The Basics of Physical Exfoliation : Getting down to the nitty-gritty!

Written by: Smriti on:

Exfoliation is an integral part of any well-orchestrated skincare routine. And with the simple rule of thumb that applies to all skincare, 'One size does not fit all,' holding true for this too, we thought that maybe it was time to let you in on what knowledge we've gathered, through experience (and a tiny bit of dermatology) to help you make an informed decision!

Why is exfoliation important?
  • Well, for starters it gets rid of the flaky dead skin that sits at the very top, giving rise to texture.
  • It reveals a smooth and glowing complexion.
  • When done right and followed up with targeted products, exfoliation can boost your skin, reducing pigmentation and increasing collagen production.
  • Getting rid of the dead skin can actually reduce the chances of your pores getting clogged, preventing bumps and acne from forming.
  • It allows all your other skin care products to penetrate better.
  • So overall, your skin is much healthier!

If you ask us, we prefer chemical exfoliation over physical, as it's easy to get carried away and damage your skin with the latter. However, used wisely, they give you a deep clean feeling.
What we will be sharing our thoughts on in this post :
  1. Cream based scrubs
  2. Gel based scrubs
  3. Walnut granules based scrubs (harsh, cause micro damage)
  4. Ubtans
  5. Mechanical Aids


Work best on dry skin or for normal skin (especially during winter). They have the added advantage of softening your skin making it easier to buff away the dead layer. After washing it off, you'll see that your skin already has a moisturized look, and feels smooth to touch. For a long while Smriti preferred cream scrubs as they also double up as a nourishing mask. However, oily skin may not benefit as much from this type of scrubs, but don't worry we've got you covered!

I have tried the Kama Ayurveda Kumkumadi Brightening Ayurvedic Scrub - Reviewed HERE
and the St Ives Blemish Control Apricot Scrub - Reviewed HERE
And while I used them and also might have liked them at one point, I do not use or recommend them anymore. They contain walnut granules which can be harsh. 


This would be our pick if you have combination-oily skin as they do not have an emollient feel. More simply put, these leave your skin feeling refreshed. Some of them are also enriched with agents like salicylic acid which help fight acne by unclogging the pores (more on those agents later!).

I have tried the Forest Essentials Hand Pounded Organic Face Scrub - Reviewed HERE but this one can be harsh on the skin too. 


If not used correctly, walnut granules can do more harm than good for your skin (and that's not something anyone would want!). What you have to keep in mind that any physical exfoliant can be harsh on your skin, especially if it is hard (walnut shell, salt, etc) and if you use it a little too enthusiastically with forceful motions. Failing to do so causes micro-damage to your skin (scratches and abrasions). The more round a particle is, less damaging it will be which is not the case with walnut powder that is coarsely grinded. If you look at the ground walnut particles microscopically, you will find plenty jagged edges which can harm your skin. If you're picking a walnut based scrub, make sure to be gentle during use, and choose one that has finely milled particles for safety. However, if you have sensitive skin and/or suffer from active acne, it's best to avoid them. Or look for poppy seeds, jojoba beads instead.

Another piece of advice is to not combine AHA or retinol based exfoliants with this, as they can cause unwanted irritation/inflammation.

As for plastic microbeads, NO NO! Beauty is one thing, destroying our seas in its name is another. Cellulose microbeads keep your skin happy and are also eco-friendly. If you want to know more, Plum Goodness has an article that is concise and crisp.

4) UBTANS (Organic storemade/ Homemade)

These are my all time favourite and my preferred choice! #BringBeautyBackToBasics. 
Ubtans generally use ingredients that have a softer texture and hence are much more gentle on your face. Granted, as with all kitchen ingredients, they are a long term commitment and not much of an instant gratification, but the good side is that these ingredients often come with additional benefits like anti-septic (neem powder), brightening (orange/lemon peel powder, almond powder), anti-ageing (hibiscus powder), glow giving (rose powder), detoxing (activated charcoal), the list goes on!

Some of our favourites are:

Forest Essentials Narangi & Nagkesar Facial Ubtan - Reviewed HERE
Forest Essentials Soundarya Facial Ubtan - Reviewed HERE
Kama Ayurveda Mridul Facial Cleanser - Reviewed HERE

Homemade Green Tea Face Mask - HERE


What's the use living in the millenial age and not using technology in our skincare routine?!
There are a number of mechanical aids available in the market today - like the Foreo Luna tool & some almost similar devices (like the one we use). These devices are extremely gentle on your skin and cause no damage whatsoever. Additionally, since they are to be used with a cleanser, you get deep cleansing & mild exfoliation in 1 go! Talk about saving time. 

Other options in this category are Facial Buffers, like this one by The Body Shop - Reviewed HERE, but even this can be harsh if you have sensitive or acne prone skin. 

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