Exfoliators: Chemical Vs. Physical

March 1st, 2013 By  |  1 Comment    

To quote famous philosophers (TLC) in the negative, I do want [some] scrubs.

We know that dry, flaky skin totally assassinates our sultry, smooth complexion game. In the doldrums of winter, it’s nearly impossible to achieve the same glowy quality a little natural Vitamin D provides, but keeping up with a twice-weekly exfoliation helps keep dead skin cells from accumulating on skin’s surface, giving it a most uninvited dehydrated, dull appearance. But which kind to choose–physical or chemical? Let’s discuss the differences with a little physical (and chemical) education. To start, as Olivia Newton John once said, let’s get physical.

Physical exfoliators are scrubs that physically slough off the dead skin using salt, sugar or another type of granule. Opt for a scrub with rounded, non-irritating beads, which won’t tear  the skin. A few favorites of mine:

St Ives Apricot Scrub is a long-time staple of mine. The oil-free formula contains corn kernal meal and walnut powder that feels satisfyingly grainy and smells luxuriously of fresh apricots. A quick rub on damp skin yields polished, clean skin.


Obey Your Body Radiance Repair Peeling Gelan Israeli import I initially learned about at a kiosk at a mall. It contains Dead Sea salt and other magical ingredients that work like a dream employee to smooth my skin back to high-school levels of fresh in minutes by exfoliating off dead skin via little “peels.” Don’t be put off by its weird texture, once you take a damp wash cloth and remove all the debris, your face will feel incredible.

Origins Modern Friction is a natural alternative to microdermabrasion. Lemon oil and rice, among other botanicals blend in this exfoliator to send sluggish cells to the curb without irritating even sensitive skin.

Chemical exfoliators contain glycolic, salicylic, lactic or malic acids. It’s all very periodic table. These ingredients loosen and lift dead cells, leaving new, bright skin behind. Pores also look dramatically diminished. Score. Some of my top hits in my exfoliation station:

Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser breaks up cellular build-up and reduces discoloration for a more even skin tone and smoother texture. Plus, it’s only $15 for a bottle that will last you at least 6 months to a year. Use this one in place of your regularly scheduled cleanser a 2-3 times a week. Pair it with the DDF Revolve 400X Micro-polishing System for even better results. Have an aha moment with some AHA (alpha hydroxy acids).

Elemis Papaya Enzyme Peel  This feels like an indulgent mask, but rocking it for just ten minutes is enough to positively digest dead skin cells robbing your mug of its luminosity. A good bet for sensitive or mature skins, it contains natural fruit enzymes of papaya and pineapple to clarify the complexion.

GrandCenteral Beauty S.M.A.R.T. Skin Perfecting Polisher‘s name has nothing in common with the busy train station hub in Manhattan–though it does deliver with speed that rivals that of an express Metro North car gleaming, soft skin. Made with natural fruit acids such as those from apples, oranges, watermelon and lemons, the scrub provides a natural source of glycolic and citric acids. Natural botanicals are added to help soothe, moisturize and brighten skin.

What are you using to exfoliate?

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  • would love to try

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