For a long time, I have been rather confused about the difference between exfoliation, scrub and peeling. So I decided to do a bit of research to make myself wiser. Here, after long evenings in front of my computer screen, I can finally present to you what I have come up with! And for those of you in a hurry, scroll down to the bottom of the page for a few homemade exfoliating recipes.


Exfoliation is the process of clearing away dead skin cells from your skin, leaving your skin smooth and clear and fresh. This can be done in two different ways; chemically or physically. A chemical exfoliation means that the exfoliation takes places due to the chemical properties of the product, unlike physical exfoliation where the exfoliation is thanks to the rough surface that is applied to face or body. Let’s take a closer look at the two kinds.


A physical (or manual) exfoliation can be achieved with a exfoliating gloves, towels or by dry brushing.  Another way of doing a physical exfoliation is through a scrub. This is done with grains that scrub away the dead skin cells. Basically anything coarse can be used as a scrub – sugar, salt, ground nuts or seeds, coffee… Or even sand! (I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed how feet look real nice after walking barefoot on the beach). For some scrub recipes, see the recipe page. Physical exfoliations can be rather hard on the skin, so try doing it only once a week. But listen to your skin, if you don’t get very red, irritated or itching skin there’s no reason not to exfoliate more than once a week.

Peeling is a physical process of removing dead skin cells and blackheads. This can easily be done at home with the help of some gelatine – see the recipe here. There are few things as satisfying as stripping off some gelatine off your face and actually seeing all the gunk that came out with it.


There are two different kinds of chemical exfoliating agents – AHA and BHA. AHA stands for Alpha Hydroxy Acid, which can be found in many forms including glycolic acid, malic acid, lactic acid and citric acid. If you want to pay loads of bucks, you can buy fancy AHA or BHA peels, creams and serums at the pharmacy or  perfume shop. But the truth is that AH acids are found naturally in loads of ingredients that you already have in your kitchen cabinet! Check this out: sugar, pineapple, grapes, yogurt, strawberry, apple, blueberry, raspberry, lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange, honey, wine… That’s just an example of all the natural ingredients that contain AHA in one or more forms. BHA stands for Beta Hydroxy Acid and is another form of acid but essentially does the same thing. In skin care, the BHA used is salicylic acid, which basically is the same as aspirin.

So are you sure you need to go to the drugstore to buy something like this for hundreds of dollars? I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll whip something up at home. Maybe a…

Sugar scrub with 2 parts sugar with 1 part olive oil. If you’ve paid attention here, you’ll have realized that a sugar scrub actually is a combined chemical and physical exfoliation, as sugar contains glucolic acid and will also give a physical scrub beause of the coarse grains. Nifty, huh?
Strawberry exfoliating face mask. Mix a few fresh or frozen strawberries, or another berry such as blueberry or raspberry, with a tablespoon of thick yogurt, buttermilk or some other sour milk product. Leave on your face for up to 20 minutes, then rinse with lukewarm water.
Red wine face mask consisting of 1 tablespoon red wine, 2 tablespoons honey and 1 tbs yogurt. Leave on for 10-15 minutes.
Honey face wash.  Wash your face with honey, simple as that. Crunchy betty can tell you more.
Aspirin face mask. Jason already explained this a few weeks back.

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  1. Pingback: Make your own body scrubs | SaferSkin

  2. Vivi

    Hey Hilda! I read somewhere that if you have oily skin it’s better to avoid physical rubbing because that makes your skin produce more oil. Do you know if this is true? What type of exfoliation do you think I should stick to, I’m combination skin – maybe a bit more on the oilier side than the dry side of things?

    p.s I’m going through all your posts and favourit-ing everyhting that I’m going to try out in the near future :). Much more fun than thesis work!

    1. hilda

      Hi Vivi!
      As you probably gathered from my post, I am no expert on exfoliation. But from my understanding, exfoliation is needed for all skin types because it scrubs away excess dead skin. And when you have oily skin, you often have clogged pores which makes exfoliation all the more important. However, if you scrub your face too often, depending on what you use, you might, like you say, scrub away too much => your skin gets dry on the surface => your skin will produce even more oil. This actually means that the best way to exfoliate when you have oily skin is to use a blend of a scrubbing agent and an oil! This way you will provide your skin with some oil from the outside, and your body will not feel the need to produce so much oil which in the long run will balance out the oily skin! For combination skin, I guess it depends a bit… A favorite mild scrub of mine is oatmeal powder and vegetable oil:
      Milk and honey is also a good base to start from if you want something on the lighter side. And then mix that with a bit of cornflour or clay, or if you want something more effective for acne and blemishes, baking soda (not baking powder!).

  3. Pingback: Make Your Own Homemade Scrub With Just Two Ingredients | Hildablue

  4. Pingback: 9 DIY Beauty Recipes With Strawberries | Hildablue | Hildablue – Beauty Made By You

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