When done right, exfoliation can give skin a healthy glow and prevent the build-up of dead cells that can lead to pore clogging and other signs of premature aging. But there are a lot of options when it comes to how you exfoliate—physically scrubbing or chemically dissolving dead skin cells—and it’s important to choose the best method for your face and body. Physical scrubbing involves using a scrub or loofah to rub away dead skin cells with the help of friction. This is a great option for those with sensitive skin who can’t tolerate chemical exfoliants, and it is also a good choice for people with more dry, rough areas of the skin like the elbows and knees.
The key is to be gentle when scrubbing your skin, and not overdo it. Gently rubbing your skin in small circles with the tips of your fingers is ideal, as it will remove excess dirt and oil without over-exfoliating. You should also make sure to moisturize after exfoliating, as a fresh layer of skin will be more easily able to absorb the products you put on it. Chemical exfoliation removes the top layers of skin by utilizing acid solutions, such as salicylic or glycolic acid, to dissolve the glue that holds the dead cells on the skin’s surface. Unlike scrubs, which can be harsh on skin, these acid treatments work on a deeper level to stimulate cell turnover and boost collagen production. They can also be used to treat specific skin concerns, such as hyperpigmentation or acne. This type of chemical exfoliation can be done as a weekly at-home skin reset or as a professional facial treatment.
Both Ingleton and Mariwalla are fans of this type of exfoliation for the face, especially when it is paired with a serum or moisturizer to lock in the skin’s newfound glow. They recommend sticking with lower concentrations of acids (such as salicylic or glycolic acid) at first to get a feel for how your skin reacts. You can gradually increase the percentage of acid in your products over time as you start to see results. While physical and chemical exfoliation can have amazing results for the skin, it is important to do them in moderation and only on your face and neck. Avoid scrubbing the skin on other parts of your body, which can cause irritation and even damage the sensitive skin underneath.
And never use more than one exfoliant at a time, as doing so can cause skin to become overexfoliated. Almost every product on the market—from cleanser and toner to exfoliator and serum or moisturizer—now contains some sort of chemical exfoliant, so it is very easy to overdo things. For a more natural approach, try a simple face and body exfoliator made with gentle ingredients such as jojoba beads or brown sugar. Then rinse and apply a nourishing moisturizer. You’ll be amazed at the difference you’ll see! This article originally appeared on Women’s Health.