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How to Properly Exfoliate Your Skin?

How to Properly Exfoliate Your Skin?

June 01, 2022

13 min read

There are many ways to achieve glowing, healthy skin. Whether you want to load up on antioxidants or invest in laser surfacing, there are different avenues that you can take to improve the tone and texture of your skin. If you’re looking for another alternative, how to exfoliate your skin is simple and it is an effective way to improve your skin.

What Is Skin Exfoliation?

If you’re wondering what is exfoliating skin, you’ve come to the right place. The exfoliation process helps to remove the dead skin cells that are sitting on the top layer of the skin. There are two ways to exfoliate. You can either opt for chemical exfoliation that uses AHAs or BHAs to loosen any dead skin cells. On the other hand, you can also opt for a physical exfoliant that uses a scrub, gel, or liquid to remove dead skin cells.

Benefits of Exfoliating the Skinskin exfoliating

Your skin is always working to repair and replace itself. This often results in built-up layers of dead skin cells all over your body. So what does exfoliating do for the skin? There are many major benefits of exfoliation:

  • It fades the appearance of age spots
  • It reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • It allows your skin to better soak in collagen-boosting serums, antioxidants, and moisturizers
  • It keeps pores unclogged
  • It helps minimize pore size and reduces superficial scars

It’s undoubtedly a positive to have brighter and more glowing skin. But incorporating exfoliation into your skincare routine can also improve the overall health of your skin as well. The more dead skin cells that are on the top layer of your skin, the less your products can penetrate and take effect. This is particularly beneficial if you have acne-prone skin as regular exfoliation can clear pores and accelerate skin cell turnover.

What Type of Exfoliant Should You Use?

Now that you know how important it is to exfoliate regularly, there are some considerations to keep in mind when it comes to execution. Let’s delve into chemical vs. physical exfoliation and the products needed to achieve each route.

What Is Chemical Exfoliation?

over exfoliated skin

As the name suggests, chemical exfoliation utilizes chemicals to break down the skin cells. Generally speaking, those with highly sensitive skin or those who are prone to breakouts typically react better to chemical exfoliants as they are less irritating. You won’t need to do any scrubbing with a chemical exfoliant as the product does the work for you. Plus, many chemical exfoliants contain glycolic acids that help increase collagen production. The most common types of chemical exfoliants include alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), both of which we will explore below.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

AHAs are one of the most common forms of chemical peels. AHAs are part of an acid family that comes from natural sources such as milk, sugar, or fruit. Glycolic acid and lactic acid are two of the main AHAs used in skin care products today.

Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs)

BHAs are another option for those who want a light chemical peel. The most common type of BHA is salicylic acid and it is an ideal ingredient for those who are prone to acne and breakouts. BHAs are synthetic derivatives that come from the same source as aspirin.


For those who have extremely sensitive skin, it’s advisable to look for exfoliants that have an enzyme base. The enzymes found in skincare products come from natural sources such as fruits. They work similarly to acid-based exfoliators, however, they do so at a slower pace. This results in a safe, gentle exfoliating process.

What Is Physical Exfoliation?

how to exfoliate skin

Another form of skin exfoliation is referred to as physical exfoliation. This process uses a hard substance that manually removes dead skin cells from your skin. Liquids, gels, or scrubs that have granules work to remove the dead skin cells. Another example of a physical exfoliant is a sponge, towel, or brush.

While physical exfoliants have many positives, they are not suited for everyone. Some people accidentally scrub too hard when exfoliating physically. This intense scrubbing combined with the beads in the product can lead to skin irritation and break down the skin’s barrier. Make sure to scrub gently and carefully when using a physical exfoliant.

Larger Granules

Those with an oily complexion often have large sebaceous glands. This makes their skin layer thicker and more tolerant of abrasive particles often found in physical exfoliants. Common ingredients include pumice or magnesium oxide crystals.

Smaller Granules

For those who have dry, sensitive skin, consider opting for physical exfoliants that have smaller granules such as jojoba beads or ruby crystals. Jojoba beads come from the seeds of the jojoba plant. They are uniform in shape and size making them less prone to irritation or cuts.

Seeds and Crushed Nutshells

Even though some ingredients are natural, they may not be ideal to use on your skin. Natural products including crushed nutshells, ground fruit pits, seashells, and seeds should be avoided. They often have irregular shapes and edges that may cause damage.

How to Exfoliate Your Face

The best way to exfoliate your skin depends on whether you are using a chemical or physical exfoliant.

Chemical Face Exfoliation

Chemical face skin exfoliation is easy if you follow the below steps:

  1. Wash your face with a gentle cleanser
  2. Some chemical exfoliants come as a pre-moistened pad or cloth while others come as a serum or gel. Regardless, make sure to apply the chemical exfoliant to your face, neck, decollete, and the tops of your hands
  3. Wait a few minutes to let the product soak into your skin before following the treatment with a serum or cream

Always check the product label to make sure you are using the chemical exfoliant correctly!

Physical Face Exfoliation

Physical face exfoliation is easy, too! Follow these steps:

  1. Start by using your regular cleanser to wash your face
  2. Take a small amount of your facial scrub and gently apply it to your face in circular motions. Make sure to avoid the eyes
  3. Use warm water and rinse the skin off and gently pat it dry with a clean towel
  4. Use a hydrating mask, serum, or cream afterward

How to Exfoliate Your Body

how to exfoliate the skin

Don’t forget that the rest of your body needs exfoliation, too! How to exfoliate the skin depends on where you want to exfoliate. Here are some general guidelines for different areas of the body.

  • Bikini: The bikini area undoubtedly has sensitive skin so you’ll want to avoid aggravating it as much as possible. If you prefer a physical exfoliant, try taking a small amount of the product and rubbing it along your bikini line for a few minutes. Rinse it off with warm water. For chemical exfoliants, massage it into the skin and follow it up with a gentle and fragrance-free moisturizer.
  • Legs: Regularly exfoliating your legs can result in smoother skin, less cellulite, and better circulation overall. Take a dry brush and use gentle pressure to get your skin warmed up. Then, use your exfoliant. If you’re using a chemical exfoliant, massage it into your skin. If you’re using a scrub, use a circular motion to blend it into the skin and rinse it with warm water.
  • Feet: The bottoms of the feet often require exfoliating as it is one of the toughest parts of the body. Scrubs, stones, and files can all help remove dead skin cells on your feet. Chemical exfoliation is a possibility as well. Simply wet your feet and rub on the chemical exfoliant. Over the next few days, your feet will shed a layer of skin revealing a fresh, healthy layer.

How Often Should You Exfoliate Your Skin?

When it comes to exfoliation, it’s recommended to do so once or twice a week. If you do so every day, it can cause too many micro-tears on your skin and remove its protective layer. If you are exfoliating to
o often, chances are high that your skin will let you know. You’ll likely see breakouts, redness, small bumps, burning, or stinging.

Precautions to Take When Exfoliating Skin

When it comes to exfoliating your skin, the benefits are expansive! However, over exfoliated skin can be troublesome and result in additional skin ailments that you’ll want to treat. Here are some points of caution when it comes to exfoliating:

  • Never scrub too hard, especially when you’re using a beaded scrub
  • Proceed with caution when using a loofah or other exfoliating tools
  • If your skin is dry and irritated, don’t use a chemical exfoliant too often
  • Whenever possible, use warm water instead of hot water. Hot water can be too harsh and irritate your skin
  • Always moisturize your skin following exfoliation

More Guidance From Our Team

At the Metropolitan Skin Clinic, we know how important it is that you care for your skin properly. Exfoliating is an excellent part of a healthy skincare routine when executed properly. Our team is always here to answer your questions and guide you in the right direction! Feel free to contact us with any questions that you have or to schedule an appointment to see how we can help.

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