Physical Vs Chemical Exfoliation

Hey There!

Exfoliation is super important when it comes to skincare because it helps your skin absorb all the goodness that you are applying onto your face every day. It's great for removing dead skin, clearing out your pores, and it helps promote new skin cell turnover! When it comes to exfoliation, it's important  to remember that there are two different ways to exfoliate: Physical exfoliation and Chemical exfoliation. 

Physical Exfoliation VS Chemical Exfoliation

Physical Exfoliation

Physical exfoliation is the process of using small grains, brushes, or tools to physically exfoliate and scrub your skin. Physical exfoliatiants like scrubs give you an instant satisfaction of a squeaky clean face.


  • Instant result
  • more "natural"
  • Promotes blood circulations on skin
  • Resurface epedermis layer of skin (top layer)


  • Micro-tears
  • Top layer of skin only (epidermis)
  • Uneveness in exfoliation
  • Does not reach dermis layer of skin

Other methods for physical exfoliation are microdermabrasion and dermaplaning, however, both methods must be performed by a professional. 

When working with physical scrubs, you must be careful with what type you pick. Natural isn't always better. Scrubs that contain nut shells can have particles that are too large or uneven edges that can cause micro tears on your skin. Opt for a scrub with smaller, more uniform particles to make sure it won't cause more damage to your skin.

Chemical Exfoliation

Chemical exfoliation relies on using acids to chemically break down binds in your skin. Chemical exfolation does not work immediately and may take sometime before seeing results. Some chemical exfoliants come in the form of night cream, serums, masks, and face wash. There are two main types of chemicals: AHAs and BHAs. 

AHA-Alpha Hydoxy Acid (eg., glycolic acid, lactic acid, mendlic acid, malic acid)

  • Derived from natural substances
  • Gentle enough for most skin types
  • Dissolves surface layer of the skin (epidermis layer only)
  • Resurface texture of skin
  • Evens out the skin
  • Brightening
  • Sheds outerlayer of skin

BHA-Beta hydroxy Acids (ex: salicylic acid)

  • Oil soluable (penatrate to dermis layer)
  • Pentatrate deeper into pores
  • Break down sebum in pores 
  • Anti-inflammatory 
  • Best for oily and combination skin types

Cons for Chemical Exfoliation:

  • Results takes time
  • May cause skin to tingle and burn
  • More difficult to apply; each product has very detailed and different instructions 
  • Face wash with chemical exfoliation doesn't yield high quality results, needs more time on skin
  • AHA can't penatrate deep into the dermis layer, epidermis layer only
  • AHA causes skin sensitivity to the sun

Depending on what you need, you might only need to use one type of chemical exfoliant or both! They are each different and can yield different results for your skin. They can be used separately or together. Just remeber, when you use a chemical exfoliant, it is EXTREMELY important to read and follow the instruction. Each product is made up with different percentages of the chemicals making some products stronger than others. Lastly, make sure to ALWAYS wear sunscreen and ESPECIALLY after using a chemical exfoliant

Physical Exfoliant VS AHA chemical exfoliation VS BHA exfoliant

As always, make sure to use what is best for your skin! I like to use a gentle physical scrub on most nights and use chemical exfoliation with a leave on peel whenever I feel it is needed. And make sure to never use more than the reccomended amount of product listed on the instructions because you don't want to damage your skin. For me, the best part of good exfoliation is that not only does my skin looks and feel great, it also really absorbs so much more product!

All the best,


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