How to exfoliate: all the do’s and don’ts

Your need to know when it comes to exfoliating your skin


by Lucy Brown |

Navigating the complex world of skincare in something we all face on the daily but exfoliating? Well that can be tricky. What products should you be using? How often should you be using them? Sometimes it’s easy to feel like you’re doing more than harm than good and it’s difficult to know whether you’re on the right track at all.

As exfoliation is an important step in any skincare routine we've decided to help out and break down all the do’s and don’ts when it comes to exfoliating your skin.

What is exfoliation?

The first step to incorporate exfoliation into your skincare routine is knowing what exfoliation is in the first place. Exfoliation is the removal of dead skin cells from the outer layers of skin on your face and body, which results in overall brighter skin that will leave you glowing. Who doesn’t want that?

What can I exfoliate?

Exfoliating your face should be a regular step in your skincare routine, as should exfoliating your body, which can be done in the shower.

However, depending on what you’re exfoliating, different methods and frequency should be used. As the skin on your body tends to be less sensitive than the skin on your face, you can afford to use harsher methods of exfoliation.

Body exfoliation is recommended a couple times a week, whilst with face exfoliation this is a little more complicated. In general, facial exfoliation is recommended two-three times a week, however as there is such a range of exfoliation products on the market right now, this can vary with some products being recommended daily use.

Different types of exfoliation

There are two main types of exfoliation, mechanical/physical exfoliation and chemical exfoliation.

Mechanical or physical exfoliation

Mechanical/physical exfoliation tends to be used on the body. This can be in the form of a body brush, sponge or body scrub and these work by physically scrubbing the dead skin cells off the surface of the skin. These methods are better for the body as they tend to be too harsh for the sensitive skin on the face- so don’t even think about putting that body brush anywhere near your face.

Chemical exfoliation

Chemical exfoliation works by gently dissolving dead skin cells using chemicals such as alpha hydroxy acids (AHA’s) or beta hydroxy acids (BHA’s). Some examples of AHA’s are glycolic and citric acids and a popular BHA is salicylic acid which is great for acne prone skin.

Does exfoliation damage your skin?

The general process of exfoliation doesn’t damage your skin, IF you do it correctly.

The main reason that your skin could become damaged after exfoliation is due to over exfoliation. Using too harsh products or exfoliating too regularly can do more harm than good, leaving your skin red raw.

If using AHA’s and BHA’s, make sure to build up your usage when first starting out by using it just once a week to start with and build up as your skin becomes used to the product.

Another rule for exfoliation which might seem like common knowledge (but you’d be surprised at how many people make this error), is not to exfoliate already damaged skin. If you’re suffering from a nasty sunburn, graze or any type of open cut, then it’s time to surrender your exfoliation products on that area for the time being whilst it heals.

This rule also applies to acne. If you’re suffering from a bad breakout, its best to avoid exfoliating that area as the skin is already sensitive and exfoliating could make it worse.

What are the benefits of exfoliating?

Besides leaving you with skin like a glowing goddess, exfoliation also helps with blood circulation and helps to get to rid of dull appearance. Ever feel like you’re having a bad make-up day and you just can’t pinpoint why? Well maybe you need to whip out your AHA’s and BHA’s and give your face an exfoliate. Sometimes when dead skin cells build up on your face, it can cause make-up to cling to this dry dead skin, leaving your make-up looking cakey. So, ensuring you regularly exfoliate your face, helps your make-up apply better and last throughout the day.

When it comes to exfoliating your body, this is a crucial step if you’re a fan of self-tanner. There is nothing worse than waking up after putting tan on and realising that it’s clung to your elbows and knees - trust us, we’ve all been there. Exfoliating your body the night before, or a few hours in advance before putting your fake tan on will help it go on smoother and ensures that you won’t end up with a patchy looking glow.

A benefit that might be so obvious is that exfoliation helps control acne. As dead skin cells are being regularly removed it means that there isn’t a build-up of dead skin cells on the surface of the skin that can result in a breakout.

When should you moisturise after exfoliating?

Exfoliating your skin can dry it out, so don't fall at the last hurdle. Make sure you go in with a moisturiser afterwards on both your face and body to help lock in that moisture. This will help to leave your skin looking silky smooth and glowing.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us
Now playing
Listen Live
About Damn Time by Lizzo