what is the difference between chemical and physical exfoliants and which one you should be using

Something important that we’ve learned over the years is that your beauty routine should evolve with you over time. After Lauren wrote a piece on entering her thirties, we realized that we should be catering to our skin and its new set of needs during each phase of life. As much as we’d like to say that washing your face twice a day will do the trick, the truth is that you should get to know your skin on a deeper level and take care as needed. One step that should be added to everyone’s routine is exfoliation.

Exfoliation is the act of clearing your skin of dead cells, leaving it soft and refreshed. Regularly exfoliating your face will allow your skin to breathe, plus it will give you a healthy glow, and who doesn’t want that? There are two types of exfoliation techniques—chemical and physical. In today’s post we are going to break down the difference between both exfoliants and why you should be doing them. Your skin will thank you for it! Let’s get to it…

Chemical Exfoliants

Chemical exfoliants, or chemical peels, may seem like a scary term, but they’re far from frightening. This type of exfoliating is done using either alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids, or enzymes that gently loosen and help remove dead skin cells. Chemical exfoliants reach deeper into the skin than physical exfoliants and are great for those with skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, eczema or other sensitivities. The result? Smoother, brighter and glowing skin. A professional chemical peel every 6 weeks will give you the best results (but also requires downtime following the treatment while your skin literally peels…). But there are also some great at-home chemical exfoliants:

Physical Exfoliants

You are probably already familiar with physical exfoliants. Physical exfoliants use small grains to remove dead skin cells. Some other forms of physical exfoliants are brushes, loofahs, microdermabrasion, and scalpels used during microplaning (a post is coming on that later!). Basically, anything used to manually remove dead skin cells can be classified as a physical exfoliant. If you opt to use a scrub to exfoliate your skin, make sure that the grains in it are small and do not contain fruit pits or shells. Fruit pits and shells used in face scrubs can cause damage called micro-tears which can seriously irritate your skin. The benefits of physical exfoliants are immediate results from stimulating circulation and being able to scrub and rinse dead skin away. This type of exfoliating does not last as long as chemical exfoliation, and therefore should be done nightly a couple times a week followed by your usual skincare routine.

Here are some of our favorite physical exfoliants:

When it comes to deciding which type of exfoliation is good for you, it depends on the results you’re looking for. Physical exfoliants can be more affordable and offer immediate results, while chemical exfoliants can be pricier yet more effective in the long run. It’s up to you to make that decision!

What type of exfoliation do you prefer?

We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!

XO Team LC

Photos: Jessi Burrone
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