Gentle Chemical Exfoliants vs. Physical Exfoliation: Which is Best?

Gentle Chemical Exfoliants vs. Physical Exfoliation: Which is Best? - Sente Labs

Who doesn’t want clear, smooth, and glowing skin? A radiant complexion is the ultimate sign of health and beauty. If you want to glow like a goddess, then regular exfoliation should be an essential part of your skincare routine. Exfoliators use physical or chemical substances to remove dead skin cells and reveal younger, brighter cells beneath.

From abrasive physical scrubs to gentle chemical exfoliants, you have more than one option to add some life to your skin.  While both types of exfoliants do the same thing ⏤ remove dead skin cells ⏤ they work in different ways. So, which type of exfoliant is best to use? In this post, we’ll explain how each type works and discuss why you should use chemical exfoliants.

Why Is It Important to Exfoliate Your Skin?

Before we discuss which type of exfoliant is best to use, let’s first try to understand why exfoliation is important for taking care of your skin. On average, your skin sheds its top layer of dead cells every 28-40 days. This process ⏤ known as desquamation ⏤ allows the skin to renew itself by getting rid of old, damaged cells, and replacing them with new, healthier cells.

The natural cell renewal process can be impacted by many factors. Aging, stress, environmental pollution, and poor lifestyle choices can all slow down skin regeneration. Slow cell renewal can cause many skin problems, leading to an unattractive and unhealthy-looking complexion. By speeding up cell turnover, face scrubs and gentle chemical exfoliants can:

1. Prevent Breakouts

Dead cells build up on the surface of the skin. If this layer doesn’t shed frequently, it piles up and clogs your pores. Clogged pores trap sweat, oil, and bacteria. This can inflame and infect some pores, resulting in pimple formation and acne breakouts. Exfoliants remove the top layer of dead skin to keep pores clean and minimize breakouts.

2. Reduce the Appearance of Skin Discoloration

Injury, acne, and unprotected sun exposure trigger excessive melanin production. Melanin overproduction can leave dark spots and patches on your skin. Physical exfoliation and gentle chemical exfoliants accelerate cell turnover to shed hyperpigmented skin cells. This stimulates healthy, unpigmented cells to rise to the surface of your skin, giving you a clearer complexion.

3. Make Skincare Products More Effective

A woman dipping her finger inside a tub of cream

You probably spend a fortune on serums and treatments to take care of your skin. But if you don’t exfoliate regularly, you’re wasting your money. The accumulated dead cells will form a barrier and prevent the ingredients in skincare products from penetrating your skin. Exfoliation gets rid of these dead cells to allow your products to sink in, making them more effective.

4. Even Out Your Skin’s Texture

Does your makeup not look smooth despite applying tons of primer and moisturizer? If your foundation looks patchy and cakey, that is a result of dead skin cells. Dead cells make the surface of your skin rough, flaky, and bumpy. Face scrubs and gentle chemical exfoliants will buff away dead cells to even out your skin’s texture.

5. Slow Skin Aging

Exfoliants also slow skin aging. Studies have revealed that exfoliation has anti-aging effects on the skin by increasing collagen and elastin production. Collagen and elastin fibers provide structural support to the skin and make it more elastic. Therefore, chemical and physical exfoliants can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and make your skin firmer.

What Are Physical Exfoliants?

OK, now that you know why exfoliation is important for taking care of your skin, let’s talk about the different types of exfoliants. So what are physical exfoliants? Physical exfoliants are abrasive products that manually buff away the outermost layer of your skin. This product can be rough brushes/sponges and face scrubs with sugar crystals, apricot pits, or walnut shells.

Physical exfoliation works differently than gentle chemical exfoliants. Along with the abrasive product, you must also apply some force to get rid of dead skin cells with your hands. The best thing about physical exfoliants is that they produce immediate results. You can feel a difference in your skin’s texture right after rinsing your face. 

What is a Chemical Exfoliant?

A beautician applying white cream on a woman’s face with a brush

Chemical exfoliants use acids to dissolve away dead skin cells. Despite sounding scary, chemical exfoliation can be kinder on your skin than physical exfoliants. The most common ingredients used in chemical exfoliants are alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs). These acids are incredibly safe and wonderful for the skin.

Why are chemical exfoliants gentler than physical ones? Unlike physical exfoliation that relies on manual scrubbing, the acids in chemical exfoliants break down the glue that holds cells together. This makes dead skin cells shed on their own. Acids also go deeper into your skin than abrasive substances. While they take some time to work, the results are more powerful.

Why You Should Use Chemical Exfoliants

Physical exfoliants were the holy grail of skin exfoliation. But with time, people came to realize how damaging they are. 

Chemical exfoliation is becoming an increasingly popular method to take care of your skin. Dermatologists now recommend gentle chemical exfoliants for boosting your complexion. Why is chemical exfoliation better for your skin? Here are some reasons why you should avoid physical exfoliants and use chemical ones instead:

1. Gentle on Sensitive Skin

Whether using abrasive tools or cleansing scrubs, physical exfoliation can be harsh on the skin. The aggressive scrubbing irritates sensitive skin, which can lead to facial redness, burning, and eczema/rosacea flare-ups. Gentle chemical exfoliants use mild acids to loosen dead cells from the skin’s surface. The cells then fall off without needing any mechanical action.

2. Preserves the Skin’s Barrier

In addition to removing the top layer of dead cells, physical exfoliants also wear away the skin’s epidermal barrier. In a study published by the Journal of Dermatologic Surgery, physical exfoliants were shown to disrupt the skin’s barrier and increase transepidermal water loss. Chemical exfoliants eliminate dead cells while preserving the barrier’s structure and function.

3. Does Not Tear the Skin

A young woman looking at herself in the mirror and touching her cheek

Scrubs often use crushed fruit pits or walnut shells to polish the skin. Some of these particles have sharp, jagged, and irregular shapes, which can create micro-tears in the skin. While you might think you’re taking care of your skin, physical exfoliation is actually damaging your skin. Gentle chemical exfoliants dissolve away dead skin cells without causing any injury.

4. Minimizes Inflammation

The skin irritation, barrier damage, and micro-tears that result from physical exfoliation can lead to inflammation. Inflammation weakens your skin’s defenses and disrupts normal functioning. Studies have found that inflammation causes tissue damage which speeds up skin aging. Chemical exfoliants do not irritate or injure your skin, helping keep inflammation down.

How to Choose the Best Chemical Exfoliant

Now that you know why chemical exfoliation is better for you, how can you choose the best gentle chemical exfoliant for your skin? As more people turn to chemical exfoliation, many brands are now offering chemical exfoliants to meet the increasing demand. But all chemical exfoliants are not created equal. Some of these products can cause chemical burns on the skin.

To pick a safe chemical exfoliant, look for medical-grade products like the Senté Exfoliating Cleanser. Our soap-free cleanser contains glycolic and phytic acids, and is gentle on the most sensitive of skin. The glycolic acid loosens up dead skin cells while phytic acid combats free radical damage. This results in a younger-looking and more luminous complexion.

Get Glowing Skin With Senté

Exfoliation is essential for maintaining healthy, young-looking skin. Exfoliating accelerates cell renewal, sheds damaged skin, and increases collagen production. If you want to take care of your skin, stay away from physical exfoliants. Physical exfoliation is a harsh process that can damage your skin instead of improving its health and appearance.

To achieve the skin of your dreams, use a gentle chemical exfoliant once or twice a week to eliminate old skin. Hypoallergenic and dermatologist tested, Senté offers the safest chemical exfoliant you can find. Our cruelty-free product will revitalize your complexion without irritating your skin. Shop Senté innovative skincare solutions to radiate health and beauty.