Chemical exfoliation is something that came into focus in recent years. Overtime, physical exfoliation that we have all come to know has been dubbed problematic. Physical exfoliation involves using products that contain some type of rough material such as grains or ground up nuts. By rubbing the particles against your skin, you peel off dead skin cells to reveal younger skin. This process has been tagged unsafe as the particles could cause micro tears on the skin, which could lead to inflammation due to how harsh these scrubs are. Physical exfoliation also involves using sponges and towels to wash/ scrub your face.

Chemical exfoliation is seen as a safer and ideal option. It involves using chemical exfoliants to break down dirt, dead skin cells and oils on your face. Chemical exfoliants are acids that are gentle and suitable enough for your skin. There are three main types of chemical exfoliant. They are all acids but some are gentler than the rest.


Alpha hydroxy acid s are a group of plant and animal derived acids used in skincare products. They are water-soluble and can help peel away the surface of your skin to reveal even skin tone. Common AHAs include:

• Citric acid
• Glycolic acid
• Malic acid
• Mandelic acid
• Tartaric acid
• Lactic acid
• Hydroxycaproic acid
• Hydroxycaprylic acid

Existing research on the use of these AHAs are extensive. Glycolic, lactic and mandelic acids are the most popular and well researched. They are less likely to cause irritation and so it is safe to include in most OTC (over-the-counter) skincare items. AHAs are primarily
used for:

• Mild hyperpigmentation from scars and age spots
• Enlarged pores
• Fine lines and surface wrinkles
• Uneven skin tone
• Brighten your complexion
• Prevent acne breakouts.
Not all AHAs work the same. The exfoliating power of a particular skincare product depends on the concentration of AHA or the number of AHAs contained in the products.


Beta hydroxyl acids unlike AHAs are oil-soluble, this means it can penetrate deeper into the skin. This makes it a better choice for normal to oily and acne prone skin. There is only one BHA, salicylic acid. It has anti-inflammatory and skin calming properties so it is safe enough for sensitive skin.
BHA is mostly used for acne and sun damage.


PHAs are a new discovery that are buzzing in the beauty industry. The most common PHAs are:

• Gluconolactone
• Galactose
• Lactobionic acid

PHAs are rich in antioxidants. They are ideal for your skin if your skin has reacted negatively to AHAs and BHAs. Why? Their molecular structure is what sets them apart. The molecules of PHAs are much larger so they do not penetrate into the skin. Rather, they work chiefly on the surface of the skin without disturbing the deeper delicate layers.

• If you deal with dry skin and dry skin conditions, use AHAs
• If you deal with oily or acne prone skin conditions, use BHAs
• If you have normal skin and just want to exfoliate, try PHAs

Article credit : Cocci Beauty