Exfoliators are defined by their ability to remove the layer of dead skin cells from the upper dermis. This action is an age old trick in skincare that can help the absorption of products, encourage skin renewal and help dull congested looking skin look younger and fresher.

Regularly exfoliating your skin is vital to removing dead skin cells that build up on the face every day. If we ignore exfoliation the dead skin cells can build up and trigger the visual signs of premature ageing, uneven complexion and blemishes. Regardless of your skin type or what season it is, exfoliating your skin is always important to achieve a clear and radiant complexion, however just like everything else there are different kinds of exfoliator that are suited to different skin types.

Here are the three types of exfoliator and how to use them:


Scrubs are the most recognisable form of exfoliator and are often described as physical exfoliants. These products have a grainy texture and contain particles such as salt, sugar and rice that work to physically scrub away dead skin cells. The types of exfoliating grains found in physicals exfoliators also vary in size from micro-beads to macro-beads. 

Exfoliating scrubs are usually recommended for more oily skin types as the physical action of removing oily deposits on the skin really aids in the removal of excess sebum and impuities that are often the cause of conditions such as acne. However it is important not to over-exfoliate when using physical scrubs as you can easily cause more damage than benefits, too harsh and frequent exfoliation can trigger more oil production through invigoration of sebum glands and opening of the pores. The recommendation for usage is between 1-3 times a week. But I would recommend to start off with once a week and adjust based on how your skin feels after about 2 days, but don't exceed 3 times in a 7 day period.

The Apothecaries recommend Medik8 Pore Refining Scrub which contains physical exfoliators derived from jojoba  which removes impurities and make-up, while leaving  skin feeling smooth and hydrated.


Chemical exfoliants work using naturally occurring acids to break the bonds of the skin cells allowing dead skin to easily fall loose and be cleansed away. The most common types of acid exfoliators are Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs). AHAs usually contain Glycolic and Lactic acids which are recommended for dry and damaged skin. AHAs work to exfoliate the skin as well as adding moisture for more sensitive skin types. BHAs are advised to use for oily skin types as they are able to break through tough oil to cleanse the pores and contain anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Salicylic acid is a type of BHA that exfoliates above and below the surface of the skin to effectively rejuvenate the skin.

Chemical exfoliants are often recommended for more sensitive skin types as they avoid the harsh grains from physicals exfoliants rubbing and damaging delicate skin. Chemical exfoliants also have the ability to exfoliate deep into the skin, beyond the skin’s surface which helps to smooth wrinkles, lines and blemishes. Chemical Exfoliants can be used daily or every other day as part of your skincare regime.

The Apothecaries recommends NeoStrata Foaming Glycolic Wash as one of the most effective chemical exfoliators. This exfoliating wash offers powerful soap-free AHA benefits that exfoliates deep within the skin to stimulate new skin cells and remove dead skin.


Like chemical exfoliators, enzyme exfoliators dissolve the bonds between skin cells and allow dead dull skin to be easily removed with normal daily cleansing. However these type of exfoliators are particularly recommended for those who have extremely sensitive skin or rosacea. These products often contain ingredients such as papaya or pineapple as the enzymes occur naturally in these fruits. As these products are designed with the highly sensitive in mind I would recommend that they not be used more that once a week on someone with that skin type.

Choosing the right exfoliator for you

Ultimately this all depends on personal preference, physical exfoliants are brilliant for oily skins, and they reveal brighter and younger skin in an instant, but watch out as over use can result in over oil production. Chemical exfoliants are more gentle and effective on the skin, but they may need experimenting with to ensure your skin type can tolerate the different  chemical ingredients and it may take longer to see the results. Enzyme exfoliants are great for extremely sensitive skin types especially those with rosacea.

Or browse the selection of top cosmeceutical facial exfoliating cleansers that can be included into your weekly skincare regime.

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