Physical vs. Chemical Exfoliation – which one is right for your skin?

Exfoliating is an essential step in our skincare routines that helps to keep skin healthy. Not only does it have an instant benefit of cleaning pores, smoothing, and brightening your skin. It also allows serums, sheet masks, and moisturizers to absorb better and work more effectively. But with so many exfoliating products now available on the market, which one to choose? 

There’re two main types – acids (think AHA, BHA, PHA), a.k.a. chemical exfoliants in a liquid form (they look like toners) and scrubs – cream- or gel-like products with microbeads or other grainy substances. 

Chemical exfoliants sink deep into the skin, where acids work hard to unstick the cellular glue and remove dead cells. Physical exfoliants do mostly the same process – breaking the bonds between healthy and dead cells. But instead of “melting” the dead cells, scrubs work to buff them away mechanically. 

These days beauty world tends to favor chemical exfoliants and demonize physical scrubs, but we believe there are a time and place for both in our routines. The argument here is that traditional scrubs can cause micro-tears in the skin, which can lead to infection and breakouts. However, beauty science has come a long way, and there’re plenty of physical exfoliants like peeling gels or gommage peels that are very gentle on the skin. Which one to choose, however, will heavily depend on your skin type/ concerns, what type of exfoliation you’re looking for, season, and many other factors. You might prefer one over the other or successfully combine both. 

So, how to choose the right one? 

Chemical exfoliators.

This category includes different acids (AHA, BHA, etc.) as well as enzyme extracts (papaya, pineapple). This an excellent choice for warmer months when your skin gets oilier and needs to be exfoliated regularly. Most have very gentle formulas that can be used daily (or every other day) to maintain a healthy, clear complexion. 

BHA is better suited for people with oily skin, congested pores and blackheads while AHA and PHA help with redness and breakouts. Enzyme extracts are gentler than acids can be a great alternative to people with extra sensitive skin.  

The drawbacks. Chemical exfoliants are not great at helping with skin texture issues. Nor will they be of much use if you have dry, parched skin that needs to be buffed away manually. That said, for people with scrub-sensitive skin, chemical exfoliating products are an excellent choice. 

Physical exfoliators.

As briefly mentioned above, this is a broad category that includes everything from professionally done microdermabrasion to traditional scrubs to peel gels.  Scrubs usually contain small-sized particles (most popular are coffee, salt, sugar, etc.) that help to remove the dead cells from your skin manually. These are not the best to use on your face where the skin is delicate. But that’s not to say they can’t be. If your skin loves the post-scrub feeling and doesn’t feel sensitized or irritated – by all means, use it. Just make sure not to rub too hard. Apply little pressure, and that would be more than enough to reveal that silky-smooth new skin that was buried underneath. 

Peel gels (or gommage peels) are considered the mildest and the least abrasive in the family of physical exfoliators. They either don’t contain any grainy substances at all or formulated with very finely milled non-abrasive particles (i.e., cellulose) that give a gentle scrubbing effect. Peeling gels are usually used on dry skin and start balling up as you rub them against your skin. These types of exfoliators are great for people who can’t handle full-on scrub but need some manual exfoliation from time to time to help with skin texture issues. It is also an excellent choice for people who need to get rid of dry patches while hydrating the skin.

The drawbacks. The potential to sensitize the skin is an obvious one. If you have extremely sensitive skin, suffer from rosacea or eczema – this won’t be for you as you need to apply as little external pressure to the skin as possible. Also, since they’re only working on the most upper layer of the skin, the effect might seem fleeting, especially for someone who’s used to acid exfoliators. The solution might be to look for a gommage peel that has acids or enzymes in the formula that help to improve cleansing results.  

MOTHER MADE Exfoliating Aqua Peel Gel

The bottom line. Physical and chemical exfoliators have their pros and cons. With the right approach, the correct dosage, and frequency of use –  both can serve you well in your skincare routine.  

Active Bamboo Charcoal Enzyme Powder Wash Explained

WHAT IT IS


Charcoal Powder Wash is a mild low-pH facial wash that boasts impressive pore cleansing powers thanks to activated bamboo charcoal and papaya enzymes. It’s a water-activated formula, meaning that the powder turns into soft foam once you add water.

WHY POWDER

That’s an excellent question! Why would you choose a powder cleanser over a conventional one? Well, there a couple of reasons why you might want to consider making a switch.

  • 100 % preservative-free. The great things about powder cleansers are that they don’t need preservatives. Since there is no water in the formula, bacteria or mold won’t have the environment to grow. Excellent choice for sensitive skin types!
  • Highly customizable. Depending on your skin type, you can adjust a powder cleanser to suit your unique skin needs. Add less or more water depending on what kind of cleanser – creamy and dense or light and airy – you want. There are no rules!
  • Long-lasting. Compared to a conventional cleanser that has to be used (on average) within 12 months after opening, a powder cleanser boasts an impressive 3-year shelf life! It will also last you longer since it’s in a concentrated form and you’ll only need a small amount.
  • Powerful. For the same reason, it will last you longer, it will also do a cleansing job better – active ingredients remain undiluted thus more potent.
  • Travel-friendly. Since it’s a non-liquid product, tossing a powder wash in your suitcase is a no-brainer. TSA won’t take it away from you. Ever. And it won’t leak or explode all over your clothes.

KEY INGREDIENTS

  1. 100% natural bamboo charcoal from the ecologically clean Damyang region in South Korea. Bamboo charcoal is the purest and the safest type of charcoal currently available on the market. Plus, bamboo itself is an easily renewable resource making it a great eco-friendly alternative to traditional wood charcoal. You can read more about bamboo charcoal and its skin benefits here.
  2. Papaya Enzymes (Papain). Rich in Vitamin C, A, E, papaya enzymes gently exfoliate dead skin cells and restores the even-toned look of your skin while also delivering brightening benefits.
  3. Aloe Vera Extract. A rockstart ingredient with outstanding hydrating and soothing properties. Do we need to say more?

WHAT IT DOES

#DeepPoreCleanse. Much like a sponge or a magnet, ultra-porous charcoal particles suck out dirt and grime from the pores making them visibly clear and refined post-cleanse. But don’t let the word “deep” scare you. The Powder Wash is formulated with low pH nature-derived amino acid surfactants that are very gentle and respective of your natural protective barrier. The wash can be used daily without running a risk of sensitizing your skin.

The Powder Wash will give you that satisfying cleansing experience when your skin is thoroughly cleansed sans any tight or drying sensation.

Skin brightening effect. Thanks to exfoliating powers of papaya enzymes, this powder wash will mildly buff away dead skin cells and make your skin instantly look brighter and overall healthier.


All in all, the Powder Wash will give you that satisfying cleansing experience when your skin is thoroughly cleansed sans any tight or drying sensation. The best feeling ever. Period.

HOW TO USE

This product is seriously versatile and fun, too. You can use it multiple ways, depending on what type of cleansing you’re going for.

Start with tapping a quarter-sized amount of product into the palm of your hands, add water and mix to create the desired texture. Then the fun part begins.


Experiment with texture. Want deeper, more thorough cleanse? Add less water to get a dense, creamy lather. After massaging it into your skin, leave it on for several minutes for an added exfoliating effect.


Have dry and/or sensitive skin? Use more water to create light, airy foam, massage gently for several seconds and wash immediately. Pro tip: You can also use a foaming net like this one here to make VERY soft bubbles. It is a popular method among those who have easily sensitized skin and want to minimize any rubbing.


If DIY is your gem, you can go as far as fashioning a wash-off mask. Mix the powder with water in a bowl. The consistency should be slightly runny, but not too runny that it starts dripping all over your sink. The mask can be used on your whole face or on blackhead-prone areas (such as a T-zone) only – it’s up to you! Apply a thin layer with a mask brush, wait a couple of minutes for it to set and go over with another layer. Allow the mask to dry completely and wash it off with water. Or, if you are feeling extra fancy, remove the mask with a steamed towel.

And there you have it! Now you know everything you need to make the most out of our Active Charcoal Powder Wash.

Still got questions? Ask away in the comment section below!

Summer skincare DOs and DON’Ts for oily, blackhead-prone skin.

It’s this time of year again. Ever shiny T-zone, make-up that melts after one subway ride and stubborn blackheads. It’s easy to grow desperate – especially when your day at work is jam-packed with meetings where looking presentable is a must. But before you start taking radical measures, remember that summer heat and humidity is a stress for your skin, and your skincare regimen should focus on reliving that stress, not exacerbating it. So, let’s talk about some don’t and dos of a summer skincare routine that will help to balance overheated excessively oily skin and make it healthy again. 

Don’t 

Don’t switch to a harsh alkaline cleanser. It’s a common misconception that you need a stronger cleanser in summer because a low pH one won’t remove sweat and sebum as effectively. True, high pH cleansers do have superior powers, and you might feel instantly “cleaner” (ah, that instant gratification!), but in the long run it won’t do your skin any favors. It will start producing even more oil, trying to compensate for the loss of moisture and you’ll end up with even oilier skin. 

Do

Double cleanse! Even though a one-step cleansing routine trend is gaining popularity in Korea (which is ironic given that Korea started a double cleansing boom), we aren’t entirely sold on the idea. Double cleanse is a way to go if you want to be gentle yet thorough with your cleansing. Use light cleansing oil and finish off with a gentle second cleanser that contains ingredients such as Salicylic Acid, Green Tea or Charcoal to target oily skin concerns.  

Don’t

Don’t overdo on chemical exfoliators. Wait, what? Do you say exfoliate less? Well, here is the thing. For the same, reason we don’t recommend strong alkaline cleansers, using too many acids is a no-go. It will cause dryness, redness, flaky skin and even discoloration. 

Do

Balance, balance, balance. Salicylic Acid and Beta Hydroxy Acids are extra powerful for oily skin. They help to clear blackheads, reduce and prevent breakouts, so by all means, use them. Just make sure to limit their use to 1 product per routine. For instance, if you opt for a toner with a high acid content, choose a non-acid-containing second cleanser. If you absolutely need to use both, then go for products with lower overall concentrations.

Don’t

Don’t abuse clay masks. While clay masks should be a staple in your summer skincare routine, using clay masks every day a sure way to dehydrated skin. Believe us when we say this – if there is one thing that is worse than having an oily skin in summer, it is having a dehydrated oily skin. 

Do

Use clay masks 1-2 times a week and opt for milder, less drying types of clay like kaolin or bentonite.

Don’t

Don’t use pore strips. Just don’t. Please. We understand that it’s super satisfying to pull off a strip and see these little specks of gunk and grime covering the surface. But using pore strips regularly will stretch your pores and ultimately lead to even more blackheads. Besides, they can easily irritate and tear the skin bringing micro spider veins to the surface of the skin. Not a good look.

Do

Be gentle to your skin. The best cure is prevention. Don’t wait until the situation gets so bad you need heavy artillery. Devise a morning and evening pore-care plan (but nothing too complicated!) and stick to it. You’ll be surprised how a consistent routine will change the overall look and feel of your pores. 

Don’t

Don’t face tan. There is a dangerous rumor circulating in a skincare community that tanning helps to clear out the skin and get rid of blackheads. And it’s the biggest don’t on this list. After spending a day under the sun, you might notice that your skin is seemingly less oily and blackheads are gone. But it’s an illusion. Sun rays dry out the skin, throwing it off balance even further. The result? You guessed it. Your skin will double up on oil production to make up for the missing water. Some skincare specialists also caution that sun damage you’ll inevitably get from frying your face will cause the skin to thicken. Thicker skin is harder to exfoliate, and you’ll have a higher chance to develop clogged pores in the future. 

Do

Try mineral sunscreens as they are great for controlling excess sebum. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide will absorb the oils your skin is producing, minimizing the chance of clogged pores and keeping your complexion shine-free. 

Et voilà! Do you have more tips for managing oily skin in summer? Let us know in the comments below.