators

What they are: Acids in liquid form. You’ll find them in masks, cleansers, pre-soaked pads, toners, and some serums and lotions. Popular acids in skincare products include lactic acid (derived from milk), glycolic acid (from sugarcane), salicylic acid (sourced from willow bark), and citric acid (made from citrus fruits). 

Who they’re best for: Everyone! Although if you’re oily or acne-prone, salicylic acid is your BFF—it swoops into pores and clears them out.   

Who should avoid them: Unless you have extremely sensitive or reactive skin, chemical exfoliators are suitable for all skin types so long as you use them correctly.

How often you should use them: Since different products contain various percentages of acids, it’s important to go by the directions on the packaging; some are okay for everyday use while others should only be applied once or twice a week. If your skin begins to feel red, tight, or itchy, cut back on the frequency and incorporate it into your skincare routine slowly until your skin gets used to it.

Our Favorite Exfoliator:

Like, ever: FlashMasque Milk Peel. This sheet mask is amazing, seriously. It’s got lactic acid to gently exfoliate, plus ultra-hydrating coconut and soy milk to counteract irritation and soften. It’ll give you luminous skin in under five minutes and it’s great for anyone, really: Sensitive skin, exfoliator newbies, and anyone who wants a serious glow. And c’mon, who doesn’t?