Physical vs. Chemical Exfoliants
Exfoliation, or the removal of dead skin cells, is a very important step in facial care. Regular exfoliation will make your skin smooth and soft, and will also lessen the breakouts. It will also make your skin better at absorbing moisturizers, or other treatments. Exfoliation stimulates new cell growth by removing skin cells that your body is no longer shedding.
The exfoliants can be divided into two large groups: physical and chemical exfoliants.
Physical exfoliants basically manually remove the dead skin cells through friction with the help of abrasive ingredients. Some physical exfoliants use natural products, such as almonds, seeds, etc., and can be rather harsh on sensitive skin; other products use gentle synthetic beads. However, many dermatologists agree that those with acne shouldn't use physical exfoliants, since they can irritate already inflamed skin and thus cause redness and breakouts.
Most popular forms of physical exfoliants are scrubs, abrasive pads and cloths and microdermabrasion.
Chemical exfoliants remove dead skin cells by using an acid or enzyme, so no abrasive agents are needed. You simply apply the exfoliant (which can be in a form of a lotion, gel, tonic, mask, etc.) and the "chemical" does the work, so you do not rub it into your skin. Some treatments are supposed to be rinsed right away, while others are left throughout the night and they work on your skin while you sleep.
Most popular forms of chemical exfoliants are Retinoids (such as RetinA), AHA (Alpha Glycolic Acids), BHA (Beta Glycolica Acids) and Chemical Peels.
Before using any of these, consult your dermatologist and he / she will reccomend the most suitable exfoliant form for your skin type.
I have not tried that many exfoliants, but I have been using Eucerin Dermo Puryfier Scrub for a few months now and I love it. I have sensitive, acne prone skin and this scrub is gentle enough not to irritate my skin, but also removes dead cells and makes my skin smooth and soft.