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The Importance of Exfoliation

By ZO® Skin Health


Falling temperatures and indoor heating can exacerbate dry skin for a number of patients, causing patches of flaky skin and an overall dull complexion. An increase of hydration may be required, but you may be lacking regular exfoliation in your daily routine. No matter the season, exfoliation is an important step in maintaining a healthy skin barrier.  

Here’s a short ZO® guide to exfoliation—physical and chemical—and how it contributes to a healthy, glowing complexion.


What is Exfoliation?

Exfoliation is already a natural part of your skin’s renewal cycle. Dead surface cells are constantly shedding to reveal the new skin underneath. As skin ages or becomes compromised, natural functions begin to slow down. Without exfoliation, dead skin cells, dirt, and other impurities can make skin look dull, congest pores and cause breakouts. Adding a chemical or physical exfoliant to your skincare routine will help keep your skin clear, glowing and functioning properly. 

Physical Exfoliation vs. Chemical Exfoliation

There are three different types of exfoliants available: physical, chemical, or a hybrid of both.

Physical Exfoliators

Physical, or mechanical, exfoliators usually contain small, naturally derived particles like jojoba beads, silica, or sugar that need to be gently massaged into the skin to physically buff away dead skin cells. The act of regularly using physical exfoliators also has the added benefit of increasing blood circulation to wake up the skin and continue improving skin functions.

When choosing a physical exfoliator, make sure to avoid harsh particles that can cause micro tears in your skin. ZO’s Exfoliating Polish is suitable for all skin types and contains ultra-fine magnesium-oxide crystals that gently sweep away dead skin cells without being abrasive.

Chemical Exfoliators

Chemical exfoliators usually contain alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) like lactic, salicylic, and glycolic acids or fruit enzymes. These ingredients are beneficial for most skin types and are a gentler alternative to physical exfoliants, which can sometimes be irritating for those with sensitive skin. Instead of relying on a mechanical motion, chemical exfoliators loosen more stubborn dead skin cells to allow them to slough off the skin.

At ZO® you can find chemical exfoliation in our Exfoliation Accelerator, which contains a glycolic and lactic acid blend.

Oily or acne-prone skin types can add Dual Action Scrub into their daily routine from our Getting Skin Ready® collection. As its name suggests,  Dual Action Scrub provides both physical and chemical exfoliation with jojoba beads and salicylic acid. Follow it up with Complexion Renewal Pads or Oil Control Pads to further encourage exfoliation with salicylic acid, which is also a proven treatment that targets congested skin and breakouts.

When and How Often Should You Exfoliate?

If you’re concerned about breakouts or hyperpigmentation, use gentle, chemical exfoliants daily, or as often as your skin can tolerate them. Over time, these ingredients will help smooth, soften, decongest + visibly brighten skin.

Mechanical exfoliants can be used at least two to three times a week to regularly buff away dead skin cells. They’re especially helpful when using ingredients such as retinol that increase cellular turnover to improve the skin’s tone.

You may notice some dryness and flaking when incorporating a high-potency retinol like Retinol Skin Brightener 1% into your daily routine. Using  Exfoliating Polish two to three times a week can gently sweep away flaking skin to keep your complexion looking bright and smooth. This allows your other topical products to absorb more effectively to deliver hydration or other skin soothing ingredients.


Without exfoliation, dead skin cells, dirt and other impurities can make the skin look dull, emphasize the appearance fine lines and wrinkles, and even cause acne breakouts.






This retinol-based solution is clinically proven to rapidly improve the appearance of uneven skin tone for a brighter, clearer and smoother complexion. Anticipated reactions, such as redness, flaking, dryness or tightness, are completely normal and signs that the product is working.


Exfoliation Accelerator

All Skin Types Anti-Aging TSA Approved


Overall, exfoliation is a great way to support skin renewal and achieve a glowing complexion without unnecessary filters. Don’t let the thought of over-exfoliation or “ruining” your skin with exfoliants scare you—it’s hard to do that with such gentle options available. A physician or skincare specialist is always a great help in finding the right products for your skin and lifestyle.

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