What's the difference between chemical and physical exfoliators?

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What's the difference between chemical and physical exfoliators?

With so many types of exfoliating products to choose from, it can be a little confusing to choose the right one. Regular exfoliation can remove dead skin cells, revealing brighter and fresher skin. Other benefits include keeping your pores clear, which is especially great if you're prone to acne, plus it can even help your makeup sit better. It’s important to choose the right exfoliant for your skin, so the first thing you need to know are the main two types – physical and chemical exfoliators.

Physical exfoliation

The products that sit under this category usually contain small grains that are used to remove dead skin when massaged onto the skin. You'll probably be familiar with these products as they're the most common type – they're often called scrubs. One thing to be careful of is products that use large grains, as this can cause skin irritation. Here are some great physical exfoliators to try.


Pictured, clockwise from top left: Fresh Sugar face polish from Sephora, L'Oreal Paris Sugar Scrubs Purifying scrub from Big W, St. Ives Fresh Skin Invigorating Apricot scrub from Big W, Clinique 7 Day Scrub Cream from Sephora, Neutrogena Visibly Clear Spot Proofing Smoothing scrub from Priceline, Yes to Exfoliating Cleansing balm from Priceline.

Chemical exfoliation

Instead of physically removing your dead skin like in physical exfoliation, chemical exfoliants dissolve them. Although the sound of placing a chemical product on your face can be a bit off-putting, they can actually be gentler on your skin. If you are new to chemical exfoliants, the best place to start is having a look through what's available and reading the benefits of each one until you find one that will best suit your needs. Here are a few products to get you started.


Pictured, clockwise from left:
Neutrogena Pore Refining toner from Priceline, First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Intensive Peel from Sephora, Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM - Overnight Resurfacing pads from Sephora, The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2% 30mL from Priceline, Perricone MD Pre:Empt Series™ Exfoliating Pore Refiner from Mecca Maxima and Mecca Cosmetica.

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