Mechanical Exfoliators

The most commonly used exfoliation method is mechanical exfoliators, which generally consist of lotions or creams that contain tiny, rough particles that remove dead skin cells through friction, leaving it smooth. Often known as body or facial scrubs, they can contain particle such as crushed walnut shells or apricot pits, salt, sugar or polymer beads.

Abrasive materials may also be used as a mechanical exfoliator, although these tend to be more suitable for the body than the face. Materials include loofahs, pumice stones (used especially for feet), brushes and microfibre cloths.

Mechanical exfoliators are often better for skins that are not problematic, delicate or sensitive.


Microdermabrasion is a type of mechanical exfoliation method that is used to treat enlarged skin pores, uneven skin texture and discolorations. This non-surgical cosmetic procedure is designed to stimulate the skin to produce collagen and new cells, 'polishing' the skin, and creating a more refined texture. Microdermabrasion may be carried out in spas, beauty parlours, and is also available in home-kits.

In this technique, the dead outermost surface of the skin (stratum corneum) is partially or completely removed by light abrasion, to remove sun-damaged skin and to remove or reduce dark spots and scars.

There are a number of microdermabrasion methods:

  • Crystal microdermabrasion: this professional method relies on tiny zinc oxide or aluminum oxide crystals that are blasted onto the skin to perform the exfoliating process.
  • Diamond microdermabrasion: this more popular professional method involves abrading the skin using a diamond tipped wand.
  • Home microdermabrasion: this alternative to professional treatments uses very small crystalline particles (e.g. aluminium oxide or very thinly milled salt) to remove dead skin cells. Although they are not as powerful as professional systems, they can be useful to maintain the effects of professional microdermabrasion.

The term 'microdemabrasion' should not be confused with 'dermabrasion', which is a more rigorous medical procedure that is carried out under light or general anaesthesia.