Physical vs Chemical Exfoliation, which is for you and why you should exfoliate?
Should I exfoliate if I have sensitive skin? In most cases, yes, you should! However, determining the frequency and type of exfoliator isn’t as straight forward. In today’s blog, we will be reviewing the two different categories of exfoliators and discuss a general guide on how often you should be exfoliating your skin without over exfoliating it. Over exfoliating skin causes inflammation which leads to accelerated ageing.
Exfoliating, in short, sloughs off dead skins and surface congestions revealing a smoother and more radiant complexion. Just think of dead skin cells as dust on a surface, without brushing it off, you would not be able to reveal the surface. Same goes with exfoliation. However, using an overly abrasive cloth to remove dust from the surface or over doing it could scratch the surface, damaging it. The same could be said about over exfoliating the skin.
The most common form of exfoliation that we encounter to a certain extent probably on a daily basis, physical exfoliation, as implied by the name, physically removes dead skin cells and surface impurities from the top layer of the skin. Using a cotton pad? That is an extremely mild form of physical exfoliation. Using a knit or towel? That too is a gentle form of physical exfoliation.
There are products which contain abrasive particles such as sugar or nut shells, which are used to physically buff off dead skin cells. These are the physical exfoliators that beauty brands often refer to as exfoliators. Physical exfoliators are best for some quick exfoliation and if your skin is feeling particularly rough. However, in general, they are not the best for sensitive skin unless they are formulated for sensitive skin types. It is important to note that physical exfoliation is not recommended for inflammatory skin conditions including existing inflamed acne outbreaks.
Some good products we recommend include The Organic Pharmacy’s Flower Petal Deep Cleanser and Exfoliating Mask. This is a weekly skin treatment with Montmorillonite Clay to draw out impurities and a combination of Oats, Milk and crushed Rose of May petals to gently exfoliate for perfectly refreshed skin. Activated with water or a toner, the powder of Flower Petal Deep Cleanser & Mask turns to paste that also soothes and balances with organic extracts of Chamomile, Lavender and Rose Geranium. The rose petals are gentle enough for sensitive skin types and the recommended usage of a washcloth or knit at the end further enhances the gentle exfoliating action. We also love the floral scent of this product.
The Suki Exfoliate Foaming Cleanser is another highly recommended gentle exfoliant suitable for sensitive skin types. Natural sugar crystals slough off dead skin cells, oil buildup and impurities to reduce the appearance of blemishes, fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation for a smooth, even toned complexion. Rice flour extract stimulates circulation while chamomile extract calms inflammation and cools redness. Use as a second cleanse for a more thorough detox cleanse.
Chemical Exfoliators is a broader category that include acids and enzymes. Gentle chemical exfoliators are recommended for extremely sensitive skin types and acids are recommended for blemished and acne prone skin types.
Using a light physical exfoliator followed by a chemical exfoliator is also a good way to allow for deeper exfoliation and deeper penetration of products. Chemical exfoliators are usually mainly either to be AHAs and BHAs (although there are others).
Enzyme peels are highly recommended for sensitive skin types. We love the Suki Resurfacing Enzyme Peel Masque which eliminates toxins, combats signs of aging and clears acne for smooth, vibrant skin. Salicylic acid rids pores of excess oil and debris, sheds dead skin cells and buffs skin for a blemish-free complexion. Fruit enzymes unite with glycolic acid to promote new cell growth for visibly younger-looking, suppler skin. This would be considered a combination AHA and BHA exfoliator.
The OSEA Vitamin C Probiotic Polish is also an excellent exfoliator for sensitive skin. It contains both physical and chemical exfoliators. This water-activated powder exfoliant with 50% Vitamin C fades the appearance of hyperpigmentation, dark spots and uneven skin tone. Superfine Bamboo and Rice powders with fermented Pomegranate Enzymes gently remove surface build-up. Probiotics also calm inflammation and reduces redness caused by harsher exfoliators.
How often to exfoliate?
The general rule of thumb is once to twice a week if you are using a specific product for exfoliation. However, normal skin types can tolerate more frequent exfoliations. The best rule to follow would be to scale back whenever your skin is showing signs of irritation which includes redness and sensitivity and exfoliate more frequently if your skin is feeling dull and clogged.