Were TLC onto something in 1999 when they released their hit song, No Scrubs? It would seem so, as in the 23 years since liquid exfoliants have become a mainstay in many skincare routines.
Global medical director at Laser Clinics Group, Dr Jonathan Hopkirk answered some questions on these smooth operators and their grainy counterparts.
What's the difference between physical and chemical exfoliants? In general, chemical exfoliants tend to be less harsh. They utilise acids/enzymes to break down the bonds between skin cells, so dead cells and other debris can be easily rinsed away. Physical exfoliants, like skincare products containing small particles, or textured materials, like a washcloth, function by manually removing dead skin cells and debris.
When are physical exfoliants preferable? The best place for home physical exfoliation is on the feet, or when using skincare products with non-abrasive particles, such as Jojoba beads, which will produce more immediate skin smoothness. As a professional treatment, microdermabrasion can improve the skin quality. To get the same improvement with a chemical exfoliant risks damage to the skin, as you would need a high concentration of actives.
Are the days of sugar and apricot kernel-based scrubs over? In our opinion, yes. They are prone to causing injury (micro-tears) if overdone and are generally more uneven in their application.
When are chemical exfoliants preferable? For home use and when you are seeking additional and precise skin benefits e.g., treating acne or anti-ageing. Typically, chemical exfoliants penetrate more deeply into the skin and they are just as good for brightening as they are for skin smoothing.
Is this type of exfoliant is becoming more popular? Yes. Chemically exfoliating ingredients (e.g., AHAs and BHAs) are becoming more popular, as they have multi-functional benefits and are gentler on skin if used correctly. Proper exfoliation also improves the absorption rate of topical skin care products like moisturisers and serums, allowing them to penetrate deeper into the skin for boosted effectiveness.
What should people using a chemical exfoliant for the first time know?
People with sensitive skin may not be able to cope with stronger cleansers that use chemical exfoliants. In this case, you should avoid leaving them on the skin for long periods before washing off. It's also important to protect and hydrate the skin after exfoliating, so make sure you use a moisturiser and SPF.
What are your recommendations?
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