What’s the difference between physical and non-abrasive exfoliators?

February 22, 2019

What’s the difference between physical and non-abrasive exfoliators?

The benefits of exfoliating your skin are well-documented – it’s a must for smooth, healthy skin that truly glows. The term exfoliation basically covers anything that involves removing dead skin cells and revealing the softer, fresher skin underneath. But how often should you be doing it, and which products should you use? Here’s a quick primer to explain the basics.

Non-abrasive exfoliators

Non-abrasive or peels are usually the mildest, gentlest option for your skin.

Most exfoliators of this type contain alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) to smooth your skin.

Water-soluble AHAs are naturally derived and dissolve the ‘glue’ that holds dead skin cells together. Examples are glycolic or lactic acid.

Oil-soluble BHAs can penetrate deeper into pores, and are therefore ideal for clearing blackheads, smoothing those bumps on the backs of your arms and generally detoxifying blemish-prone skin. Salicylic acid is the main BHA used in skincare.

While both are effective options, combining them can yield your ultimate results. Our Cotton Swab Spa contains a combo of AHAs and BHAs – Mild has 1.5% and Strong has 2% - for a highly effective skin treatment.

Even sensitive skin can use peels – the Mild Cotton Swab Spa is a great choice as it also contains soothing centella asiatica.

Physical exfoliators

These are the scrubs you probably grew up with – they work their magic by manually sloughing off dead skin cells. While they can be highly effective, you need to avoid products with grainy particles (such as nut kernels), which can cause micro tears in the skin and contribute to redness and irritation.

Always choose a scrub with delicate particles that gently reveal your best skin, such as Good Morning Honey Sugar Scrub, which uses grains of sugar that melt into your skin.


For best results, use a peel or scrub twice a week, after cleansing and before toning.

Take a look at our full collection of exfoliators here

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