Physical Exfoliation vs Chemical Exfoliation: Which is Best For You?

Physical Exfoliation vs Chemical Exfoliation


Wondering how to get a smooth butt and clear skin? The answer is simpler than you might think. When it comes to cleansing the skin on your face, back, chest, and even your butt, exfoliation is the most effective, preventative way of eliminating blemishes, breakouts, or folliculitis. 

Put simply, exfoliation is the process of removing the dead layer of skin cells from the top layers of your skin. This layer can cause skin issues by clogging healthy pores. When pores become blocked and become inflamed, they can cause conditions like folliculitis

Of course, not all types of exfoliation are equal. You can exfoliate with both scrubs and chemical treatments. So, are chemical or physical exfoliants better? Let’s delve into physical exfoliation vs chemical exfoliation to help you decide which to choose.

The Benefits of Physical Exfoliation

The chances are that you’re already familiar with physical exfoliation. You may have previously used nice-smelling body scrubs and butt scrubs, touting ingredients like apricot, sea salt, or walnut shell which work as abrasives to physically remove the dead skin cells as you wash and scrub. Scrubbing in a circular motion can also increase the blood flow in a certain area, firming the skin and possibly reducing the appearance of cellulite.

Physical exfoliants show you results quicker than a New York minute, as they are literally using force to remove the dead skin cells from your tush, torso, or face. They also generally have less chemical interactions than other skincare products as well as promoting blood circulation through the face. Great stuff, right?

The Drawbacks of Physical Exfoliation

However, an exfoliating scrub falls short when it comes to delicate skin like the skin on your derriere. While the abrasives in the scrubs are good for removing skin cells on strong skin, using them on delicate skin could cause micro-tears in the skin. That’s something you want to avoid!

What’s more, for issues on the butt like folliculitis (often mistaken for "buttne" or butt acne), the irritation could actually make things worse. If you are unsure about whether you have delicate or tough skin, we recommend speaking with your dermatologist.

Note: If you do want to opt for a physical exfoliant we also recommend you stay away from those using nut shells or fruit pits. (A good case in point was the uproar about Kylie Jenner’s new face scrub which used walnuts.)

The Benefits of Chemical Exfoliation

To better understand the physical exfoliation vs chemical exfoliation dilemma, let’s take a look at the latter. The word chemical may evoke thoughts of toxic substances. However, for exfoliation purposes, these chemicals are incredibly safe and natural. 

The two main types of chemical exfoliators are Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs). AHAs are perfect for superficially dry skin as they work to interrupt the bonds holding together dead skin cells. BHAs on the other hand have an affinity for oil and are great at penetrating deep into pores—perfect for people with acne issues. 

Natural sources of AHA and BHAs include citric acid which can be found in orange peels. For those with problems exfoliating their booty, Bawdy’s Slap It and Squeeze It masks use orange peel to exfoliate your butt and get rid of stubborn red bumps. 

Salicylic acid beauty products and body wash are also highly effective in treating pimples and come from a natural source. You can find salicylic acid in fruit such as strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, and peaches. It’s no wonder that exfoliating scrubs often boast these powerful ingredients.

The Drawbacks of Chemical Exfoliation

Okay... So what’s the catch here? Of course, there are drawbacks to using a chemical exfoliant too. While using a BHA exfoliant or any salicylic acid products is simple enough, you need to consider how long you’re willing to wait for results.  

In truth, the main downside of chemical exfoliators is that they are not as fast-acting as physical scrubbing. This is because it takes a little time for the chemicals to break apart the bonds holding the dead skin cells. On the other hand, using a physical exfoliant, such as a scrub, offers much faster results that some will prefer. 

How to Use Your Chosen Exfoliator?

Next up, let’s take a look at the age-old question: How do you get clear skin fast? It’s all about balance and selecting the right products for you. Here’s a quick breakdown of how to use physical exfoliation vs chemical exfoliation:

Physical Exfoliators 

  • What type of skin do they suit? These types of products are best-suited to people who typically have strong, tough skin. That means that your skin should be resistant to tearing, flushing, itchiness and dryness. 
  • What ingredients should you avoid? For the best results, you should avoid products that include ingredients such as fruit pips and nuts. 
  • How often should you exfoliate? Physical exfoliators should be used sparingly. With that in mind, you should use the scrub less than three times per week. 

Chemical Exfoliators

  • What type of skin do they suit? Chemical exfoliators are ideal for people who have skin that easily flushes, itches, dries, or tears. If you have naturally oily skin or acne, you may also find that these products are effective for you!
  • What ingredients should you avoid? As we have covered, naturally-occuring chemicals are safe to use and will give you excellent results. However, you should avoid products that are full of harmful, toxic, or unknown chemicals, at all costs. 
  • How often should you exfoliate? If you’re using a chemical peel at home or any other chemical exfoliants, you should avoid overuse. Again, you can exfoliate around three times per week to see remarkable results.

Physical Exfoliation vs Chemical Exfoliation: The Takeaway!

Now that we’ve covered the basics of exfoliation, one question remains. Are chemical or physical exfoliants better? While both of these products can help you get clear skin, we believe that chemical exfoliators are the superior products.

However, you don’t always have to choose one or the other. At Bawdy, many people ask us ‘Can I use both physical and chemical exfoliant?’ and the answer is yes… in most cases. You should always consider the sensitivity level of your skin. If you have delicate skin, you should avoid over-using physical exfoliants as they may be too harsh. Either way, you should make sure to include a hydrating lotion or moisturizer in your skincare routine for both your body and face, as moisturizing is important for anti-aging and soothing the potentially drying effects of exfoliants. This can include a Bawdy sheet mask with glycerin or aloe, a natural coconut oil remedy, or a lotion that hydrates with jojoba seed oil. You can also be on the lookout for natural antioxidants like acai. 

Ultimately, the choice is 100% yours. If you’re struggling to make a decision one way or the other, it may help to speak to a dermatologist, who will give you expert advice.

This article was refreshed and originally published on June, 11, 2019.