There are two ways you can integrate exfoliation into your skincare routine. Which method you should choose depends on a number of factors.
Exfoliation is touted as the key to healthy-looking skin, and rightly so. Regardless of your age, your complexion will benefit from this skincare step. The kind of exfoliation best suited to you depends on your skin type, preferred usage, desired results, and existing routine.
You can exfoliate two ways: physically (or manually) and chemically. While the second option sounds rather harsh, it can actually be the gentler of the two options. You'll learn why this is true as you read on.
First, let's take a look at the ways you can integrate a physical exfoliant into your skincare routine and the benefits of this technique.
Physical/Manual Exfoliation: What Is It?
A physical exfoliant is any product that requires a rubbing or scrubbing action, hence the term 'manual exfoliation'. This could be a scrub that you apply with your hands. Or it could be a tool that does the scrubbing action for you, such as a battery-powered facial brush.
Some of the most common physical exfoliants include:
- Facial scrubs
- Face and body brushes
- Konjac and loofah sponges
- Flannels and high-tech cleansing cloths
Physical exfoliants work on the uppermost layers of skin. These products speed up the natural exfoliation rate and help to keep skin soft, smooth, and healthy.
You might opt for a physical exfoliant if you want something that:
- Shows immediate results
- Won't interact with the ingredients in the rest of your skincare routine., i.e. is easily integrated
- Stimulates circulation (which may help drain lymph and reduce facial puffiness)
Some of our favourites include:
- Dermalogica Skin Prep Scrub, with corncob meal
- Alpha-H Chamois Facial Cleansing Cloth, which can be paired with any of your existing cleansing products
- Clarisonic Plus Sonic Cleansing System
If you choose a brush, sponge or cloth for exfoliation, it's very important to clean these products regularly. The dead skin that's removed during exfoliation is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, especially when damp. Clean your exfoliating tool weekly and store it in a place where it can dry quickly.
Chemical Exfoliation: What Is It?
Most people are familiar with physical exfoliants, but not everyone has heard of chemical exfoliants. The latter are based on mild acids or enzymes. When these ingredients are applied to skin, they gently dissolve the 'glue' that cements dead skin cells together.
Common chemical exfoliants include:
- Glycolic acid
- Salicylic acid
- Lactic acid
- Papain (enzyme derived from papaya)
- Bromelain (enzyme derived from pineapple)
Unlike physical exfoliants, products containing acids or enzymes require no scrubbing and work gradually. These are great benefits for problem skin, whether it's prone to acne, eczema, rosacea, dryness, or sensitivity. This is why chemical exfoliants can in fact be milder and gentler than scrubs and the like.
Once applied, a chemical exfoliant not only works on the top layers of skin. The chemical can also penetrate and work on layers not yet visible to the eye. This creates a long-lasting increase in your natural exfoliation rate.
You might opt for a chemical exfoliant if you want something that:
- Is quick and easy to use
- Requires no scrubbing (great for problem skin types)
- Continues to work after application
- Works more deeply than a physical exfoliant, i.e. offers longer-lasting results
- Helps reduce signs of ageing
Some of our favourites include:
- Bioderma Hydrabio Gommage Exfoliating Cream, great for dry and sensitive skin
- Alpha-H Instant Facial, perfect for all skin types, promising results similar to salon treatments
- PRIORI Advanced AHA Perfection Facial Gel, great for anyone concerned with the signs of ageing
Whether you choose a physical or chemical exfoliant, both will help your skin slough more quickly on its own. The skin-cell turnover rate declines with age, which is why exfoliation is vital to keep skin looking fresh, healthy, and youthful.