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Physical vs Chemical Exfoliants: Which one is better

What is Exfoliation?

Everyday our body’s organ systems work to keep us alive and offer protection. The most important organ system we have is the largest one on our skin. One job our skin is tasked with is going through the process of removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, either accomplishing the task by using a chemical, granular substance, or an exfoliation tool. 

Why Should You Exfoliate?

It is recommended to exfoliate at least twice a week and no more than that. Your skin naturally sheds dead skin cells to make room for new cells every 30 days or so. But sometimes the skin doesn’t shed completely or get clogged up, which therefore results in your skin becoming dry, having flaking patches, and having clogged pores that in turn leads to unwanted acne. 

The Benefits of Exfoliation

There are several benefits to exfoliating your skin. We on average need to exfoliate our faces and bodies at least 1 to 2 times a week to bring the healthier cells to the surface of our skin, unclog our dirty pores, and allow our skincare products to be able to absorb into our skin. You have choices of exfoliation mechanical and chemical. 

Mechanical exfoliation of ingredients being used or added to other products to physically scrape off the dead skin cells. These can be ingredients like almonds, nuts, oats, jojoba beads, and salt and sugar scrubs.  

Chemicals like enzymes and AHA and BHA acids help break down the bonds that hold the keratin ( the protein in the skin) to slough away the dead skin cells on the epidermis. These ingredients are chemicals that when missed can damage the skin so you have to use these with caution. 

However, the benefits of these chemical ingredients are vast and can help get rid of your skin problems and help you to achieve that glowing skin you long for. 

Benefit #1: Unclogs Pores

Exfoliating regularly keeps your pores from getting clogged with dead and dry skin cells and dirt, thus preventing breakouts. 

Benefit #2: Prevent Acne

As explained above exfoliating keeps pores unclogged so dirt, oil, and dead skin cells don’t get stuck stopping those ugly acne bumps in their tracks.

Benefit #3: Aids in the better absorption of other skincare products

Those additional wonderful skincare products you love will absorb and work better once your skin is smooth and free of dead skin cells.  The products will be able to penetrate deeper into the epidermis to receive the extra benefits of those products like moisturizers and serums. 

Benefits #4 Even skin tone

Exfoliating is a great method for those who suffer with dark spots, rough texture, acne scars, and hyperpigmentation for a benefit of exfoliation if it can help even out your skin tone. 

Benefit #5: Increase collagen production

Collagen is a protein found in our skin that helps with skin elasticity. Exfoliating will keep this important protein working to keep those wrinkles, and fine lines at bay so your skin looks and feels younger and healthy. 

Benefits #6: Boost circulation and lymphatic drainage

The number 6 benefit of exfoliating is it stimulates the lymphatic drainage system to internally cleanse and wake up oxygen rich blood to aid in feeding and nourishing the skin’s surface. One works as a detox to remove toxins and the other job is to boost cellular health to reveal radiant skin from within.

Benefits #7: Cell turnover

The main goal of this method is to shed those dead skin cells that make your skin appear dull and lifeless. Cell turnover is the process which the skin goes through to keep fresh healthy skin cells at the surface. And removing the dead dry cells out the way to reveal that glowy skin underneath. 

No matter how you achieve exfoliating make sure you do it safely and at least no more than twice a week. If you do a chemical peel only once. 

Physical vs Chemical Exfoliants

You can achieve the benefits of exfoliating by two methods: Physical exfoliation and chemical exfoliation. Physical exfoliation involves the use of something physical to remove dead skin cells, while chemicals are the use of acids to peel and slough away dead skin cells. 

What can you use for physical exfoliation?

You can use an assortment of things to physically exfoliate like jojoba beads, almonds (nuts), dry brushing. The most popular are sugar and salt scrubs like the Maui Moisture Volcanic Scrub formulated for dry, normal, and combination skin; it contains aloe vera juice as well as coconut water both great for moisture. And exfoliating gloves or exfoliating towels like these Korean Exfoliating Towels 8 pc. Asian Exfoliating Bath Washcloth.

The problem with physical exfoliation is that it involves rubbing of the skin that can lead to tearing and damage of skin if not done too much or not right. It is especially the use of certain items for different body parts. For instance it is recommended to never use salt scrubs on the face due to the particles being too harsh. 

What can you use for chemical exfoliation?

Chemical exfoliants use acids such as lactic, glycolic, citric, salicylic, etc.. to remove dead skin. Each of these acids offer wonderful benefits depending on the individual’s skin type. 

These naturally occurring mild alpha hydroxy acids ( AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids ( BHAs) work by loosening the bonds between cells in the epidermis. They can at the same time lighten dark areas, soften rough skin, and heal areas of acne breakouts. 

There are five everyday food items that you can use: citric acid ( citrus fruits), glycolic acid (sugar/sugar cane), lactic acid( milk), tartaric acid( grapes/ wine), and malic acid ( apples). 

Are chemical exfoliants better than physical ones?

Chemical exfoliants don’t require the rubbing of skin like physical so for that reason they are deemed safer than many forms of physical exfoliants. Hydroxy acids like salicylic and glycolic acids can also penetrate deeper into skin treating the skin at a better level. 

Are Chemical acids safe?

If used correctly, yes they are very much safe. Make sure after using chemical products to apply sunscreen and to only use them no more than 2 times a week.  With that said, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come with potential side effects. Here are some cons of chemical exfoliants. 

  • Redness, scabbing, and swelling
  • Scarring
  • Changes in skin color
  • Infection 
  • Heart, Kidney, and liver damages

Don’t use 

Avoid the use of chemical acids if you take or have any of the following

  • Take oral acne medication in past 6 months like isotretinoin, myorisan, and Clarans
  • Keloids or family history of Keloids
  • Pregnant
  • Frequent or severe outbreaks of cold sores

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