A complete guide to exfoliation with the answer ‘how often should you exfoliate your face?’.

Every time we see influencers posting pictures of their flawless, crystal clear skin, we wonder, “What is their secret?”, “How do I achieve that level of clear and texture-less skin?”, ” Is it possible to have that spotless skin?” and so much more. Well, adding exfoliators to your skincare routine may be exactly what you need for all your skin woes. This article makes exfoliation easy for you and answers the question, ‘how often should you exfoliate your face?’.

1) What is Exfoliation?

The exfoliation process removes dead cells from your skin’s outer layer. Our skin renews itself every 30 days or so. However, the time it takes will vary based on age, diet, and skincare routine. As we age, our skin cells’ turnover rate decreases. As a result, our skin starts looking dull, tired, and rough. Exfoliation helps to speed up skin shedding and prevent a build-up of dead cells on the skin surface, making our skin brighter and healthier.

2) Pros of Skin Exfoliation

2.1) Evens Skin Tone:-

If you have hyperpigmentation, acne scars, or uneven skin tone, you must know how frustrating it is to treat them. Exfoliation breaks down dead skin cells while smoothing texture; you’ll achieve that even and brighter complexion over time.

2.2) Keeps Your Pores Clear:-

Pores are small openings in the skin. These openings allow your skin to breathe. A build-up of dead skin cells on your skin’s surface, combined with dirt and sebum, can lead to clogged pores. When the pores get clogged, it can result in blackheads, whiteheads, and acne breakouts. Exfoliation prevents the build-up of dead skin cells, thereby unclogging pores and keeping your skin clear and texture-less.

2.3) Helps in the Absorption of Other Products:-

Due to the accumulation of layers of dead skin cells, your other skincare products might not get absorbed properly and sit on the skin’s surface. Proper exfoliation helps clear skin so your favorite skin care products can sink deep into the skin and do their magic.

2.4) Helps in Managing Acne-Prone Skin:-

If your skin type is acne prone, it is time to add exfoliants to your skincare routine. Dr. Magovern, a board-certified dermatologist and owner of Manhattan Dermatology, says that exfoliation can be helpful for acne-prone skin as it clears clogged pores, which often lead to breakouts. It even minimizes pores’ size. It can also help diminish acne scars faster by accelerating skin cell turnover and increasing collagen production.

2.5) Helps Improve Signs of Aging:-

How often should you exfoliate your face
Photo by cottonbro/Pexels Copyright 2020

As we age, the rate of our skin renewal cycle decreases, resulting in the accumulation of many layers of dead skin cells. Our skin loses its glow and becomes dull. So, for more plump and glowing skin, exfoliation is a must. Regular exfoliation helps stimulate collagen synthesis to enhance overall radiance and skin texture.

2.6) Boosts Your Circulation:-

Exfoliating your skin reduces toxins, increases circulation, and decreases oil production. Better blood circulation reduces the appearance of cellulite, tones the skin, and improves skin elasticity.

3) Cons of Skin Exfoliation

Exfoliating your skin has many benefits, but it also has downsides.

3.1) Strips off Skin’s Natural Oil:-

Over-exfoliating may result in stripping off its natural sebum secretion, which can cause more breakouts. When the upper protective layer of dead skin is exfoliated away, oil glands secret more oil which clogs pores and increases the likelihood of breakouts.

3.2) Makes Skin Irritated:-

Too much exfoliation damages our skin barrier and causes irritation and dryness as the topmost layer is exfoliated away. So, if you don’t want to wake up with red and inflamed skin, it’s advisable to limit its application.

3.3) Increases Sun Sensitivity:-

Over-exfoliation makes our skin more prone to sun damage as it removes the protective layer on the surface of our skin. Thus, our skin reacts to everything and becomes more prone to tanning.

3.4) Is Harmful to the Environment:-

Some exfoliants contain exfoliating beads like jojoba beads and microbeads. Though some beads, like jojoba beads, are biodegradable, most of them are not. These beads end up in rivers and oceans. Studies indicate that microplastics become part of the marine food chain and get retained in the tissue of fish, which ultimately moves up the food chain and gets consumed by humans.

*Over-exfoliation does more harm than good, so be mindful of how often you should exfoliate your face or skin.

4) Different Exfoliation Methods

Exfoliants can be of two types-

1) Chemical Exfoliants:- Work by dissolving the bonds between skin cells and, thus, removing them. Examples are alpha hydroxy acid (glycolic acid) and beta hydroxy acid (salicylic acid).

How often should you exfoliate your face with chemical exfoliants? – Preferably 2-3 times/week.

How often should you exfoliate your face
Image by Polina Kovaleva on pexels copyright 2020

2) Physical Exfoliants:- Work by manually removing the superficial dead cells with friction. Examples are physical scrubs, washcloths, and exfoliating gloves. However, physical exfoliators are not suitable for sensitive and acne-prone skin.

How often should you exfoliate your face with physical exfoliants? – 1-2 times/week.

5) How to Choose Exfoliating Products?

Before we start hoarding exfoliants, we must consider our skin types.

Physical exfoliants are a big no-no for sensitive and acne-prone skin types or if you tend to get pigmentation easily or have irritated skin.

A physical exfoliation is a good option if you have dry skin or a combination skin type.

There are different physical exfoliants to choose from:-

1) Face scrubs containing beads.

2) Sponges.

3) Exfoliating gloves.

4) Derma planning ( should be done under dermatologist supervision).

5) Microdermabrasion ( also to be done under dermatologist supervision).

5.1) Products for Different Skin Types

1) If you have a combination or normal skin, go for alpha hydro acids(AHA). AHAs are water-soluble and do not penetrate deep into the skin. They help reduce fine lines, dark spots, stubborn pigmentation, and pesky acne marks.

Common AHAs are:

  • Glycolic acid
  • Lactic acid
  • Citric acid
  • Malic acid

Product recommendation:

The Ordinary 10% lactic acid+ HA

COSRX AHA 7 whitehead power liquid with 7% glycolic acid 

2) Oily skin types, without any doubt, should go for beta hydroxy acid. BHAs are oil soluble and penetrate deeper than alpha hydroxy acids. It unclogs pores, reduces breakouts, and smoothens skin texture.

Common BHAs are:

  • Salicylic acid
  • Betaine salicylate

Product recommendation:

Paula’s Choice BHA exfoliant with 2% salicylic acid

COSRX BHA blackhead power liquid

3) For sensitive skin, Polyhydroxy acid is the best choice.

Polyhydroxy acids are of larger molecular size than AHAs and BHAs, so they are more gentle and cause less irritation. PHAs work on the surface level and is the best option for the easily irritated skin type.

Common PHAs are:

  • Gluconolactone
  • Galactose

Product recommendation:

The Inkey list 3% PHA gentle exfoliating toner

Dr. Jart+ Pore remedy PHA exfoliating serum

6) Steps to Physically Exfoliate Your Face

How to use Face Scrubs

•Before exfoliation, thoroughly clean your face with a gentle face wash and pat your skin dry.

• Apply a small amount of physical exfoliant onto damp skin and gently massage it in a circular motion using light pressure for 2-3 minutes. Avoid the eye area.

• Rinse the exfoliant and pat your skin dry.

• Moisturise your skin well.

*Remember to be gentle.

7) Steps to Chemically Exfoliate Your Face

How to Exfoliate by Skin Types | AHA, BHA, PHA, LHA, Enzymes | Exfoliation Part.1

•Wash your face with a gentle cleanser and dry your skin with a towel.

•Take your favorite chemical exfoliating serum or toner and apply gently in small, circular motions.

•Keep the exfoliant as long as it is instructed in the product description. If it is a chemical peel, apply the product for the recommended time and wash it off with lukewarm water.

•Pat your face dry and apply moisturizer. Moisturizing is a very important step as your skin becomes very vulnerable after exfoliation.

*Remember to use sunscreen the next day!

8) How Often Should You Exfoliate Your Face?

Is it Okay to Exfoliate Every Day?

Exfoliation is all the rave at this moment and for all right reasons. However, we get so over-enthusiastic about new trends on social media and try to include them in our routine that it BACKFIRES! And then we blame the products for not working.

So, how often should you exfoliate your face? This also depends on your skin type.

A general rule regarding exfoliation: less is more.

•For sensitive skin, it is advised to exfoliate as less as possible and only with gentle chemical exfoliants, such as mandelic acid, since sensitive skin is more prone to irritation. Once a week is enough for such skin types.

•For dry, flaky, and mature skin, two-three times a week would suffice. AHAs are a great option as they improve skin tone, decrease pigmentation, reduce acne marks, and also have anti-aging benefits.

•For oily, acne-prone, and combination skin types, three times a week is enough. Oily skin needs exfoliation more frequently as it produces excessive sebum and clogs pores.

Chemical exfoliants are gentler than physical ones and can be used more regularly. On the other hand, physical exfoliants are abrasive and harsh, so their application should be limited.

9) Some Tips to Keep in Mind While Using Different Exfoliation Methods

1) Always use sunscreen the following day.

2) Moisturize, moisturize, and moisturize, as your skin is prone to irritation after exfoliation.

3) Follow usage instructions on the packaging.

4) Don’t overlayer actives after exfoliation.

5) And, most importantly, listen to your skin! Skin needs>>>> trends.

Also Read: Best 101 Guide on Best Skincare Routine for Teenage Girls





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