Why Exfoliate

Regular exfoliation is important for achieving and maintaining healthy and glowing skin. If you don’t exfoliate regularly or if your exfoliation routine is inadequate, the dead skin cells and debris can accumulate, leading to a higher likelihood of clogged pores and breakouts. Additionally, without proper exfoliation, skincare products may not penetrate as effectively, potentially leaving residual impurities on the skin. There are several reasons why physical and chemical exfoliation is beneficial.


Mechanical Exfoliants vs. Chemical Exfoliants

The main difference between physical and chemical exfoliants lies in their mechanisms of action and the ingredients they utilize to remove dead skin cells and impurities.

Mechanical Exfoliants:

Mechanical exfoliants involve the use of granules or particles to physically scrub or slough away dead skin cells. These exfoliants work through mechanical friction to physically loosen and remove the surface layer of dead skin cells. It is important to apply mechanical exfoliants with gentle pressure. Our staff pick is ZO’s Exfoliating Polish is suitable for all skin types and contains ultra-fine magnesium-oxide crystals that gently sweep away dead skin cells without being abrasive.

Chemical Exfoliants:

Chemical exfoliants, on the other hand, rely on the use of specific chemicals or enzymes to break down the bonds between dead skin cells, facilitating their removal. They work by dissolving or loosening the intercellular glue that holds the dead skin cells together, allowing them to slough off more easily. The most common types of chemical exfoliants are alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic acid and lactic acid, and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) like salicylic acid. Our staff pick is ZO Skin Health Exfoliation Accelerator, which contains a glycolic and lactic acid blend.

While mechanical exfoliants provide immediate physical removal of dead skin cells, chemical exfoliants offer a more targeted and gradual approach. Chemical exfoliants can penetrate deeper into the pores and can be effective in addressing concerns like acne, uneven skin tone, and fine lines. They also have the advantage of being suitable for individuals with sensitive or easily irritated skin since they don’t involve physical scrubbing.

Benefits of Regular Exfoliation

  • Removal of Dead Skin Cells: Our skin constantly sheds dead skin cells, and if these cells accumulate on the surface, they can make the skin appear dull, rough, and congested (leading to breakouts).
  • Improved Skin Texture: Exfoliating regularly can help to smoothen the skin’s texture by removing rough patches, dryness, and flakiness. It promotes a more even skin tone and a softer, smoother feel.
  • Unclogging Pores: Excessive accumulation of dead skin cells, oil, and debris can lead to clogged pores. By exfoliating, you can effectively remove these impurities, keeping the pores clean and reducing the likelihood of breakouts.
  • Enhanced Absorption of Skincare Products: Exfoliating helps to remove the barrier of dead skin cells. This can maximize the benefits of your skincare routine and make the products more efficient.
  • Stimulated Cell Renewal: Exfoliation stimulates the skin’s natural cell renewal process. By removing the outer layer of dead cells, it signals the skin to produce new cells more rapidly.
  • Brightened and Evened Skin Tone: Exfoliation can help to fade hyperpigmentation, dark spots, and uneven skin tone by shedding the top layer of damaged skin cells and revealing fresher, more evenly pigmented skin.


Why Exfoliating Has a Bad Rap

There are some misconceptions and concerns surrounding exfoliation that may have led to the belief that exfoliating is bad. It’s important to understand that exfoliation, when done properly, can be beneficial for the skin. However, certain factors and practices can contribute to negative experiences or outcomes:

  • Over-Exfoliation: Exfoliating too frequently, using harsh exfoliants, or applying excessive pressure can damage the skin’s natural barrier, leading to dryness, sensitivity, and irritation. Over-exfoliation can disrupt the skin’s balance and compromise its protective functions.
  • Unsuitable Exfoliants: Not all exfoliants are created equal, and using the wrong type for your skin can cause issues. Some exfoliants, particularly those with large, rough particles, can be too abrasive and create micro-tears in the skin. It’s important to choose gentle exfoliants appropriate for your skin type and condition.
  • Lack of Proper Guidance: Without proper knowledge and guidance, it’s easy to make mistakes when exfoliating, such as using the wrong products, incorrect techniques, or excessive frequency. This can lead to negative experiences and reinforce the belief that exfoliation is bad.


If you’re uncertain about exfoliation or have specific concerns about your skin, it’s advisable to consult with an experienced provider. They can assess your skin’s condition and provide personalized recommendations for a safe and effective exfoliation routine.


Medically reviewed by Kalli K. Rohleder, RN, BSN, ZO Skin Health Expert