Physical vs chemical exfoliants. Which is best for you?


Physical vs chemical exfoliants

 We all know we should be exfoliating our skin as part of a healthy skincare routine, but there are so many options available and choosing what works for you can seem like a pretty daunting task. For an at home treatment, you have two basic options: chemical or physical exfoliants. Both aim to do the same thing – slough off dead skin cells, revealing your bright, smooth, healthy skin underneath. Exfoliating can also help serums and moisturisers penetrate your skin better. But what is the difference between a physical and chemical exfoliant and what are their pros and cons?

Physical exfoliants can be a great option because you can control the pressure you use to exfoliate, depending on your skin’s level of sensitivity, and you get instant results. But exfoliants with large or rough particles like apricot stone or walnut shell pieces can cause micro-tears in your skin leading to inflammation and irritation. Stick with physical exfoliants that contain super fine, round particles like jojoba beads and apply with a light touch. You should never feel like you’re rubbing sandpaper across your face!

Chemical exfoliants on the other hand don’t require any physical scrubbing and eliminate the risk of any micro-tears to your skin. They typically contain small acid-based molecules like glycolic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid that help dissolve the “glue” that holds dead skin cells together. Chemical exfoliants generally present a safe and controlled exfoliation but some caution is needed here too. Your skin can be much more sensitive to sunlight so make sure you use a broad-spectrum high SPF sunscreen every day.  

If you’re new to exfoliating or if you have sensitive skin, try starting out with an AHA exfoliant containing lactic acid which is hydrating and extra gentle on your skin. Alternatively, a super-fine, natural physical exfoliant is another option. Start slowly by adding an exfoliant to your skincare routine once or twice a week and work your way up to daily use. Whichever type of exfoliant you choose for your skin, we always recommend patch testing on the inside of your wrist or behind your ear to make sure it’s the right product for you.

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