Exfoliant: Why Should You Exfoliate Your Skin?

Exfoliant: Why Should You Exfoliate Your Skin?

What is Exfoliation?

Exfoliation deals with removing the dead skin cells that naturally occur on the outermost layer of the skin. As skin cells age, they die and eventually slough off; exfoliation hastens this process of sloughing off. Thus to be precise, exfoliation remove dead cells from the surface of the skin.

What is Exfoliant?

An exfoliant is a substance that removes dead skin. Various type of Exfoliant can accomplish skin exfoliation. Mechanical exfoliant uses a machine, physically using some sort of abrasive component, or chemically using an acid-based product. When the dead skin cells are removed in one of these ways, not only does the skin look clean and refreshed, but it also looks healthier and more vibrant due to the increased blood flow to the skin from the extra stimulation.

Types of Exfoliant

Types of Exfoliant

The various type of exfoliant are:

Mechanical Exfoliation – Recommended only once or twice a year

  • Microdermabrasion – which includes scrubbing with an abrasive material along with a gentle suction via a machine to remove the dead skin cells; this process can be done at home or by a professional skin care specialist

Physical Exfoliation – Can be done once a week or as needed

  • micro-bead facial scrubs (which can be purchased over-the-counter and can be applied at home)
  • soft-bristled brushes
  • loofah sponges
  • crushed almond shells or apricot kernels
  • salt crystals
  • pumice (good for feet)
  • sugar
  • cornmeal

All of these physical methods are very effective at removing the dead skin cells and leaving your skin looking and feeling refreshed and healthy. These physical exfoliation methods are easily available at local drug stores or health spas.

Chemical Exfoliation

For chemical exfoliation, various kinds of naturally-occurring acids and enzymes, as well as synthetic acids are used which help to loosen the adhesive substance that holds skin cells together, and by doing so, allows them to be sloughed away more easily. These acids and enzymes include:

  • salicylic acid
  • fruit enzymes
  • malic acid
  • glycolic acid
  • alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)
  • beta hydroxy acids (BHAs)
  • citric acid
  • vinotherapy (the acid found in wine-producing grapes are becoming very popular in beauty spas in many European countries

BHA exfoliants are commonly recommended for treating acne and are oftentimes used in high concentrations by doctors and dermatologists; they also can be found in lower concentrations in over-the-counter products to be used at home by the consumer as well.

Exfoliant for Different Skin Types

Exfoliant for Different Skin Types
  • Normal Skin: Use mechanical, physical, chemical, enzyme, or a combination of these methods that works best for you
  • Oily Skin: Use a physical exfoliant such as a scrub to not only remove the dead skin cells, but also to remove oil, makeup, dirt, and other debris that can clog pores. Using BHA-based chemical exfoliants are very effective as well.
  • Dry Skin: Use of a chemical exfoliant is recommended which helps to minimize facial wrinkles and lines, will help firm and tighten skin, and leave your skin looking younger and healthier
  • Sensitive Skin: Enzyme exfoliants are recommended for sensitive skin because it dissolves the dead skin cells instead of abrasively removing them. Products that contain pineapple or papaya come highly recommended for people with sensitive skin
  • Combination Skin: Use a physical scrub only on the T-zone, and a chemical exfoliant on the areas that are dry; or use a scrub on the entire face one time, then the next time use a chemical exfoliant, and continue alternating between the two types

What’s the Difference Between Facial and Body Exfoliant?

There are minor differences between facial exfoliants and body exfoliants, but they are used essentially in the same way. Facial exfoliants tend to be gentler on the skin because facial skin can be more delicate than the rest of the body, especially around the eyes and lips. Also, physical body exfoliants tend to have larger sized abrasive elements than facial exfoliants have.

It is a good practice to do both body and facial exfoliation once a week, and more often for oily skin. If you are using a scrub type exfoliant, it is a good practice to use a circular motion while applying it; this helps to loosen and set free any ingrown hairs you may have, and it is less abrasive than a back and forth method.

How to Choose Right Exfoliant?

To choose the right exfoliant you first need to take into consideration the type of skin you have. As mentioned earlier, different skin types do best with certain kinds of exfoliants. This is a time of trial and error to find which products work best for you; this is also a good time to do a patch test to see if you are allergic to the product.

You will need to decide what your budget is for exfoliating your skin. It goes without saying that having it professionally done will cost considerably more than doing it yourself.

Then decide how often you plan on exfoliating. Again, this decision also depends on what skin type you have; oily skin is usually done every few days, whereas normal, dry, and sensitive skin is usually done only once a week.

Ways to Exfoliate Your Skin

Time of Day
It does not really matter what time of day you prefer to exfoliate and moisturize,your skin but most people prefer doing it right before going to bed, especially if they are also using a serum for more delicate areas. By doing it right before bedtime, it gives the skin more time to assimilate the whole exfoliating and moisturizing regime. No matter what time of day you do it, be certain to cleanse your skin before exfoliating; this prepares your skin to utilize the exfoliation to its highest degree.

Using Chemical and Enzyme Exfoliant
If you are using a chemical or enzyme exfoliant you do not have to rub it in. All you have to do is gently apply a thin layer to your cleansed face being sure to avoid the areas around your eyes and close to your lips. Only let the chemical or enzyme exfoliant to remain on your face for the length of time recommend by the manufacturer, or if you are using a home-made exfoliant, the recommended time to leave it on is 10 – 20 minutes. If you leave these exfoliants on longer than recommended you run the risk of irritating your skin and burning it. If you notice your skin is becoming irritated even when you follow the directions, you will need to find the perfect amount of time by trial and error. Each time you exfoliate, lessen the amount of time the exfoliant is left on until your skin is no longer irritated.

Do’s and Don’ts for Exfoliating

  • Do use caution and wisdom; too much of a good thing can end up having unexpectedly poor results
  • Do not overdo it; some chemical and enzyme exfoliants can actually burn skin if left on too long
  • Do use the right tool; using the wrong type of exfoliant may do more harm than good
  • Do not over-scrub – be gentle; red, irritated overly dry skin afterward is a good sign you over scrubbed; this can actually do damage to your skin
  • Do moisturize after each exfoliation; this will keep your skin hydrated and supple
  • Do cleanse your skin before exfoliating; this helps the exfoliant do the best job possible
  • Do one region of your face at a time, using a circular motion in each area; this way you are not spreading dead skin cells and debris to other areas of your face
  • Do not wax after a deep exfoliation; this will cause unnecessary and painful irritation to the area that was waxed
  • Do not go out into the sun right after exfoliating, even if you are using a sunscreen; the protective layer of dead skin cells is gone, so you will be more prone to the ill effects of UV rays
  • Do a patch test with any new product: this will tell you if you are allergic to it or not

Frequently Asked Question’s (FAQ’s):

Can Exfoliating Make You Look Instantly Younger?

Can Exfoliating Make You Look Instantly Younger?

Yes, believe it or not, it is similar to the remarkable difference to your feet after exfoliating them; the callouses and rough skin are removed and your heels and toes feel smooth and supple. Exfoliating your facial skin can make it look younger by ridding it of the built-up layer of dead skin cells and debris it has accrued over the past week. It also stimulates blood circulation which causes the skin to look refreshed and more vibrant. Combined with the proper cleansing and moisturizing products, your skin can have fewer lines and not quite as pronounced wrinkles.

Should I Use a Scrub to Exfoliate?
If you have oily skin, using some type of a scrub to exfoliate is recommended; however, if you have dry skin, use a chemical-type exfoliant; and if you have sensitive skin, use an enzyme-based exfoliant.

Is It Possible to Exfoliate Too Often?
Yes. Exfoliating too often can do more harm than good by irritating the skin and causing it to become dry and flaky. By experimenting on the frequency, you can determine how often exfoliating works best for you; your skin will tell you if you are doing it too often by becoming red, irritated, flaky, or dry; or that you are not doing it enough by looking dull and listless.

Can I Skip the Moisturizing?
No. You should always moisturize after each time you exfoliate, no matter what type of skin you have. However, if you have oily skin, be sure to use a water-soluble, oil-free moisturizer.

Is It Necessary to Use Different Exfoliating Products During the Summer and Winter?
Some professionals recommend using lactic acid-based exfoliants during the wintertime because the lactic acid comes from milk, and it also binds to the water already in the skin, causing less drying while exfoliating.

Why Is Exfoliating So Important For the Facial Skin?
Exfoliating facial skin is very important because it not only rids the skin of dead skin cells and cleanse the pores of sebum and other debris, but it also makes way for other skincare products to be more effective and for makeup to go on easier and look better.

What Is the Difference Between Exfoliants and ScrubS?
A scrub is simply a method of exfoliating.

Do Men Also Need Exfoliating?
Yes. Generally speaking, skin health is not gender-specific; both males and females benefit from healthy, vibrant skin.

Is Exfoliating Safe If You Have Skin Problems?
If you have serious skin problems, consulting with your doctor or dermatologist is very important. They can recommend the best all-around skincare regime for you.


Properly exfoliating your facial and body skin is important to rid your skin of any buildup of dead skin cells. Exfoliating energizes your skin by stimulating the cells and bringing more nourishing blood to the surface of your skin. This will not only keep your skin healthier, but it will also make your skin look and feel younger and more vibrant.


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  • Stenzel T. Three chemical peel myths that derail your services. Skin Inc.
  • More women than ever looking at pore size. GCI Magazine.
  • Stevenson K. Enlarged Facial Pores. Cosmetics & Toiletries.
  • Kornhauser A, Coelho SG, Hearing VJ. Applications of hydroxyl acids: classi¬cation, mechanisms, and photoactivity. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol.


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