Difference between Physical and Chemical Exfoliates for Men

“Nothing's Gonna work on Your Face Unless You Exfoliate.”

There can be no greater joy than a freshly exfoliated face. Very few personal care routines cleanse the skin as thoroughly as a scrub used in the exfoliation process. So what is exfoliation?  In simple terms, exfoliation removes the dead skin cells and gives a glow to the skin. The dead cells gather on the surface of the skin and interfere with the reflection of light from the skin, causing dullness. They may also lead to conditions like acne and folliculitis. Exfoliation can help in removing skin blemishes the skin by de-clogging pores.

While it is true that regular exfoliation promotes healthy skin, there are certain caveats to be kept in mind. One can exfoliate up to a maximum of twice a week without harming the skin. Exfoliates come in various varieties, including chemical and physical. Knowing the difference between the two is very important before you start the exfoliating routine, for it will help you choose the best exfoliation method. So, let’s quickly dive into them. 


Physical vs. Chemical Exfoliators 

Physical Exfoliators

These are akin to manual utilitarian face scrubs and have specific physical components, like tiny bits of scrubby beads or crystals, blended within to slough away the dead skin cells. Physical exfoliators act quickly on the skin as they peel away the dead skin cells. Further, they promote better blood circulation on the face and ha ave less chemical interaction with other skincare products.

While physical exfoliators act more quickly on the skin than chemical exfoliators, they also remain slightly rougher on the surface. Hence, physical exfoliators are not recommended for people with sensitive skin. Besides, certain physical exfoliators may leave the skin a bit dry and uncomfortable, giving that brittle feeling. Hence, those with dry skin may do better with a chemical exfoliator.


Physical Exfoliator Components:

Mineral beads vs. Microbeads: These are the two primary components of physical exfoliators.


Mineral beads

Mineral beads are environment-friendly and contain natural scrubby bits from sea salts, rice, jojoba oil, oats, coffee, etc. There are others, too, loaded with fragrant ingredients like apricot and various types of aromatic oils. Specific beads like the ones containing jojoba oil are quite skin-friendly. These are not harsh on the skin, and even a person with sensitive skin may find these as comfortable. Such soft minerals do not scratch the surface and instead act as a cleansing exfoliator which gently buffs away dead skin.


Crystals are the right choice if one wants a stronger physical exfoliator. Crystals are ground to a fine powder and then used to prepare an intense exfoliator for more robust skin types. Pumice crystals are a common type of crystal beads that are found in various physical exfoliators. Pumice is also very good at effectively removing all the dust and debris buried deep in the pores of the skin and clearing all the difficult-to-penetrate pores.


Microbeads, on the other hand, contain small plastic beads that do not get dissolved, no matter how hard you try. Thus, the plastic continues to circulate in the environment for decades and pose a threat to the environment, particularly the potable water, marine life (predominantly fishes) and the sewage system. Also, microbeads are no better than mineral beads and do the same job as the mineral beads. Hence, choosing a physical exfoliator with mineral beads is an environment-friendly option.


The main shortcoming of physical exfoliators is that they are harsh on the skin and pose a problem for those with sensitive skin. Though the abrasives in physical exfoliators are effective in removing debris, these might also trigger issues, such as inflammation, in people prone to acne and folliculitis. This issue is common with exfoliators which use nutshells or various kinds of fruit pits, and chemical exfoliators are known to combat this well. 

Chemical Exfoliators

As the name suggests, chemical exfoliators contain chemicals. However, one need not relate the term chemicals with toxins here, for these chemicals are suitable for the skin and use a chemical combination which has synthetic as well as natural ingredients.


The Difference

While physical exfoliators scrub away the dead skin cells, chemical exfoliators dissolve the dead skin and debris lying underneath it. Hence, these present better options for men who have deep pores, which tend to repel many physical exfoliators. They are also suitable for people with sensitive skin.


Chemical Exfoliator Components 

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs): These are the two primary types of chemicals in a chemical exfoliator.


AHAs are suitable for dry skin types as they loosen the bindings of the dead skin cells. On the other hand, BHAs penetrate deep into the pores and, hence, are best for people with oily skin, especially those prone to acne.


AHAs and BHAs can be obtained from natural sources like citric acid, also found in orange peels. Other natural sources of AHAs and BHAs are glycolic acids, which are derived from sugarcane.


The main shortcoming of chemical exfoliators is that they may not act as fast as physical exfoliators. It takes a little bit of time for the chemicals to break down the bindings of the dead skin cells, while this is achieved instantly with physical exfoliators. Also, when opting for a chemical exfoliator, it must be ensured that the person is not allergic to any of the chemical ingredients mentioned on the label.

Chemical vs physical Exfoliating

Physical Exfoliation vs. Chemical Exfoliation: Which Type is Best?

Both the variants of exfoliators have their upsides and downsides. However, as a general rule of thumb: 

Go For Physical Exfoliates If You: 

  • Have a healthy skin which is capable of withstanding dryness, friction, and general wear and tear.
  •   Intend to scrub sparingly (not more than twice a week). 

Go For Chemical Exfoliates If You: 

  • Have delicate skin which itches, reddens, or scratches easily.
  • Have issues like acne.
  • Have an oily skin type.
  • Plan to exfoliate more than twice a week. 

The Perfect Exfoliating Time For Men:

The perfect time to exfoliate for men is right before shaving. While the act of shaving itself is exfoliating, the ideal time to exfoliate the skin would be after washing your skin and before shaving. This is because exfoliating before shaving removes all the debris, oil, and dead skin cells, which can otherwise get trapped in the oily pores, leading to skin problems like acne and ingrown hair.  Also, exfoliating the skin first before shaving leaves the skin smoother for a closer shave.

So, Happy Exfoliating!!

If you got Value from this article, please share it on Twitter 


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published