Once again, we’re back at an old topic. It’s honestly mind-blowing that this is still a conversation that needs to be had because there are already so many studies and articles out there, that explain why you should switch to chemical exfoliants, and yet people still don’t. So, I’ve decided to take a video idea I had and turn it into a blog post.
Let’s start off with what is a physical exfoliant? A physical exfoliant is a product that contains granules. When you massage these granules on your face, you take off skin, which will leave your skin looking “healthier” as it has just removed layers off. Most physical exfoliants are either a plastic or a crushed shell - such as walnuts or apricots.
First, I’m going to talk about the micro plastic exfoliants that are on the market (in some countries) because it’s short and sweet. They were first introduced because it is man-made and easily able to be shaped into a smooth, small ball, to gently exfoliate the skin. A micro plastic, aka microbeads, in exfoliants are starting to be phased out or are banned by governments because of the excessive and unnecessary waste they are creating. Researchers say that approximately over 8 trillion (8,000,000,000,000) microbeads end up in the ocean, in the US. This is because they are washed off the skin and rinsed down the drain. They have been found in our marine lives stomachs, on the surface of the ocean, and all the way to the sea floor. They do not break down and can easily be in the ocean for hundreds of years. Do not use them.
Now, onto the type of exfoliant that you CAN get on any market, and almost every store sells one, and that is: crushed shell exfoliants. There are people who swear up and down that a walnut or apricot scrub has saved their skin and recommend it to everyone... Stop listening to them.
When you think of the appearance of a crushed shell, the first thing that comes to your mind isn’t “smooth”, is it? It’s going to be rigid edges, typically sharp edges. Then take that crushed shell, and keep on crushing it until it‘s a powder... What’s the appearance now? Well, you can’t see its true appearance because it’s not microscopic. However, it’s still the same as before... Rigid and sharp. Now rewind a bit, think about taking a freshly cracked shell and rubbing it on your face, what would happen? You’d likely get some cuts and possibly bleed from it because it’s hard to roll a crushed shell on your face and not cut yourself. And now, think about a small powder that you cannot see, but you can feel that grainy texture and you’re rubbing it on your skin, just like the larger sized shell... What happens? Well, again, you think nothing because you can’t see what’s happening, however you’ve just created micro-tears on your face. And what happens when you cut yourself? Bacteria can potentially get in there and cause an infection, or more likely, a pimple (more to come below). But not only that, continuous micro-tears in the skin can lead to premature wrinkles, pigmentation and redness.
The other thing to note about both micro plastic and crushed shell exfoliants is that they do not target dead skin, which is why we use exfoliants in the first place. The whole point of them is to take off dead skin, which rids dull complexions and gives an overall radiance to the skin. But physical exfoliants aren't just targeting dead skin cells on your face... It's impossible, actually. A physical exfoliant is manually operated by you, so you cannot see what cell is dead and what cell is good. So you're literally shaving off an entire layer of both skin cells and this causes your face to constantly "repair" itself. When your face is constantly repairing and renewing, it causes you to get drier, sensitive and typically, inflamed.
And now to speak directly to the [usual] biggest advocates for physical exfoliants: ACNE PRONE PEOPLE. I used to be one as well for the longest time because whenever you use these products over your acne, you instantly see less texture and less raised papules... But what you don't actually realize is that these products have completely torn your pimple open. This is where you can see your micro-tears, with your actual eyes. You've not only torn open a pimple, which will lead to scaring, but you've also just spread all that bacteria around your face. After spreading that bacteria on your face, you then go lock it in with a bunch of other products and ultimately, a moisturizer. This puts you in a never ending cycle of breakouts. BY THE WAY, rosacea peeps, stay far away from these too.
Alright, you now know what you shouldn't use. You've thrown out your physical exfoliants or gifted them to an enemy. But, you still need to exfoliate your skin, so what should you use? Chemical exfoliants. There are Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs), Beta-Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) and there are Poly-Hydroxy Acids (PHAs).
AHAs: Glycolic (best for oily, acne prone skin), Lactic (best for dry, flaky skin), Mandelic (best for sensitive skins), Citric, Tartaric and Malic.
BHAs: Salicylic acid. Best for oily, acne prone skin.
PHAs: Gluconolactone and Lactobionic acid (most commonly used). Great for anyone who is ultra-sensitive, but don't let that make you think they will not work as well, because that would be an incorrect and ignorant assumption. PHAs work just as effectively, but in a most gentle way, than say glycolic acid.