skin health

5 mins read

Physical vs. Chemical Skin Exfoliation. What’s The Difference?

Physical vs. Chemical Skin Exfoliation. What’s The Difference?

Physical vs. Chemical Skin Exfoliation. What’s The Difference?

skin health

5 mins read

and why it’s important for breakout prone sensitive skin.

Ever dealt with dullness and uneven skin tone? Not sure how to handle your breakouts and texture? Want to speed up your cellular turnover rate resulting in new fresh skin? Same. Stay tuned because were talking all things exfoliating - which is right for your skin type and how this necessary step is essential for achieving a radiant complexion.

let's get physical

We’re all guilty of frantically scrubbing our faces raw in an effort to erase any and all signs of skin concerns like blemishes and uneven texture right? What you probably didn’t realize is that most of those scrubs can be damaging & actually make your breakouts worse - causing micro-tears in your skin. aka damaging your epidermis ➡ which leads to inflammation  ➡ which leads to more breakouts which = bad news. If you’re breaking out, chances are you’re already pretty inflamed and should steer clear of any sort of physical manipulation of your skin. 

For this exact reason physical exfoliant’s are becoming less and less popular nowadays - but physical exfoliants aren’t all bad. Their job is to literally lift away dead skin cells solely using friction - makes sense. But remember what we said about manipulation, right? Less is more (especially for breakout prone skin). If you’re team physical, it’s really important to make sure your scrub doesn’t contain any sort of nutshells or unpolished bead and check to make sure they are biodegradable. Those beads are plastic and end up in our oceans, and we're all trying to do our part here for the planet.

Good news is there are still some great physical exfoliants that don’t contain any harsh ingredients. Dermalogica's Daily Microfoliant for example is gentle enough to exfoliate for everyday use as part of your skin care routine. Its physical contribution is a rice-based powder so you can rest assured this won’t be damaging your purse or our planet.

a chemical romance

We're all familiar with chemical ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. They’re our best friends and our pimples worst nightmare and we’d be lost without them, agreed… but did you know these ingredients can be used for more than just a spot treatment? This is a some-what new concept for some, but this actually has been around for a while. Chemical exfoliants take these powerful ingredients to a new level by formulating them in liquid form that can be used quickly and easily over the whole face, not just on targeted breakout areas.

By now you may have heard of the terms AHA & BHA. We’ve been a fan of these guys for quite some time, and they tend to be found in most chemical exfoliants. Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) is usually derived from sugar cane and helps to gently slough off dead skin cells and also helps with collagen production. Also included in the AHA family are Lactic acid, which can help with sun damage and those pesky dark spots pimples can leave behind, and Glycolic Acid, which helps treat pimples as soon as they begin to form. Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) usually contain salicylic acid which penetrates deep into the pore, clearing it of any clogs. It’s also tough enough to cut through oil. AHAs & BHAs are used together so you’re getting the benefits of both, which can be hard to find in a physical scrub.

We're not totally opposed to physical scrubs. Chemical exfoliants have a lot to offer and hello! No manipulation, so green light for breakout prone skin.

We get it, the term “chemical” can seem a little scary… but when using the correct product, chemical exfoliation is actually less harsh on your skin than the physical scrubs. Meaning: if you’re breakout prone, you definitely want this in your life. And unlike physical scrubs, chemical exfoliants can have multiple benefits like clearing breakouts, brightening your overall complexion and helping with texture (those annoying tiny bumps).

what to remember about physical & chemical exfoliation

  1. Physical scrubs aren’t always ideal for sensitive skin or acne types.
  2. Physical scrubs use friction to lift away dead cells, this can increase sensitivity or break open spots causing cross infection.
  3. Un-polished beads or nut shells can cause micro-tears so make sure your physical scrubs don’t contain those!
  4. Over scrubbing can lead to inflammation.
  5. Chemical exfoliants are ideal for active breakouts - no manipulation = less inflammation.
  6. Chemical exfoliants can also help to even skin tone, brighten the complexion & even aid in fading sun damage.
  7. Some chemical exfoliants can be used daily vs. once or twice a week with a physical scrub but check the instructions for use as higher % of acids may mean less regular use is advised.
  8. Mild chemical exfoliants are usually left on the skin vs stronger acid formulas require rinsing off after a few minutes. Both offer easier and less messy application.

If we haven’t convinced you to switch yet, keep reading. Dermalogica Clear Start line now has (you guessed it) a 10% AHA + 2% BHA exfoliating peel that combats breakouts and resurfaces skin for a smoother, brighter, more even skin tone which we’re currently obsessing over!

Breakout Clearing Liquid Peel contains Salicylic Acid, to help clear congested pores and minimise breakout formation.Lactic Acid to smooth and retexturise skin.

Mandelic Acid, (an AHA) to brighten skin and minimise hyperpigmentation. And (phew, there’s more!) Azelaic Acid which helps unclog pores and even out skin tone.

This liquid peel is simple to use, just dispense the amazingly sparkly fluid onto clean hands and apply to face, it might tingle a little which is normal, then rinse off with cool water after 7-10 minutes. We suggest using this in your PM regimen and then make sure you apply a moisturiser with SPF the next morning. Psst... Using acids can make your skin more sun sensitive.


See how quickly skin can be transformed with Breakout Clearing Liquid Peel.

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