how to exfoliate


By: Samantha Rizzo


When you don’t know how to exfoliate, adding it into your routine can seem intimidating. There are so many ways to exfoliate, but with the risk of damaging your skin if it’s done improperly, it may seem easier just to avoid it altogether.

But everyone who wants to reveal their best skin should know how to exfoliate and include it in their regular skin care. Because you deserve radiant skin, I’ve put together everything you need to know for how to do just that.


Maybe you’re not convinced that the hassle is worth the reward. Let me tell you why it is.

When we talk about exfoliation, we’re talking about removing old skin cells from the outermost layer of your skin. This happens naturally, but as we age our skin’s ability to shed dead skin cells declines.

This makes exfoliation beneficial for your skin for several reasons:

  • Exfoliation eliminates dullness and reveals a brighter complexion by exposing healthy, younger skin cells
  • Exfoliation can help reduce the appearance of large pores
  • The increased cell turnover keeps your pores unclogged, preventing bumps and breakouts
  • The removal of dead skin enables the healthy skin below to better absorb products

Because exfoliation targets general and specific skin issues alike, it makes a perfect addition to any skincare routine. And because there are a variety of exfoliation methods to choose from, there’s a method for every skin type.


There are two types of exfoliation methods, mechanicaland chemical.

Mechanical exfoliation involves physically scrubbing with a skin-friendly abrasive (no pumice stones or stiff brushes!)and is best reserved for dry, oily and normal skin types.

Anyone with sensitive skin, active acne, and other skin issues should choose chemical exfoliants, which lack the abrasiveness that can aggravate damaged skin.

pumpkin enzyme masque

Chemical exfoliation involves the use of acids and enzymes to speed up skin cell differentiation and dissolve the sticky bonds keeping dead skin attached to healthy cells. Chemical exfoliants are used in low concentrations in products for home use, and in higher concentrations in procedures from a dermatologist.

Now that you have an idea what type of exfoliation is best for your skin, you can decide which product or method you’ll choose.


The goal with mechanical exfoliation is not to scrub the skin as hard as possible. In fact, the goal is to be as gentle as possible, which will minimize unnecessary damage to your skin. This means that we need to be cautious not to use overly abrasive scrubs or tools.

Good options to mechanically exfoliate  your skin are scrubs made with sugars and oils, and soft brushes, sponges, and cloths. If homemade is more your style, check out some DIY facial scrubs you can do at home.

No matter which method you choose to mechanically exfoliate, avoid exfoliants that are sharp or jagged and let the exfoliant do all the work.


If you want to really rejuvenate your skin, chemical exfoliation is the way to go. 

  1. AHAs and BHAs are hydroxy acids which loosen the bonds between skin cells. AHAs work on the surface of the skin, and BHAs work deep within the pore.

There are several types of hydroxy acids to choose from, including glycolic, lactic and salicylic


If you’re not sure which is right for you, check out our article Battle of the AHAs and BHAs: What’s The Best One for My Skin?.

  1. Retinoic acid is a compound derived from retinol which works to exfoliate  the skin by inducing cellular differentiation, meaning it speeds up the cycle of skin cell shedding.
  2. Enzymes, like bromelain, papain, and pumpkin are gentler chemical alternatives for exfoliation that you can find in products or use in homemade masks.

Chemical exfoliants, like physical exfoliants, should only be used up to twice a week, and less frequent for higher concentration products.

At the end of the day, you must find what works for you – you don’t have to stick to the same exfoliant, although when you find one that works, you’ll probably want to!


Exfoliation is fun, and because it can produce great results, it’s easy to get overzealous and over-exfoliate our skin.

Watch out for skin changes like:

  • Prolonged dryness
  • Itchiness
  • Redness
  • Irritation
  • Sensitivity

With chemical exfoliation, some of these symptoms are to be expected, and will be mostly mild. But if they continue to worsen and your skin ever feels in pain, then you’re probably over-exfoliating, and you should reduce the frequency or potency.

After all of this, you may be asking, do I have to exfoliate? No, of course not, but you’ll be missing out if you don’t. Including exfoliation in your routine can take your skin’s appearance to the next level, and if you could include something in your routine that can improve the overall look and feel of your skin, why wouldn’t you?


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