3 Types of Exfoliation Explained + Best DIY Products

By PMUHub Editorial Team| Last updated on September 25, 2023
types of exfoliation
⏱️ 7 min read

This is an objective, non-biased article. We base our product choices on various factors, such as product reviews, ingredient analysis, and overall reputation of brands. It does, however, contain affiliate links for featured products.

Exfoliation is an essential step in any skincare routine if you want to properly cleanse your skin and achieve more significant improvement in its overall appearance.

It involves the removal of dead skin cells from the surface of your skin, revealing new and smooth skin underneath – and increasing collagen production, and better absorption of skincare products – which is something everyone can benefit from.

In this article, you’ll discover what types of exfoliation exist, how they are done, and how to choose the best option for your skin type and concerns.

Benefits of Exfoliation for the Skin

Exfoliation offers many benefits for your skin, as it acts like a deep cleansing that can unclog your pores from any dirt or oil, and remove dead skin cells that can lead to a number of skin concerns.

First and foremost, it helps prevent acne and breakouts, as cleaning out excess oils prevents bacteria from feeding off of it.

But exfoliation is also great for improving skin texture and tone, as getting rid of dead skin cells regularly can prevent dullness and minimize the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation, leaving you with a more even complexion.

All this helps your complexion look brighter and healthier, which also adds to a more youthful-looking skin.

On top of all that, exfoliation can help stimulate the production of collagen which provides structural support to the skin, making it look firmer and more youthful.

So, exfoliation promotes clearer skin and reduces the appearance of blemishes, making it a vital skincare step – and below are the 3 primary types to choose from.

Chemical Exfoliation

Chemical exfoliation uses various acids or enzymes to break down the substance that holds dead skin cells together. This process makes the dead skin cells detach from the surface of the skin, revealing smoother and more radiant skin underneath.

Chemical peels have risen in popularity due to its ability to penetrate deeper into the skin, targeting stubborn skin concerns such as acne, hyperpigmentation, and fine lines and wrinkles, while remaining non-abrasive.

The best thing about these treatments is that they are fully customizable so you can get them tailored to your skin issues. For example, oily and acne-prone skin will benefit from salicylic acid peel, while dry skin will get better effects using an AHA peel.

And if your skin is sensitive don’t worry, you can get similar benefits from a fruit enzyme peel, which are milder and more natural option.

chemical exfoliationImage source: Instagram @glowonstudios

Chemical Exfoliation at Home

If chemical exfoliation sounds like a good fit for your skin, but you prefer at-home treatments, the good news is you can definitely do it yourself!

Of course the results are not going to be as dramatic as with the professional ones, but they can still be very effective. So, here are some of the best products for chemical exfoliation at home:

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Exfoliant

This is one of the most beloved chemical exfoliants out there – and for a good reason. It has 2% BHA which is very effective but also allows more frequent use which is great for those using it to treat their acne.

Other than acne it can also help with blackheads, large pores, fine lines and wrinkles, uneven tone, bumpy texture, and redness. It also works for all skin types making this leave-on treatment a great addition to anyone’s skincare collection!

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA

If your skin is sensitive and you find that most chemical exfoliants are too harsh for you, then we recommend this lactic acid peel from The Ordinary.

It provides all the benefits of chemical exfoliation without causing irritation and has an addition of hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin. It’s also budget-friendly and has a 10% formula as well if you want to upgrade to a stronger version.

Physical Exfoliation

Physical and manual exfoliation are often interchangeable terms that describe a similar method of removing dead skin cells which involves physically scrubbing away dead skin cells using products containing abrasive substances.

It’s usually the first thing that comes to mind when we think about any kind of at-home skin exfoliation.

However, it’s important to note that this type can be more abrasive compared to other methods of exfoliation. This means that those with sensitive or easily irritated skin should be cautious and choose the appropriate level of intensity to prevent any potential damage to the skin barrier.

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Physical Exfoliation at Home

A lot of beauticians use this form of exfoliation during the cleansing part of your facial. It’s easy and very self-explanatory, so you can recreate physical exfoliation at home by yourself easily. Here’s what you can use:

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant

This exfoliator from Dermalogica is different from other scrubs as it’s a facial scrub powder. It needs to be mixed with water to start foaming, after which you can start cleansing your face with it.

The main ingredients are salicylic acid for minimizing acne, phytic acid for brightening, and colloidal oatmeal that calms and soothes the skin, making this scrub a great pick as it’s not too drying so it can be used every day.

La Roche Posay Ultra Fine Scrub for Sensitive Skin

If you have sensitive skin you can still use a facial scrub for exfoliation as long as you choose the ones that are meant for sensitive skin.

One of those is this scrub from La Roche Posay which contains ultra-fine pumice particles to gently remove dead skin cells while keeping the complexion hydrated and soothing.

Mechanical Exfoliation

As mentioned, mechanical exfoliation is pretty much the same as physical exfoliation, but for purposes of explaining the slight difference between these two terms, we’ll focus on the definition of using tools that remove dead skin cells, dirt, and debris from the skin’s surface.

So, this method manually buffs away the top layer of dead skin cells, leaving your skin looking fresh and rejuvenated.

One of the advantages of this method is that it can provide a more intense exfoliation, effectively removing stubborn dead skin cells and deeply cleansing the pores.

For that reason we highly suggest seeking a professional to do this treatment for you, the most common one being microdermabrasion and its less invasive and currently more popular relative hydrodermabrasion.

Or you can look into dermaplaning – a treatment that doubles as a hair removal technique. You can discover more about how it works here.

Mechanical Exfoliation at Home

Luckily, even this form of exfoliation can be done in the comfort of your own home, by using microdermabrasion devices or dermaplaning tools that are meant to exfoliate your skin easily and without any damage.

Here are some good options for mechanical exfoliation at home:

Appolus Premium Diamond Microdermabrasion Device

This microdermabrasion device is shaped as a wand as opposed to a brush, and has various attachments that all work to treat different issues on your skin to give you the ultimate glow.

There are 2 diamond heads, 2 suction heads, as well as a Blu-ray head for shrinking pores and repairing sun-damaged skin. The only downside is that the attachments need to be bought separately, so just keep that in mind.

StackedSkincare Dermaplaning Tool

Although this tool mimics the professional one, it’s incredibly easy to use due to its ergonomic design and lightweight construction, it’s comfortable to hold and maneuver even for beginners.

The tool is reusable (just make sure to sanitize it properly) and comes with a replaceable head. But what’s especially great is you can also buy a set of 3 replacement blades separately, without having to repurchase the tool again if you decide dermaplaning is something you’d like to continue doing regularly.

Which Exfoliation Method Is Right for Your Skin?

When deciding on the right methods of exfoliation for you, it’s important to assess your skin condition and adjust the intensity of your exfoliation accordingly.

Those with sensitive or dry skin should go for gentler chemical exfoliators, whereas those with oily or acne-prone skin may find techniques that focus on removing excess oil and debris that create the breeding ground for acne more beneficial for controlling their breakouts.

The most crucial thing is to not over-exfoliate and to protect your skin from sun damage after any exfoliation, but especially chemical.

Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and limit your sun exposure as it can have increased negative effects on your exfoliated skin. You can explore sunscreen options here.

In Conclusion

Exfoliation is a powerful skincare technique that can transform your skin and give you a radiant and glowing complexion.

This is where understanding these different methods of exfoliation comes in handy as it can help you choose the one that will best fit your individual skin type and concerns.

In any case, remember to start slowly, patch test new products, and gradually increase the frequency of exfoliation to avoid any damage.

Cover image source: Freepik



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