Why chemical exfoliators are the new black

Updated: May 7, 2020

Whilst spontaneously shopping in Boots the other day, I noticed that suddenly, many brands have replaced their skin exfoliators’ with chemical-based, ‘peel’-type products instead. This is great news. Since I started working in the aesthetic industry, my loathing for facial exfoliators has gradually increased and this blog post, I explain why.

Why are micro-polishes and face scrubs fading out, and replaced with at-home peel masks and retexturing serums?

A physical skin exfoliator will effectively remove dead skin cells and provide an increased glow and smoothness to the skin’s surface. Common manual exfoliation’s include:

face scrub gif

GIF sourced from www.reddit.com/r/asianpeoplegifs/comments/1vv3i1/gotta_scrub_that_face/

  1. body brushes

  2. face/body scrubs

  3. micro-polish

  4. flannels

  5. loofah sponges

  6. high-tech facial brushes

These manual methods of exfoliation can cause:

  1. redness

  2. skin sensitivity

  3. itchiness

  4. dehydration/dryness

  5. increased breakouts

This is a result of many factors from over-scrubbing the skin, to the formulations’ harsh ingredients like plastic micro and jojoba beads, salt and nut granules. Acne skins tend to worsen following a skin scrub, due to bacteria spreading and oil production remains just as hyperactive, as scrubbing the skin only touches the very surface. Sensitive skin types are prone to increased flushing and surface redness after manual exfoliation also.

About chemical exfoliators

What are chemical exfoliators?

Chemical exfoliators contain active ingredients that offer a much deeper exfoliation than a scrub-like product. These ingredients are often either one of three groups:


remove the glue that holds the build up of dead skin cells to the surface, aiding cellular turnover. AHAs include glycolic, citric and lactic acid and are ideal to use for the improvement of dry/dull skin types.


work by exfoliating on top of the skin’s surface, and inside the pore. BHAs are better suited to oily and congested skin types due to their anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial features. Salicylic acid is the most sought after BHA in skincare.

…and Enzymes

are considered the most gentle of the three groups and suitable for all skin types. Derived from fruit enzymes like pineapple, papaya and blueberry, this exfoliation process works by specifically breaking down the keratin protein to reveal smoother skin underneath. Enzymes effectively destroy free radical, increasing the skin’s protection from sun damage.

rhoa gif

GIF sourced from www.giphy.com/yosub/

Why are chemical exfoliators’ better than a physical one?

For many reasons! Chemical exfoliators’:

  1. offer a deeper exfoliation than manual

  2. improve the appearance of blemishes, fine lines and pigmentation

  3. reduces the chance of redness and flushing

  4. works gradually – encourages cellular turnover in the skin

  5. requires no physical scrubbing, therefore less irritating on sensitive and acne skin types

  6. reduces the chances of ageing

My favourite chemical exfoliators…

Chemical exfoliators can appear as cleansers, serums and masks. Here are a few favourites of mine:

Dermaquest Dermaclear serum

Dermaquest Dermaclear serum

What’s in it? Glycolic, lactic, salicylic acid and Niacinamide.

Who for? This is great for anyone that suffers with under-the-surface congestion, blackheads, enlarged pores, and oil.

How often? If you have oily skin type, this product can be used every day to immediately reduce sebum production and spots. If your combo (like me), using this every 2-3 days will give you a gentle exfoliation without drying you out.

mesoestetic brightening peel booster

Mesoestetic brightening peel booster

What’s in it? 10% Glycolic acid and 2% phytic acid.

Who for? This product is designed to improve hyperpigmentation and general sun damage.

How often? This a daily product, that should be applied in the evening after cleansing.

ZO Skin Health Enzymatic Peel

ZO Skin Health enzymatic peel

Whats in it? Papain and bromelain enzymes, and glycolic acid.

Who for? Ageing skin types, hyperpigmentation.

How often? Apply for 1-3 hours, repeat 1-2 times a week.

Skinceuticals Retexturing Activator

Skinceuticals retexturing activator

What’s in it? 25% hydroxyethylurea/aminosulfonic acid compound and hyaluronic acid.

Who for? Gentle and ideal enough for all skin types, wanting gentle daily exfoliation.

How often? Apply a few drops up to twice daily. I like to use my every 2 days, in the morning after cleansing.

Remember, it is vital that you wear an SPF when using active ingredients in your skincare regime due to the risk of increased photo-sensitivity.

After reading this, do you agree that chemical exfoliants’ are much safer and effective to use than manual exfoliation? Comment below or connect with me through Instagram. If you would like to learn more about active acids click here.

#activeacids #skinceuticals #retexturingserums #AHA #Activeskincareingredients #BHA #exfoliation #exfoliators #glycolicacid #dermaquest #chemicalexfoliation

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