Why Your Skin Needs Both Chemical and Physical Exfoliation
Written by: the Editors of goop
Updated: November 3, 2022
Exfoliating is GP’s favorite skin trick, and it really works. One of the easiest ways to boost glow, help clear up your skin, minimize the appearance of sun damage, and maintain a beautiful complexion is to exfoliate regularly. Not only does sweeping away dead skin cells, grime, pollution, and makeup residue have the instant benefit of deep-cleaning your pores to make your skin look brighter and feel silkier; it also allows any serums, treatments, and moisturizers you apply afterward to penetrate deeper and work more effectively. How often and how intensely you exfoliate depends on your skin type and how sensitive it is, but just about everyone’s skin benefits from a combination of both physical and chemical exfoliation.
GENTLE ENOUGH FOR EVERY DAY
(The cleanser’s physical; the toner, chemical.)
goop Beauty GOOPGLOW Cloudberry
Exfoliating Jelly Cleanser goop, $28/$25 with subscriptionSHOP NOW
goop Beauty GOOPGLOW Flower Acids
Resurfacing Toner goop, $45/$40 with subscriptionSHOP NOW
PERFECT EVERY FEW DAYS
(Physical and Chemical)goop Beauty GOOPGLOW Microderm
Instant Glow Exfoliator goop, $125/$112 with subscriptionSHOP NOW
ONCE A WEEK
Chemicalgoop Beauty GOOPGLOW 15% Glycolic
Overnight Glow Peel goop, $125/$112 with subscriptionSHOP NOW
Both chemical and physical exfoliants remove dead skin cells and other debris, helping speed cell turnover, so they can leave your skin fresher, brighter, and clearer, with minimized pores and a smoother surface. The difference is that chemical exfoliants, most often formulated as resurfacing serums, use acids or enzymes to dissolve and loosen the cells, while physical exfoliants—products containing small particles, or any sort of textured surface, like a washcloth—work by scrubbing away the dead skin and debris. The two approaches actually complement each other if used correctly, optimizing cell turnover to smooth, polish, and retexturize your skin.
Tata Harper Elixir Vitae goop, $475SHOP NOW
goop Beauty G.Tox Malachite + AHA
Pore Refining Tonic goop, $75/$68 with subscriptionSHOP NOW
It’s important to note that whether you’re using physical, chemical, or both types of exfoliants, it’s possible to overdo it. Exfoliating too much strips away the skin’s protective barrier, leaving it vulnerable to sun damage, dryness, and even infection. For example, you wouldn’t want to use other exfoliants for at least twenty-four hours before or after using the GOOPGLOW Overnight Peel, as it’s (brilliantly) super powerful. Similarly, on a day you used the Microderm face scrub, you might avoid using more powerful daily treatments like the amazing Elixir Vitae from Tata Harper, or the deep-blue G.Tox skin tonic from goop (both contain higher concentrations of chemical exfoliants).
To figure out your skin’s perfect exfoliation balance, take it slow at first. Never use a product more often than recommended (the peel pads should be used only once a week; the Microderm can be done up to three times a week depending on your skin, and the jelly is fine to use every day, even in conjunction with other exfoliating treatments), and never layer products in the same session. As your skin acclimates to exfoliation, you may be able to increase the frequency with which you use some products, but the moment your skin starts to feel at all irritated or stripped, dial it back down. Once you find the sweet spot for your skin, the results should be noticeable—smoother, brighter, fresher, and clearer, with a glow that just won’t stop.