Hey, I'm Tenneil

I live in Perth, Australia, and this is my creative outlet where I blog about beauty, my life and everything in between. I enjoy the '80s, the '90s and anything French, and some of my favourite things in life include music,  film, summer and a nice cup of tea.

Physical vs. Chemical

Physical vs. Chemical

My first foray into exfoliators was with St. Ives Apricot Scrub. I was sixteen, acne-prone and didn't have a clue about proper skin care. I was taking advice from any old place online without doing thorough research and never learnt how to even use an exfoliator. So much so, I was using the scrub as my everyday cleanser! Ouch. Thankfully, my skincare routine has come a long way since I was a clueless teenager only further aggravating my skin, and I've learnt a lot more about the exfoliator's role in a skincare routine too; i.e. it's not a cleanser and not something you use everyday. A little bit older and a little bit wiser, I've now found a dream team of exfoliators I absolutely love and interchange with - two of them being scrubs, which are your physical (also known as manual) exfoliants, and two that are liquid, which are of the chemical type. With physical exfoliators considered to be too harsh due to their gritty texture, it often sparks a debate on which type of exfoliator is best for your skin. For me, both play an important part in my skincare routine, depending on what I feel my skin needs and believe both types of facial exfoliators effectively slough away dead skin cells to reveal a brighter, clearer complexion.


When I first heard about Antipodes, everyone was talking (and still does!) about the Aura Manuka Honey Treatment Mask. Not needing another mask in my routine, I was, however, on the lookout for a new exfoliator, so I decided to give the Antipodes Reincarnation Pure Facial Exfoliator a try. I'm not someone who will go out and buy a product without reading up about it first, but since purchasing this on a whim a year and a half ago, I've never looked back and it has remained a staple in my routine ever since. Containing avocado oil and jojoba beads, the formula of this exfoliator is rich, creamy and ever so gentle. The jojoba beads are so fine, it would be suitable for almost all skin types and you can even use it daily. The exfoliator also contains calendula oil and carrot seed extract, which helps relieve stressed skin, and with an uplifting scent of cedarwood and sweet orange, it'll give your skin a new lease on life. As the Reincarnation Pure Facial Exfoliator is the most gentle of the lot, it's the one I reach for most often. Not necessarily because my skin looks terrible all the time, but just to give it a little extra something-something every now and then.

The Origins Never A Dull Moment Skin-Brightening Face Polisher is one of those products that holds sentimental value to me. I had just briefly met Jennifer for the first time who spotted me reconciling the cash registers at work, and when I went to visit her at the Kit Cosmetics counter a few days later when she used to work there, she had given me a million samples of this exfoliator. Not only did I absolutely fall in love with it, but it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that has now extended far beyond our blogs. It's got a little bit more grit to it than the Antipodes exfoliator, but in saying that, it's not at all abrasive, at least on my non-sensitive skin, anyway. If you're unsure, you can always pop in to your local Kit or Mecca Maxima, where I'm sure the sales assistants would be happy to give you a sample too. With ingredients such as apricot, mango seeds and papaya extract, impurities are scrubbed away and the skin is left feeling soft and smooth. As a fruit-infused formula, the scent of this stuff is absolutely divine and I just want to eat it! It's refreshing and invigorating, making it the perfect exfoliator for a pick-me-up in the morning and to wake up tired, dull skin.


I introduced the chemical exfoliator into my routine with Alpha-H Liquid Gold almost three years ago now and while it isn't raved on about too often these days, I still love it. Liquid Gold's two main active ingredients are the naturally-derived Glycolic Acid, which exfoliates and brightens, and liquorice extract, which soothes, brightens and reduces the appearance of dark spots and pigmentation. Whether you're young or old, this is truly a wonder product that will help with acne scarring, fine lines and wrinkles and even sun damage. While I've happily left the days of acne well and truly behind me, my occasional blemishes do have a nasty habit of leaving behind a present in the form of a scar, which Liquid Gold helps to completely clear. If that wasn't enough to have you completely sold already, Liquid Gold is also used as an overnight treatment (every other day at the most), making it the perfect product for the ultimate lazy girl, such as yours truly. Remove makeup, cleanse, Liquid Gold, and you're good to go! Let's be real, we've all had those moments where it's been late at night, we haven't done our skincare routines and we've thought, "Ugh, ceebs!"

The Clarins Gentle Exfoliator Brightening Toner is, as the name suggests, more gentle than Liquid Gold and one I reach for often when I'm breaking out, so I can go with the rest of my skincare routine and apply a topical treatment to the area. It's a thicker liquid, almost like a watery gel consistency and has a really mild baby soap fragrance, which I quite enjoy. It feels refreshing, soothing and hydrating upon application, and contains tamarind fruit acids, helping to eliminate impurities within the skin. Like a good exfoliator should, it delivers the results for a smooth, bright complexion and while there a lot of different exfoliating toners out there on the market now, I think I'm going to stay loyal to the Clarins offering.

I'm also well aware of the hype surrounding exfoliating pads these days, which make for an effortless step in your skincare routine. I'm not using any at the moment (do I really need a fifth exfoliator?!), but I've used the Dr Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Daily Face Peel in the past, back during my early twenties when I was still suffering from acne and just getting into high end beauty. It's a two-step system, which sounds like a pain in the bum, but containing a precise blend of Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids, this delivered absolutely fantastic results and now I can't even remember why I stopped repurchasing it!

The winner

I hate playing favourites as I really do enjoy and love using both physical and chemical exfoliators in my routine, but the general consensus seems to be that the chemical exfoliator is the standout. The ingredients contained in chemical exfoliators have the advantage of better penetrating the skin, whereas manually rubbing in a physical exfoliator may be a bit too abrasive. Obviously, this is all dependent upon the products you're using and your skin type, but to me, sometimes I love the feeling of a good old-fashioned scrub to feel like I'm sloughing away at those dead skin cells. Chemical exfoliators, for me, are also strictly reserved for nighttime use. While they are gentle enough for all skin types, they can make your skin sensitive to the sun and while I always wear sunscreen during the day, the sun is just seriously harsh in Australia. No matter what type of exfoliator you use in your routine, physical, chemical or both, it all comes down to personal preference, and after dabbling with a few different ones over the years, I've settled on a routine I don't see myself changing anytime soon.

What type of exfoliator do you prefer?

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