Exfoliating Your Face:
Everything You Need to Know
First Off, What Is
When you exfoliate, you’re removing dead cells on the top layers of your skin. Those dead skin cells may be flaking off your face already without much effort or may show up as rough, patchy skin. As we age, our cell turnover rate slows, making it more important than ever to exfoliate.
There are two main types of exfoliation: mechanical and chemical. Mechanical involves applying pressure while scrubbing the face, while chemical exfoliants sit on your skin and exfoliate it without any needed pressure.
Benefits of Exfoliation for Your Skin
If you want to banish dry skin from your face, try out this ritual (works for slightly to moderately dry skin).
Improved skin toneBy smoothing out rough patches and bringing new layers of skin to the surface, exfoliation helps minimize the appearance of acne scars, hyperpigmentation, and dark spots.
Clearer poresExfoliation gently removes the build-up of dead skin cells that clog your pores (and prevents them from clogging in the future). That means you can say goodbye to stubborn blackheads and whiteheads.
Minimizes acneAcne occurs for a few different reasons, like excess sebum, bacteria on the skin, and clogged pores. Because exfoliation helps minimize clogged pores, you’ll likely see a reduction in acne. However, if you have cystic or chronic, stubborn acne, make sure that you’re exfoliating gently to avoid making acne worse.
Better moisture absorptionWhen you apply serums and moisturizers to the surface of dry, dead skin, it can often just sit on the surface of your skin and not fully seep into your pores.
How to Exfoliate Based on Your Skin Type
Because everyone’s skin is different, you don’t want to approach exfoliation in the same way. For instance, if you have really dry skin, aggressive exfoliation will cause more harm than good. Here are tips to help you exfoliate correctly according to your skin type.
If your skin gets irritated easily, it’s likely that you have sensitive skin. Harsh exfoliation can cause serious adverse reactions to your skin, so you have to be incredibly gentle with it. Use a soft, wet washcloth to scrub away dead surface skin or a mild chemical exfoliant (but not anything with beads, as these are irritating for sensitive skin). You can also use microdermabrasion tools, but you’ll want to use a sensitive skin tip to avoid damage.
Typically, oily skin tends to be more resilient. This means that you can use both exfoliating tools and deep peels or serums.
This is another skin type you want to be careful with, as you don’t want to cause tears in the skin. If your skin is flaky and the dry skin isn’t bothering you too much, then gentle exfoliation (similar to sensitive skin) should be fine. Opt for using AHAs instead of mechanical exfoliation. But if your skin is cracking, red, or painful, don’t exfoliate it and instead seek the assistance of a doctor or dermatologist.
Because your skin is a mix of oily and dry, you can exfoliate following either of the instructions. Just check in on how your skin looks and feels and cut back if you need to.
After exfoliating, don’t skip on moisturizing your skin. It will need it to repair itself, as well as stay supple and healthy.
Best Products to Use for Exfoliation Shop Microdermabrasion
Not sure how to exfoliate your skin at home? Here are some of our favorite products to help you out. Shop our full line of professional, at-home microdermabrasion.
The UltradermMD At-Home 3-in-1 Facial System deeply exfoliates, unclogs and minimizes pores, and tones and tightens the skin. It’s what we call a complete home spa system. Basically, prepare to be pampered.
This at-home microdermabrasion system smoothes and brightens the skin, and restores a youthful glow — helping you reveal the true radiance you’ve had all along.
An on-the-go microdermabrasion device with a rechargeable battery. If it seems like your day never stops or you’re constantly traveling, this is the tool for you. It includes the power of microdermabrasion in a small, powerful package.
The MiniMD is an easy-to-use, personal microdermabrasion tool that delivers results on par with professional clinical treatments over time, yet is basic enough for novice users to operate. Plus, it only takes 5 minutes to use, which is great for anyone whose days feel a little hectic.
How Often Should You Exfoliate Your Skin?
While it depends on your skin type, the general recommendation is at least once a week.
If you have dry skin, you can have it twice a week, spaced at least 2 days apart.
For combination skin, you can have it once up to 3 times a week. Just be careful not to overly exfoliate on dry areas.
For oily skin, you can exfoliate up to 3 times a week to keep your pores clog-free.
If you have sensitive skin, it’s best to stick to once a week.
Of course, you always check in on how your skin is doing. If it’s hurting or red, let it take time to heal and use gentle products until it feels better.
Also, keep in mind the products that you are using. Do not combine chemical and mechanical exfoliation especially if your skin isn’t accustomed to it. Over-exfoliation can compromise your skin barrier and may lead to irritated and inflamed skin.
For at-home microdermabrasion, refer to the User Manual and follow the usage instructions for optimal use.
How Long Should You Exfoliate Your Skin?
If you’re using a physical scrub or another chemical exfoliator, it’s recommended to use for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Some chemical exfoliators are left on the skin, such as AHAs and BHAs. These could be serum or moisturizers that typically don’t need to be rinsed off and are gentle enough to be used daily or every other day. Refer to the product’s user instructions for more details.
If you’re using an at-home microdermabrasion device, follow the instructions on the User Manual. For Trophy Skin microdermabrasion devices, a full treatment on the face, neck, and chest typically takes 5 minutes. You may need more time if you are a beginner since you are still getting familiar with how to stroke your skin with the diamond tip.
Pro tip: Never keep the device on the same spot on the skin to avoid suction damage that may lead to redness, broken capillaries, or bruising.
At Home Exfoliation vs. Professional Exfoliation
At-home exfoliation is usually easy, affordable, and safe. The most common ones we think of when it comes to at-home exfoliation are scrubs that we can wash away. The more common forms of professional exfoliation include chemical peels, in which chemical formulas are applied to the face and cause trauma to the skin’s layers, which then causes them to peel. Another popular form of professional exfoliation includes microdermabrasion, which buffs away the thick outer layer of skin.
However, as the world of skincare continues to grow and expand, companies have been able to take the professional exfoliation tools and make them available for at-home care, like microdermabrasion. Before buying an at-home tool, make sure the place you’re getting them from is med-spa quality, has real results, and positive reviews.
Chertoff, C. (2018) Everything You Need to Know About Exfoliating Your Skin Safely https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-exfoliate#tools
Gold G. (2018) Exactly How to Exfoliate Your Face—Without Ruining Your Skin https://www.womenshealthmag.com/beauty/a19775624/how-to-exfoliate-face/
How to Safely Exfoliate At Home (n.d.)https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/skin-care-secrets/routine/safely-exfoliate-at-home