A Beginner's Guide to Manual v. Chemical Exfoliation

It's a skincare buzzword we hear all the time, but do you actually know what it means?

We’re all in pursuit of this healthy, radiant, glowing skin and exfoliation plays a huge role in it.

Exfoliation is a skincare buzzword we hear all the time, but not many of us actually know what it means. Exfoliation removes the outer layer of dead, dull skin cells, allowing for new beautiful and bright skin to come through. This process helps promote a natural glow, improves the absorption of all skincare products, improves texture, brightens skin, fades pigmentation, and unclogs pores. Our natural exfoliation process slows down overtime, and this is where the help of exfoliators come in.


Physical: This includes any method that manually removes skin cells and other debris from the surface of your skin. Simple tools include loofas, sponges, brushes and products such as scrubs. We recommend the Body Shop Avocado Scrub.

Chemical: These are liquids that loosen the glue/bonds of dead skin cells. The thought of chemical products can be quite daunting, however they are safe as it consists of low doses of acids. They come in two types of acids which includes AHAs (Glycolic, Lactic) and BHAs (Salicylic). We recommend the Caudaile Vinoperfect Brightening Glyconic Peel Mask, The Ordinary Lactic Acid Peel, and Charlotte Tilbury Super Radiance Resurfacing Facial.

AHAs vs. BHAs

AHA (Alpha-Hydroxy Acids)

  • For normal to dry, sun-damaged skin
  • Derived from sugar cane or other plant sources
  • Increases the shedding of dead, surface skin cells

BHA (Beta-Hydroxy Acids)

  • For normal to oily, acne-prone skin
  • Gentle enough for sensitive skin
  • Penetrates pores to remove dead skin cells and excess sebum


TikTok’s Fave: Paula’s Choice 2% BHA liquid salicylic acid

A gentle non-abrasive leave-on exfoliator with 2% BHA to unclog and diminish enlarged pores, exfoliate dead skin cells, smooth wrinkles, brighten, and even out skin tone. Helps combat redness, wrinkles, aging, enlarged pores and blackheads.

Social Media Fave: CeraVe Salicylic Acid Cleanser

Gently cleanses and exfoliates while maintaining the skin’s moisture. The skin smoothing formula consists of 3 essential ceramides and is enriched with salicylic acid that exfoliates and softens to smooth rough skin.

Sephora Fave: GOOPGLOW Microderm Instant Glow Exfoliator

A dual-action exfoliator that polishes for baby-smooth and glowing-skin inspired by professional microdermabrasion. The formula is densely packed with four powerful glow-inducing micro-exfoliating minerals plus glycolic acid to help sweep away dry skin cells and refine the appearance of pores for softer, smoother, and more radiant skin.


Personal Fave: SkinCeuticals Retexturing Activator 

An oil-free face serum that exfoliates the skin while replenishing moisture for radiant, smooth, skin. This product is formulated using the key ingredient of glycolic acid designed specifically for replenishing and resurfacing skin to reinforce the skin’s barrier.