Everything you need to know about chemical exfoliants

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Every month or so, skin cells regenerated on average. However, factors like ageing and exposure to the sun might slow this process down. This is where exfoliation is beneficial. It may do everything from brightening your complexion to fading acne scars and is a rapid technique to remove dead skin. 
Physical and chemical exfoliation are the two different forms. The chemical variety, which includes a variety of various acids, has grown in popularity recently. However, there still needs to be more understanding of what it is and the optimum acids to use. 

Chemical exfoliant  

Chemical exfoliants, which assist in eliminating a buildup of dead skin cells to give skin that is renewed, glowing, and healthy, are acid-based solutions that are water and oil-soluble and have different concentrations. These exfoliants effectively clear clogged pores, which gradually reduces the appearance of ageing.  
These chemical exfoliants are the ideal treatment for acne scars, dull skin, dark spots, pigmentation, etc. and offer protection against free radical damage. Chemical exfoliants work more gently than physical exfoliants by gently exfoliating the top layer of skin to reveal a transparent, new layer beneath. There are different concentrations of chemical exfoliants. A dermatologist typically applies more robust formulations as a chemical peel, but weaker ones can be purchased over the counter. 

Types of chemical exfoliants 

Alpha hydroxy acid (AHAs) 

Glycolic, lactic, citric, and malic acids are examples of AHAs. Though they are frequently derived from fruits, they can also be created synthetically. They operate on the skin’s surface to improve its texture since they can dissolve in water.AHAs in skin care products are frequently composed of lactic and glycolic acids. For maximum effectiveness, choose a concentration of between 5 and 10 percent. 

Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) 

BHAs can function on the surface of the skin as well as inside your pores because they are oil-soluble. These acids’ more profound action improves skin texture while also clearing clogged pores and removing sebum that contributes to acne. 

Polyhydroxy acid (PHA) 

AHAs and PHAs function in a similar way. PHA molecules are different since they are bigger and can’t pierce as profoundly. They are, therefore, thought to be less abrasive than other chemical exfoliants, especially AHAs. Additionally, PHAs like gluconolactone and lactobionic acid provide extra moisturising and antioxidant advantages while not going as deep. 

Benefits of chemical exfoliation  

Acne prevention and treatment 

Acne often develops when skin cells, germs, and debris become lodged in the hair follicles. Although chemical exfoliation is now an option, topical therapies still work well to treat acne. Alpha hydroxy acid (AHA)-based chemical exfoliators, for instance, reduce oil production and eliminate microorganisms. AHA also helps to clear clogged pores, which delays breakouts, speeds up the healing of acne scars, and lowers inflammation. 

Reduces signs of ageing 

Chemical exfoliation removes skin layers to encourage the creation of new skin cells. A chemical peel, however, also stimulates the creation of collagen and elastin, enhancing the texture of your skin. Both are essential for firmer, smoother, tighter, and plumper skin.  

Brightens skin 

Chemical exfoliation produces clearer, healthier skin in addition to decreasing age spots and acne scars—vitamin C and AHA-containing products aid in reducing hyperpigmentation, which results in more radiant skin. Additionally, you are promoting lymphatic drainage for both internal cleansing and skin detoxification when you exfoliate repeatedly. Further, you boost blood flow to the skin’s surface to nourish and improve cellular health. Exfoliation promotes cell turnover, which continuously produces new, healthy cells. 

How does chemical exfoliation work ? 

Chemical exfoliants are acids that remove dead skin cells and enhance or speed up cell turnover so skin cells shed more quickly. They occur in various strengths; the weaker acids can typically be purchased over the counter, whereas the stronger or higher-strength ones are commonly applied as a chemical peel in the dermatologist’s office. They function by dissolving the ties holding the skin cells together. 
The top layers of the skin might eventually shed in various cycles as these ties are disrupted by the chemical, revealing the naturally renewed, rejuvenated, and brighter skin beneath. The skin will look even-toned and feel smooth, and the pores will appear smaller and unclogged with regular application and the correct dose of acid. 

How is chemical exfoliation different from physical exfoliation?  

The physical ones manually remove the skin’s outer layers, whilst acids do so chemically. Some people may benefit from physical exfoliants like scrubs, specific dermatological brushes, or treatments like dermabrasion. 
Physical exfoliation can be harsh and abrasive on your skin; thus, most skin types exhibit some intolerance. Physical techniques may or may not be successful independently since they lack the chemical exfoliant’s depth or penetration. 

Physical exfoliation for different skin types 

Chemical exfoliants can be applied as solid serums, foams, or cleansers that have been infused with the exfoliants. The type of skin you have will determine the best chemical exfoliation technique. 

1) Dry skin 

AHAs can be used on skin that is overly dry because they only affect the skin’s surface and aid in retaining moisture. This works well with lactic acid and glycolic acid. 

2)Sensitive skin  

If you have extremely dry or sensitive skin, BHAs can calm and soothe the skin, making them the best choice for sensitive skin prone to redness. PHAs can be helpful for skin conditions like eczema and rosacea and are an excellent alternative for sensitive skin. 

3)Combination skin 

Salicylic acid has an exfoliating and anti-inflammatory impact, making it a good choice for combination skin.  

4)Ageing skin 

You can use AHAs like glycolic, citric, and lactic acid because they target fine lines and deeper wrinkles to lessen the appearance of age-related changes. They can also smooth out your skin’s roughness and leave your skin shining, thanks to the anti-ageing antioxidants they contain. 


The chemical exfoliation offers numerous benefits for the skin, including acne prevention and treatment, reduction of signs of aging, and skin brightening. Chemical exfoliants, such as alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), and polyhydroxy acids (PHAs), work by removing dead skin cells and promoting cell turnover, revealing renewed and rejuvenated skin. Unlike physical exfoliation methods, chemical exfoliation is generally gentler and penetrates deeper into the skin. The choice of chemical exfoliant depends on individual skin types, with AHAs suitable for dry and aging skin, BHAs for sensitive skin, and salicylic acid for combination skin. Overall, chemical exfoliation provides an effective and versatile approach to improving the texture, appearance, and overall health of the skin.


1) Is chemical exfoliation is good to be used on skin?

BHAs, like salicylic acid, enters into the pores to absorb the dirt and oil, making them useful to treat some types of acne.

2) What is a chemical exfoliator?

A Chemical exfoliant is an acids that get rid of dead skin cells. They come in different concentrations. Weaker formulas used over the counter, while stronger ones are applied mostly by a dermatologist in the form of a chemical peel.


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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