Physical vs. Chemical Exfoliation: Which is better?

Previously, I had been afraid of exfoliating my sensitive skin. I’ve tried a number of “gentle” exfoliants, and even tried making my own from natural foods such as ground oatmeal, ground almonds, and seeds. Everything left my face feeling itchy, tight and red. Even the “gentle” exfoliants I bought from beauty stores seemed too harsh.

Before I was committed to improving my carbon footprint and using only natural products, I exfoliated with a “gentle” product that used microbeads. I learned later that microbeads are small plastic beads that end up in fresh and ocean waters when they get washed down your sink drain. Fish can unintentionally ingest these microbeads, which can either kill them, or which could end up on your dinner plate! I also used an exfoliant that used ground apricot pits, which I now know actually tears and scratches at your gentle facial skin. I was so misguided.

There are two kinds of ways to exfoliate: physically and chemically.

Physical exfoliation is when a substance, usually a rough substance such as microbeads or ground apricot pits, literally rub and scrub against your skin to remove the dead skin cells. Also, one can use items like brushes or loofas to physically scrub the skin to remove these cells.

Chemical exfoliation is when a chemical substance is used to dissolve dead skin cells. Examples of chemical exfoliants are sylactic acid, lactic acid, alpha hydroxy acid, fruit enzymes, and citric acid.

Which one do you think is gentler on your skin? Physical exfoliants, right? Wrong! Chemical exfoliants are actually gentler on your skin, and therefore better for sensitive skin, and acne-prone skin, which can become inflamed if irritated with physical exfoliants. I was shocked when I first learned of this, but it makes sense, especially if the chemical exfoliant is something gentle like lactic acid in milk or fruit enzymes in pineapple.

Here are some tips and recipes for DIY gentle exfoliation

  • To exfoliate your body, you can use a loofa or brush and gently massage it against your skin.
  • For an even gentler body exfoliation, fill a bath tub with 1 gallon of whole milk and soak in the tub for 10 minutes. Rinse and apply a moisturizer.
  • Dry/Sensitive Skin: To exfoliate your face, mix 1/2 cup of whole yogurt with 1tbsp of honey. Massage the mixture into your face, rinse, and apply moisturizer.
  • Oily/Acne-Prone Skin: To exfoliate your face, mix 1/2 mashed banana with 1/2 papaya fruit. Apply to skin, let sit for 5 minutes, rinse, and apply moisturizer.

More DIY Beauty Recipes

More Skin Care Recipes

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2 thoughts on “Physical vs. Chemical Exfoliation: Which is better?

  1. Another easy way to exfoliate skin is by using a washcloth. I know it sounds like it’s not enough, but it you have really dry/sensitive skin, it might be just the thing for you. I also recommend oil cleansing. It sounds like maybe you are using a cleanser that might be drying your skin out too much, at least for now, given that you write a lot about having flakiness. An oil based cleanser will add moisture in and is made with cleansing oils and extracts meant to clean without the drying sulfates that exist in most cleansers. I use oil cleansing as a facial massage method a few times a week as I experience redness and dryness in my cheeks a lot. this helps prevent that and keeps my skin hydrated. Thanks for the cool post!

  2. Pingback: First Aid Beauty Skin Care Products Review | Beauty Botânica

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