Chemical vs Mechanical Exfoliants: What you need to know!

If you want clearer, less textured, brighter and even looking skin, you need to be adding an exfoliant into your skincare routine. Your skin naturally turns over new skin every 28 days on average. And as you age, that skin renewal rate slows down, contributing to a less radiant and bright complexion. 

What you can do to help speed up your skin's renewal process is to exfoliate with a chemical or mechanical exfoliant.

What's the difference?

  • Chemical exfoliators help break up and loosen dead skin on a deeper cellular level. You may know them as BHAs (e.g., salicylic acid) or AHAs (e.g., glycolic and lactic acid). 

  • Mechanical exfoliators physically slough away the top surface of dead skin, usually with the help of a fine scrub or a dermaplane. 

So how do you decide which exfoliator is best for you? First, let's determine your skin type.

Do you have acne prone skin? Those with acne tend to turnover new skin at a slower rate, resulting in dead skin build up on the epidermis and leading to clogged pores and breakouts. 

For acne prone skin, a chemical exfoliator is preferred to really help loosen up the dead skin that is clogging deep in your pores. We like Grown Alchemist's Blemish Treatment Gel, made with salicylic acid and white willow bark extract to help treat breakouts and congested skin. 

For aging/mature skin types, we recommend Lesse's Refining Face Cleanser as it is made with jojoba oil to help calm, hydrate and balance skin. It's also made with flame tree, a rare botanical that stimulates collagen production, reduces puffiness, provides essential hydration and nutrients.


For normal skin types, opt for a gentle skin-polishing exfoliant like Grown Alchemist's Polishing Facial Exfoliant as it's made with polyactic acid (from corn starch) to help gently delaminate and dissolve dry and dead skin cells. The pink grapefruit oil in it helps fight free radicals and leave skin looking calm and soothed.


For sensitive skin, exfoliators may irritate you more than you'd like. Look for exfoliators that are made with simple, gentle ingredients, formulated for sensitive skin such as The Herb Farm's Smoothing Exfoliating Cream. This physical exfoliator is made with calendula extract and evening primrose oil to help gently buffs away dead skin cells and bumps for soft radiant skin.

For oily/combination skin, try VREE's REVEAL: Exfoliating & Deep Cleansing Scrub. It's scented with Neroli essential oil and textured with super fine and pumice stone to ‘Reveal’ the true radiance of your skin beneath the daily build-up of pollution and dirt

Bottom line: Make sure exfoliators - whether they're chemical or mechanical - are part of your skincare routine to help slough away and breakdown dead skin, minimize the appearance of fine lines, and brighten up your complexion. Start out with an exfoliator once a week and work with your skin type.

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