The Deal with Exfoliation, How and Why You Should Do It

At Earthlings, we believe there are 4 pillars of skincare: health, cleanse, moisturizing, and exfoliating. In society we generally talk about the first 3 pillars a lot but exfoliating is often left as an afterthought. If you’re obsessed with getting a healthy glow, exfoliation should be at the forefront of your daily routine. Also, chances are a lot of your skin troubles can be alleviated with exfoliating. We’ve listed some examples below:

Acne? - One of the main causes of breakouts are clogged pores. When your pores are clogged and that becomes infected, voila you have a pimple! If you keep your pores clear, and clean you’re reducing you chances of breaking out significantly.

 Wrinkles? - Regular exfoliation is key in stimulating collagen synthesis. Collagen improves skin's texture and is what keeps your skin plump, tight, and firm.


Dull Skin? - Aside from increased circulation, exfoliation also boosts the skin's radiance by increasing cell. This means that healthy fresh cells stay at the surface, instead of dead, dry, or dying ones.


OK so now that you’re thoroughly convinced you should exfoliate, how do you do it?

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of debate regarding what is the best way to exfoliate. Generally there are 2 sides, some that swear by mechanical exfoliation, and some that only believe in chemical exfoliation. And when I say the opinions are strong, I really mean it. Below we’ll talk about each more in depth and also their pro’s and cons.


Chemical Exfoliation:

Basically anything product that has acid in it is a chemical exfoliator. This includes BHAs, AHAs, retinoids, fruit enzymes, any kind of peels, etc. They work by essentially “melting off” the layer of dead skin cells (and if you’re not careful also a layer of living cells as well).



-It’s easy, meaning you just buy it and put it on once or twice a day

-If used properly, they can penetrate a little deeper

-Easy to achieve an even exfoliation


-If used improperly or not at the right strength, can cause your skin to become patchy and red. This definitely happened to me in the past and it took about 2 weeks to recover fully.

-Depending on your skin, it can cause breakouts because sometimes these acids unbalance your skin. Of course this depends on what you’re using and how tolerant your skin is.

-Chemicals eeek. Yeah, check your label, a lot of the ingredients added to products to facilitate exfoliation are endocrine disruptors!


Mechanical Exfoliation:

Doing it the old fashioned way! This includes any kind of scrub or polish you might do.



-You can control how much you want to exfoliate.

-No harmful chemicals

-Its free! Meaning you don’t have to buy expensive serums or creams.

-Increases circulation much more than Chemical exfoliation.



-Can damage skin if you don’t do it right. Stay away from any kind of scrubs you buy because at a microscopic level most of the time these are slightly jagged. That basically means with every scrub you are tearing your face and roughing up the texture by creating scar tissue. Also those micro tears get infected.

-Risk of stripping the skin if you do it too hard.

Our Opinion:

In the end, we’re team Mechanical Exfoliation but of course we won’t judge you if you prefer the chemical route. As we’ve stated, they both have their pro’s and con’s. It’s up to you and what works for your skin. The only advice I can give you is what works for me. I simply wash my face with a warm (and clean) washcloth when I wake up and before I go to sleep. I use very light pressure and work in a circular motion around my entire face and neck. After which, I moisturize. It’s effect, cheap, and time tested- aka my grandmother taught me this and at 93 her skin still looks like porcelain.

Michelle Wu