Physical Exfoliation vs Chemical Exfoliation: What's the Difference?

Physical Exfoliation vs Chemical Exfoliation: What's the Difference? - Three Ships

You’ve heard that exfoliating is a crucial part of any skincare routine but it’s also important to understand why it’s beneficial and what the difference is between physical and chemical exfoliation. Here’s your cheat sheet to choosing the perfect exfoliator for your routine.

Our Superfruit Lactic + Multifruit 8% AHA Exfoliating Mask contains both chemical and physical exfoliants, and makes the perfect product for any skin type.

Chemical Exfoliation

How It Works

Chemical exfoliation involves the use of acids or enzymes to dissolve the bonds between dead skin cells and healthy skin. This encourages the shedding of old skin cells which reveals the newer, more radiant skin beneath, giving you healthy, glowing skin. 

Types of Chemical Exfoliants

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs):

The most commonly used AHAs and includes Glycolic, Lactic, Citric, and Malic acids. These are water-soluble and work on the skin's surface, improving texture and brightness. AHAs increase the cell renewal rate and have been found to promote smooth, healthy-looking skin.

Our Superfruit Exfoliating Mask contains Lactic Acid and Fruit Blend AHAs, and utilizes this natural formulation to achieve an effective yet gentle exfoliating formula.

Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs):

BHAs are oil-soluble and penetrates into pores. They work deep within the skin to unclog pores, making them particularly effective for treating acne, blackheads, and other pore-related concerns. The most popular BHA is Salicylic Acid, which can be found in our Refresh Papaya + Salicylic Acid Cleanser


  • Gentle: Chemical exfoliants are generally gentler on the skin compared to physical exfoliants, making them suitable for various skin types, including sensitive skin.
  • Targets Specific Concerns: AHAs and BHAs can address a range of issues such as uneven skin tone, fine lines, acne, and overall skin texture. 
  • Customizable: You can choose the strength and type of acid based on your skin's needs.


Start with a lower strength product if you're new to chemical exfoliation to avoid irritation. Always follow the product's instructions and use sunscreen daily, as exfoliated skin can be more sensitive to UV damage. Over-exfoliation can lead to skin irritation, so be mindful of the frequency and concentration of exfoliants you use.

Physical Exfoliation

How It Works: 

Physical exfoliation, as the name suggests, physically removes dead skin cells from the skin's surface through abrasive materials, ingredients or tools. This method provides immediate smoothness and a refreshed appearance. 

Types of Exfoliants:


Often containing granular particles like sugar, salt, crushed nut shells, or microbeads. 

Our Superfruit Exfoliating Mask also contains physical exfoliating properties, namely Rice Powder, a natural exfoliating ingredient manufactured from rice seeds. Given their shape and texture, they effectively exfoliate without irritating the skin. The light-yellow powder is moisturizing and has emollient properties as well, leaving you with soft and silky skin. 

Brushes and Sponges

Tools designed for manual exfoliation, such as facial brushes and konjac sponges. 


  • Immediate Results: Physical exfoliation can instantly reveal smoother, brighter skin. 
  • Ideal for Dry Skin: It can be beneficial for those with dry or flaky skin, as it removes surface flakes and makes room for new cells to resurface.


Be cautious not to be too aggressive or frequent with physical exfoliation, as it can lead to skin irritation, microtears in the skin barrier, and increased sensitivity. Physical exfoliation should be done less frequently compared to chemical exfoliation to avoid over-exfoliation.

Superfruit Exfoliating Mask: For All Your Exfoliating Needs

If you’re looking for an exfoliating mask that has both chemical and physical exfoliation, our Superfruit Exfoliating Mask is perfect for you. It polishes the skin’s surface and rejuvenates dull skin, giving you a hydrated and brighter complexion in just 5 minutes.

 If you liked this article, you may also like Everything You Need to Know About Our Superfruit Lactic Acid + Multifruit 8% AHA Exfoliating Mask and The Exfoliating Benefits of Rice Powder

Refresh Papaya + Salicylic Acid Cleanser

Targets Blemishes


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Superfruit Lactic + Multifruit 8% AHA Exfoliating Mask

Gently Exfoliates Dead Skin


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