24 Mar 2017

Exfoliation 101: Introducing the Concept of Exfoliation and An Overview of Gommage Peel and Facial Scrub I Used

It is pretty normal to assume that if you drink a lot of water, you will need to go to the washroom often. This is due to a process called metabolism. The same goes for our skin, which often needs to replace itself from time to time to get rid of biological waste. For our skin, biological waste normally comes in the form of dead skin cells, which either gets stuck to the skin surface or is trapped within the pores. If our body is fit and healthy, these dead skin cells will be eliminated from our body naturally. However, if we are undergoing a lot of stress or health issues, our metabolism will be disrupted leading to the accumulation of biological waste. These in turn might result in a duller, uneven, spotty and flaky looking complexion.

This is when exfoliation comes into rescue by aiding the elimination of dead skin cells that are remained on our skin. Normally, we use a scrub for surface unevenness and roughness and a deep-cleansing mask for anything below the surface. Scrub is also more suitable for normal to drier skin whereas deep-cleansing mask works better for combination to oilier skin.

Recently, there has been a rising emphasis on chemical exfoliants, which are AHA, BHA and PHA. I got to know these ingredients when I was researching about Cosrx products. AHA is the acid treatment alternative to scrub. AHA stands for Alpha Hydroxy Acids and normally comes in the form of glycolic acid, mandelic acid and lactic acid. It works to loosen the bonds of the dead skin cells allowing it to be better eliminated from the body. AHA is photosensitive hence it is imperative that you use a sunscreen whenever you are using AHA. My bf who accidentally lays my Cosrx AHA Whitehead 7 Power Liquid on his face suffers massive redness and sun burn when he went under the sun unprotected the next day. You won’t want that to happen to you!

PHA is relatively new to the industry. I know Cosrx just invented a new cream with PHA and has been giving out samples to the public. And Make P:rem Radiance Peeling Overnight Mask I just bought also contains this ingredient. Basically, PHA (Polyhydroxy Acid) is very similar to AHA without the harshness of AHA. It is much more hydrating than AHA and will suit those with dry and sensitive skin.

BHA, on the other hand, is the acid treatment alternative to deep-cleansing mask. It is oil-soluble so it can penetrate deep into your skin to unclog your pores, cleaning up everything that has been built and growing inside. It also has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to calm and soothe your skin. These properties make it a wonderful ingredient for those with oily, combination and acne-prone skin.

Part 1: Physical Exfoliation, Scrub and Gommage Peel

Scrub is the most common way of exfoliating your skin. We call this physical exfoliation because it involves using physical scrub to force peel dead skin cells on your skin, encouraging it to renew and regenerate itself in a faster way. My mom used to tell me that I must scrub at least once or twice a week. She did not explain why but she insisted that “scrubbing is very important” to make your skin look baby-soft. Well, is it true? Not necessary. It is highly depend on the types of scrub you use, how harsh it is and also your skin types. Normal to dry skin can use a harsher scrub but oilier to sensitive skin should opt for milder gommage gel or other forms of exfoliation like clay mask or chemical exfoliants.

Gommage gel is a much mild alternative to scrubbing, and is suitable for sensitive skin. It contains non-abrasive enzymes and extracts to slough off dead skin cells via manual massaging. You will see your skin “peeled off” in the form of plastic gel balls which are actually just the gommage peel itself. It is still a form of physical scrub, but much gentler than that.

There are couples of scrub or gommage peel that I have used in the past few years, some of which I have not reviewed on so I want to talk about all of them in this mega post, starting from the oldest to the newest.

Nano White Clay Cleanser

This is the one of the earliest clay mask that I have used, but it actually works more like scrub than clay mask. It comes in the form of scrub-and-cleanser in one that you can foam up and rinse off like a normal cleanser. The instruction states that you can use this every week but trust me that you won’t want to have this on your face more than once or twice a week, especially if you have sensitive or drier skin. A guy friend of mine once told me that he thought this was a cleanser and used it every day only ended up breaking out all over his face. I have used up at least two tubes of this when I was in high school and must say that I was really unimpressed and wouldn’t recommend to anyone. It is far too harsh hence more damage than good done.

Assessment: ★★ | Full Review

Nano White Polishing Renewal Exfoliator

This is the milder version of the Nano White Clay Cleanser and is one of the earliest gommage peels I have used. You massage this onto your skin seeing those microspheres turned into rubber gel like balls on your face. It was kinda fun to use. One thing I dislike about it is its strong alcohol scent. It is also a bit drying for my skin so I did not quite finish the two tubes I bought.

Assessment: ★★★ | Full Review

Natio Gentle Facial Scrub


This is an Australian brand imported by SASA. It was quite expensive at about RM 30-40 if I remember correctly. I bought this because I received a RM 10 coupon from SASA that I must use on the same day or just have to waive it. I was quite naïve and have low resistance to this sales gimmick so I fell into the trap and ended up purchasing this Natio Facial Scrub. I wouldn’t say that it was awful but it was definitely harsh. It was even harsher than St Ives Apricot Scrub I think. I scratched my face here and there after using it for about 2 months and ended up giving it away to a male friend.

Assessment: ★☆

Innisfree Wine Peeling Jelly Softener

This is probably the first Korean facial scrubs I have used. I bought this from a Facebook seller before Innisfree launched its first store in Malaysia. I love the packaging, concept, ingredients used and scent of the product. Most importantly, it is also very mild and gentle on the skin. It will leave your skin smooth and soft without any abrasiveness. The problem I have with this product is quite personal. I normally like to put this on my dressing table because bringing it to the bathroom will cause its packaging to get wet and this will destroy its pretty packaging. And when I do that, I will always forget to use it so the product was near expired when I was only 50% through it. So, lesson learned. Don’t waste your money preserving the look of a product when you should be using it. If you want to keep it beautiful, just get it laminated or framed otherwise don’t bother about taking it into the bathroom. Agree?

Assessment: ★★★☆  | Review

Skinfood Acai Berry Wash Off Pack

Actually, I really, really love this product. It is the Acai Berry Mask from Skinfood with exfoliating and moisturizing properties. It also smells enticingly sweet. And it comes in a gorgeous glass jar that looks completely collectible, almost like an art. I enjoy using this on my face every week slowly massaging it to feel the fine particles inside evening out all roughness I have on my skin. But as much as I love it and want to repurchase it, this product HAS BEEN DISCONTINUED. I do not understand why Skinfood discontinues them but honestly it was a big shock and a sad finding for me when I was trying to repurchase and also purchase its other flavours. Guess sometimes good things are not meant to be passed along and will only live in your memory.

Assessment: ★★★★☆

Skinfood Rice Wash Off Pack

Next I have Skinfood Rice Wash-Off Mask. This product has been the top seller of Skinfood and is available at amazing prices at Hermo and Althea. As you can see, it comes in the form of liquid paste with rice bran particles floating inside. You massage this onto your face for 2-3 minutes and then rinse it off after leaving it for about 5-10 minutes. I love using this in the shower as it is quick and convenient. Then I will find that my other products are applied easier when I step out of the shower. This mask will leave my skin super soft and clear without drying it out. Definitely one of the best masks I have tried! And also a great mask at its price!

Assessment: ★★★★☆

Kiehl's Turmeric & Cranberry Seed Energizing Masque

This is a DIY mask with creamy turmeric paste and raw cranberry seeds inside. Of course, I am not saying that we can DIY this ourselves, but this definitely looks like a DIY vege mask. You left it on your skin for 15-20 minutes and then rinse it off. You will then notice a brighter and smoother looking skin that is so polished and babyish-like. This mask can be a little harsh if you have sensitive or troubled skin so those skin types might want to avoid using this. I have done a full review on this which you can check out here!

Assessment: ★★★  | Full Review

Laneige Multiberry Yogurt Peeling Gel

This is a gommage peel made of berries extract in the form of creamy yogurt paste. It works really well for those with dry and sensitive skin who want a weekly exfoliating treatment. It also smells pretty sweet and delicious. This is definitely a decent gommage peel if compared to Dr. G and Primera. It is mild, non-drying and effective. However, since I have already got my Primera one and prefer the ingredients used in the Primera one, I will just stick to the Primera one for now.

Assessment: ★★★

Primera Facial Mild Peeling Gel

This is a really gentle and mild peeling gel that is suitable for very sensitive skin. It is made of broccoli extracts and enzymes to gently slough off dead skin cells on the skin. My skin is left not only clearer and softer but also blackheads appear lesser every time after using this. I guess there is a reason why this has been raved about in Get it Beauty show and loved by many people. The only thing I dislike about this product is its volume. Since it is so gentle and light, you will need to use quite a lot of it to exfoliate your entire face so a bottle will not last you for a very long time. My miniature is done in less than 10 uses so my guess is that a full size bottle (100ml) like this may not last you for any longer than 3 months. It is a great product, but not really cost-effective especially that I don’t have very sensitive skin.

Assessment: ★★★★☆

Primera Facial Intensive Peeling Gel

This is the more intensive version of the Mild Peeling Gel. The Mild Peeling Gel is gommage peel whereas this one is sort of like a very gentle microdermabrasion scrub. I can definitely “feel” that my skin is being smoothened when I am massaging it with this product, if compared to the Mild Peeling Gel. I also really like the scent of this Intensive Peeling Gel which is very herbal and earthy. However, if have tight budget and don’t want to spend some RM 80-100 on a scrub, then Skinfood Rice Wash-Off Mask is a good alternative. As for me, I still really like Primera products especially their broccoli line ones so I might still repurchase this in the future if I see good deals.

Assessment: ★★★★☆

Tosowoong Enzyme Powder Wash

This is an enzyme powder wash, so basically a cleanser with exfoliating property. I don’t use this everyday because I find it a little harsh and drying using this on a daily basis. The product is made of enzyme in powder form that can be lathered up easily. At first, it will foam up easily without upon contact with water. But after using it for several months, you will notice that the powder will absorb water and start crumbling together making it hard to foam up, especially if you put it in the bathroom. I don’t really notice great improvements in my skin texture after using this. A lot of scrub mask like Skinfood or Primera ones can give me the same brightening and smoothening effects so this is not unique. And it is not gentle enough for daily usage so I will not repurchase after I finish this.

Assessment: ★★☆  | Full Review

St. Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub

Oh I actually kinda enjoy this scrub, not on my skin, but on my body. This is one of the cheapest and most accessible scrubs you can find in the grocery store. Almost every pharmacy carries this. And it is seriously cheap at only about RM 15. It contains walnut shell that comes in the form of creamy paste which makes it really easy to apply. You just massage this onto your skin to remove any roughness and unevenness and then rinse it off with water. Well, to be fair, I don't really use this on my face. I normally apply this on my elbow and knee areas where dead skin cells are the thickest and hardest to metabolize on its own. I find it a little too harsh on my face and the particles might scratch and hurt my skin. But overall a pretty decent body scrub.

Assessment: ★★★☆

Kiehl's Skin Brightening Exfoliator

Just like Nano White Clay Cleanser and Tosowoong Enzyme Powder Wash, this is a scrub and cleanser in one. You are only meant to use it at night but I take a more cautious approach and only use it once or twice a week. Just like all other exfoliating cleansers I have used, this will make my skin immediately brighter, smoother and evener after using. The bonus about this Exfoliator is its scent. It is also finer than the two exfoliating cleansers I mentioned above so also gentler per se.

Assessment: ★★★★  | Review


Exfoliation is the key to better skin tone and texture. It is also one of the beauty secrets behind Korean women’s enviable dewy complexion. There are many ways to exfoliate our skin. Scrub is the most primitive one. Later we have gommage peel, which is gentler and is suitable for sensitive skin. I have tried several scrubs and peels and all of them work pretty well to give that immediate brighter and clearer skin texture. However, they are not that helpful for hyperpigmentation, acne problems and blackheads. They just force the skin to turnover faster by manually eliminating the stubborn old skin cells. My piece of advice when using scrub or gommage peel is to use it not more than twice a week. Your skin needs time to recover from each exfoliation and not over-doing it is the key to long-term skin’s health. Patience is a virtue when it comes to skincare. Sometimes you gotta remember that less is more.

[Disclaimer] This is NOT a sponsored review. Products are purchased with my own money. All copy right of contents and images in this article is strictly mine. Please refer to this link for how I make assessment.

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