Why You Need To Know The Difference Between Chemical Vs. Physical Exfoliators
Maybe you’ve heard of chemical and physical exfoliation, but you’re not sure what either really means?
Generally, exfoliators are products that work to remove dead skin cells. When you’re shopping for exfoliators, you will find that there are two main types, chemical and physical. Each one has unique uses and is best for different skin types. Because of this, it’s important to understand the difference between the two options and which one you should buy for your skin’s needs.
In this article, we’re going to show you the pros and cons of chemical and physical exfoliation.
WHAT ARE CHEMICAL EXFOLIATORS?
Chemical exfoliators are acids that come in a variety of concentrations. When shopping at the store, you will find less-concentrated formulas that are safe for home use. If you are looking for a heavy-duty chemical exfoliator, you will need to visit a dermatologist.
Chemical exfoliants work because they are absorbed by the skin and can then promote cell turnover. They are gentle and can be used on sensitive and acne-prone skin with little to no irritation. It’s recommended that you use chemical exfoliants one to three times per week. Starting out, you should stick to once per week and slowly work your way up to using the chemical exfoliator three times per week.
Some examples of chemical exfoliators include:
- Enzymes, including fruit enzymes
- Alpha hydroxy acids, including lactic and glycolic acids
- Beta hydroxy acids, including salicylic acid
Enzymes are beneficial for general exfoliating. AHAs are best for texture, pigmentation, and pore concerns, while BHAs are useful when fighting acne.
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WHAT ARE PHYSICAL EXFOLIATORS?
When you think of traditional exfoliants, you might think of physical options. Physical exfoliants contain tiny granules, and as you massage the exfoliant into your face, the particles work to remove dead skin cells.
Once you are done exfoliating with a physical product, brighter, younger, smoother skin will be visible. The results are instant as soon as you wash off the product. Because physical exfoliants contain granules, they can be too harsh for certain skin types. If you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, you may experience irritation. Other skin conditions may respond poorly to physical exfoliators too.
These are some of the different types of physical exfoliators you may find:
- Ground-up nuts
- Jojoba beads
Physical exfoliants are great for oily skin because they are able to minimize oil buildup. When oil is built up on the skin’s surface, the dead skin cells can stick around. It’s easier for you to get clogged pores for this reason if you have oily skin.
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Jojoba Beads vs. Glycolic Acid – What Works Best for What Kind of Skin?
There are certain exfoliants that should be used for specific skin types. By using the right type of exfoliant for your skin type, you can get better results. This should be a major determining factor when you’re shopping for an exfoliant.
Jojoba beads are a type of granule that can be found in physical exfoliants. Because physical exfoliants are harsher than chemical exfoliants, you should only use exfoliants with jojoba beads if you don’t have sensitive or acne-prone skin. If you choose to use physical exfoliants, they can be used about once per week.
Think your skin is too sensitive for jojoba beads and other physical exfoliants? Opt for a chemical exfoliant like glycolic acid instead. Glycolic acid dissolves the “cement” between the dead skin cells, unplugging pores and promoting a clear, smooth complexion.
On that note, jojoba beads are still gentler than sugar scrubs and other exfoliating ingredients like plastic microbeads, as they disintegrate and are naturally softer. So definitely don’t rule them out when looking for an exfoliating product.
Dr. Anita Sturnham, a dermatology GP explains how glycolic acid works. When the acid loosens the desmosome, which is what keeps the dead skin cells intact, the exfoliation process begins. Sturnham says, “As they get to work, you often feel a tingle in the skin. Once the desmosome is broken down, the skin naturally sheds its old, dead skin cells. So, although you won’t actually see your skin exfoliating, you’ll soon see and feel the smoother textured, more radiant-looking skin.”
Because chemical exfoliants are gentler, they are better for sensitive or acne-prone skin. While jojoba beads and other physical exfoliants can irritate acne and other skin concerns, glycolic acid can help. Chemical exfoliants work to heal and hydrate the skin in a non-abrasive way.
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WHAT TO AVOID WHEN SHOPPING FOR EXFOLIANTS
One common ingredient in physical exfoliants is plastic beads, and there are a couple of reasons you should avoid them.
First, these plastic beads can tear the skin, causing more harm than good. When the beads create microtears, this creates a place for bacteria to enter the skin. Second, plastic beads are not eco-friendly and are unable to break down as other exfoliant ingredients can.
Fortunately, more eco-friendly and skin-safe products are becoming available, so it’s not too challenging to avoid plastic beads. It’s something you should be aware of so you can get the best results from an exfoliant. If you are purchasing a physical exfoliant, make sure you know what the granules are made of to ensure you don’t irritate your skin. It seems like plastic beads are becoming less popular in exfoliants these days.
If your skin is sensitive, you should take extra caution when looking for an exfoliant to add to your lineup. Depending on your skin type, you may need to exfoliate less frequently or use gentler solutions. No matter what type of skin you have, there is an exfoliant that can slough away dead skin cells and reveal healthier skin.