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Is Chemical or Physical Exfoliation Better to Attain That Glow?

chemical or physical exfoliation to get glowing skin naturally

You know you’re supposed to exfoliate, but what’s the difference between physical vs chemical exfoliation?

Which one should you use? Is one better than the other? How do you achieve the glowing skin of your dreams?

I had the same questions, so I want to share what I have learned with you.

Why Exfoliate?

As we grow older, dead skin cells on the outside surfaces of the face will accumulate. This can cause break outs, clogged pores, or rough skin appearance.

Having flawless, glowing skin is essential to our appearance and beauty, right? We all crave it.

So one of the best ways we can solve the effect of dead skin cells is exfoliation.

Exfoliation helps us shed off dead skins and allow moisturizers and serums absorb better into our skin.

There are 2 main methods of exfoliation–physical or chemical exfoliation.


The differences between physical and chemical exfoliation are numerous and more to the name given to them.

Physical exfoliation involves the use of physical items, like the particles found in sugar scrubs or brush bristles. It works by physically sloughing away the topmost layers of the skin.

This type of skin exfoliation is advantageous in the sense that you have control over the amount of pressure you exert while performing it, in order to suit the level of your skin sensitivity.

However, physical exfoliation can be disadvantageous because some brushes have more significant and coarser bristles that can create tiny tears in the skin, resulting in irritation.

Chemical exfoliation involves utilizing acids like (glycolic acid, salicylic acid, citric, etc.) to shed off dead skin cells. It functions by dissolving the cellular bonds of dead skin cells.

Many specialists recommend chemical exfoliation over physical exfoliation. It’s more efficient with normal use and easily controlled, which makes it generally a safer method of exfoliation.

They are commonly used to reduce and cure acne and can give your skin a marvelous glowing tone.


The type of exfoliation you should use is greatly dependent on your skin type and sensitivity.

Normal Skin

If your skin is normal or oily type, you might feel greasiness and drying in some parts of your skin. Exfoliating regularly can help you solve that by limiting the excess of oil on your skin and removing dehydrated, lifeless skin.

It would be best if you tried to exfoliate anywhere from once to 3 times a week using a glycolic toner, an example of chemical exfoliation.

You can start by introducing a chemical exfoliant once into your schedule and increase the regularity when the skin permits it. It’s best to moderate your exfoliation process as too much or too tough exfoliation can lead to pink, achy and itchy skin.

You might also want to try microdermabrasion which is a physical exfoliation that is less invasive. It is an exfoliation method that gently exuviates the skin to expel the topmost layers.

Sensitive Skin

If you have sensitive skin, you have to be cautious of the exfoliation process you want to use. It’s better if you can exfoliate once to 3 times a month to prevent having irritated skin. 

If you choose to use a physical exfoliative method, try using muslin cleaning cloths. They function by slightly scrubbing off lifeless skin cells. Just add your usual facial cleanser.

To use the chemical exfoliation method, you should try to apply hydroxyl acid situated chemical exfoliant before you go to bed to give your skin a chance to relax through the night.

Be especially cautious about adding any other active elements, as it can increase irritation.

Oily Skin

Oily skin types can often tolerate exfoliation because it is the least susceptible to irritation and dryness.

If you have oily skin, it’s best that you undergo exfoliation three to five times weekly with a product containing salicylic acid to minimize oil generation and prevent pores from clogging.

Salicylic acid is not as suitable for other skin varieties as it is for oily skin types. It’s highly recommended for oily skin as it can sink into the pores to break down the debris.

Dry Skin

Just like sensitive skin, dry skin can be irritated when the dryness increases to a higher level. Therefore, you should utilize the soft and gentle exfoliation method. 

You can also use an exfoliating brush from natural and recyclable fibers to slough off lifeless skin cells and energize the skin. It also has a convenient handle that allows you to focus on spots that are not easy to reach. 

Dark Skin

Dark or melanin-rich skin types can fit into any of the skin type categories above. However, there are a few additional details to keep in mind when exfoliating the skin.

Too much exfoliation can stimulate melanocytes, causing hyperpigmentation. We’ve also been shown from research that skin rich in melanin contains fewer ceramides so is more prone to dehydration.

When carefully used, chemical peels can be utilized to lower hyperpigmentation.

Research has shown the ability of glycolic acid to limit hyperpigmentation through the distribution of melanin to the lower layers of the skin and eliminating colorless cells in the topmost layer of the skin.

It is best that you apply it as part of your bedtime routine a few times weekly or as frequently as your skin can handle.

Chemical vs Physical Exfoliation for glowing skin

Either method is beneficial when talking about physical vs chemical exfoliation, and depends on your skin type.

And regardless of your skin type, the excessive use of any exfoliation can harm your skin.

Check out or for even more options for chemical as well as physical exfoliants.

Which type of skin exfoliant do you use? What’s your favorite brand? Share in the comments below!

physical and chemical exfoliation for flawless skin

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