Aye, Here’s the Scrub: Exfoliators
FEBRUARY 09, 2022
There may be two camps of exfoliation, and the good news is that everyone is right! Our skin can use both chemical and physical exfoliation, and here’s why: Chemical exfoliants dissolve keratin protein, or the “glue” that holds dead skin cells together. In the other corner we have physical exfoliants, which nudge the loosened dead skin cells from the top layer of the skin. Together, chemical and physical exfoliants slough off the dead, allowing for the fresh, radiant skin underneath to shine through.
Physical exfoliation is really more of an extra cleansing step: Think of scrubs, or physical exfoliation via a soft washcloth, as a booster to the strength of your cleanser, allowing it to remove a bit more from the outside of skin. Chemical exfoliants, when used properly, usually eliminate the need for physical exfoliation by managing dead cells enough that flakes aren’t a regular happening. Physical exfoliation can then be something you order off the menu à la carte, like a side of truffle fries.
We should also note that physical exfoliation has a lot of well-deserved bad press—most physical exfoliants are too harsh. If you’re going to use a scrub or a formula that contains scrubbies, be sure they are mild and perfectly smooth beads (bamboo, plant cellulose, or jojoba beads are all great options), and not at all hard and jagged (like salt, sand, or nut-shell-based scrubs). The jagged exfoliators can really do a number on your face and provoke inflammation.
It’s best to think of chemical exfoliation as your primary form of exfoliation and physical exfoliation as a boost to your cleansing step that is limited in its benefits. Chemical exfoliants can address concerns such as uneven texture or tone (discolorations), help promote healthy collagen production, and also (in the case of beta hydroxy acids) penetrate the outer layer of the skin to unclog pores—none of which are conditions/concerns that physical exfoliants can affect.
If your skin feels raw or sensitive, back off.
Having said that, a caveat: Always exfoliate according to your personal needs. If your skin feels raw or sensitive, back off. Overexfoliating is not good. The Juju Bar and T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum are both gentle enough to be used daily, but as always, listen to your skin. It knows best.