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Chemical vs. Physical Exfoliants

Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells, dirt, and other impurities that can clog pores. An exfoliator is a great product to incorporate into your skin care regimen, and most dermatologists recommend using them two or three times a week. 

Use it between your cleanser and toner or serums as an added layer of cleansing. Because they're able to remove more than a cleanser alone, any treatments you apply after can penetrate more deeply into your skin, allowing them to work even better.

There are two ways to exfoliate — physical and chemical. Which one works for you can depend on your skin type and sensitivity, along with your personal preference. Before buying an expensive exfoliant, make sure you consult with your dermatologist. They can help you learn which brands and forms might combine best with your skin. 

Physical Exfoliation

Physical or manual exfoliation uses small particles to scrape away dead skin and reveal what's underneath. They can be scrubs, peels, and loofahs.

Are Physical Exfoliants Bad?

Physical exfoliants are not bad, though there are some things to watch for when using a physical exfoliant. 

Avoid exfoliants that use nuts or fruit pits, as they can be especially irritating on the skin. Also, look for Earth-friendly ones, as some can contain microplastics, although they've mostly been banned. Finally, even though your goal is to remove dead skin, be gentle. Over-exfoliating can cause micro-tears in the skin.

Chemical Exfoliation

Chemical exfoliants weaken the bonds between skin cells so that dead skin sloughs off easily. It can take a bit longer than physical exfoliation to see results since it's more gentle. There are two types of chemical exfoliants:

  • Alpha-hydroxy acids: These work better on dry skin. AHAs come in the form of glycolic and lactic acid.
  • Beta-hydroxy acids: These are better for oily and acne-prone skin. BHAs usually refer to salicylic acid.

Is Chemical Exfoliation Better Than Physical?

Many people prefer chemical exfoliants for the delicate skin on their face and physical exfoliants for the tougher skin on the rest of their body. It comes down to your preferences and what your skin can tolerate.

Explore Exfoliants From Exclusive Beauty Club

New Obagi Revivify Multi-Acid Facial Peel

PCA Skin Micro Peel At-Home Kit

SkinMedica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

NIA24 Resurfacing Crystals


Murad Daily Clarifying Peel

Obagi Professional-C Microdermabrasion Polish + Mask 30%


When you shop at Exclusive Beauty Club, you have dozens of exfoliant options to choose from. All of our products are authentic and have been rigorously tested and backed by scientists and dermatologists. Start looking today and get rewards like free shipping on orders over $50, free samples with every order, and, most importantly, healthy, glowing skin.