A/B Hotline (Pt. 3) - Chemical Exfoliation vs Physical Exfoliation

We all want that glow. You know, that fresh-faced radiance that comes after a facial type of glow. But with the world going through what it’s going through and a second wave seems to be hitting our metaphorical coasts, a professional facial is —loathe as we are to admit— not an option.

Don’t worry, A/B has got you covered! One of our favorite tried-and-true method for revitalizing the complexion (in the safety of your home) is through exfoliation.

Why we love it

It’s an effective way to get rid of dead skin cells and free radicals that have clogged your pores and caused irritation (read: acne). Removing build-up also allows for optimal absorption of your serums and moisturizers as exfoliation allows products to seep in deeper and increases their effectiveness.

The term “exfoliation” can seem a bit daunting, but we’re here to break it down for you by explaining the difference between physical and chemical exfoliation; they both provide the same results, it just depends on your preference and skin type.

Physical Exfoliation

Physical exfoliation is pretty self-explanatory, it’s the act of removing dead skin cells by either using tools such as brushes and towels, or by using products that have abrasive textures such as scrubs. The greatest benefit to physical exfoliation is that it yields instant baby-soft results. Build-up is manually buffed away and the outcome is a thing of envy. Physical exfoliation is suitable for those with dryer skin types.

This type of exfoliation is best done once a week and preferably during your morning routine. Though it should be stated that physical exfoliation can be harmful and cause micro-tears but it is easily preventable by avoiding scrubs that have fruit pits and nutshells —or anything with abrasively large beads. 

Chemical Exfoliation

Chemical exfoliation may sound like something that could potentially melt your face off —it won't, but it's understandably intimidating if you're new to the game. This type of exfoliation is penetrates deeper meaning it encourages cell turnover as opposed to physical exfoliation which just buffs away at the surface layer. Due to its nature it's best added to your nighttime skincare routine.

There are three main chemical exfoliants on the market: AHA, BHA and PHA. They come in many forms like cleansers, toners, serums and moisturizers. Preferably acids should be used early on in your skincare routine.

- Alpha-Hydroxy Acids

AHAs are water soluble acids that help exfoliate the skin’s surface layer and attracts water for lovely, bouncy skin. This is best suited for those looking to target sun damage, mature and dry skin. Some examples of AHAs are glycolic acid and lactic acid. One thing to keep in mind with AHA is that because it is removing the surface layer, this increases photosensitivity so don’t forget your SPF!

- Beta-Hydroxy Acids

BHAs are oil soluble acids that penetrate deeper into the skin. They are great at targeting clogged pores clearing out whiteheads and blackheads. BHAs are perfect for those looking to target hyperpigmentation and acne. Salicylic Acid is probably the most well known BHA in the market and an excellent ingredient for those with oiler skin types.

- Poly-Hydroxy Acids

PHAs are a considered the newer iteration of acids. They don’t penetrate as deeply as AHAs and BHAs because the molecules are bigger, which stops the acid from penetrating too deeply. PHAs are most suitable for those with dry or sensitive skin.

About the Author
Nauf Alfahad is a Digital Editor at a leading publishing company with a background in Applied Linguistics. Her interests range a wide expanse driven by her need to understand the human condition, her appreciation for well curated aesthetics, and achieving that inner glow.  
For more on this beauty and brains, follow her at @riyadhblogs
illustration by the ever so talented @_frdesign