How Often Should You Exfoliate Your Skin?

by Shiboli Chakraborti

One of the most common ways to cleanse your skin clean is by using soap and water. But is that enough to remove all the dirt and pollution and keep your skin healthy? What your skin needs is exfoliation at regular intervals. Exfoliating removes dead skin cells, stimulates blood circulation, and rejuvenates your skin. If you are wondering how often you should be exfoliating your skin, scroll down for the answer.

What Are The Benefits Of Exfoliating Your Skin?

Exfoliating your skin offers the following advantages:

  • Removes dead skin cells and unclogs the pores.
  • Makes the skin soft, smooth, and supple.
  • Brightens the skin and imparts an even-toned look.
  • Helps improve blood circulation.
  • Enhances cell turnover.
  • Promotes collagen synthesis.
  • Enables better absorption of skin care products.

Exfoliation is carried out by agents called exfoliators. They can be classified into two types – physical and chemical, based on the mechanism they perform exfoliation. Let’s explore each of them in detail.

Types Of Exfoliators

  • Physical Exfoliators

As the name suggests, physical exfoliators help remove dead skin cells by physical means. Brushes, sponges, pumice stones, and scrubs are a few examples of physical exfoliators. You can prepare homemade scrubs with natural ingredients, such as oats, sea salt, sugar, and coffee.

  • Chemical Exfoliators

Chemical agents or chemical peels that exfoliate the skin by dissolving dead skin cells rather than removing them mechanically are called chemical exfoliators. These chemical exfoliators include alpha and beta hydroxy acids (glycolic, lactic, malic, and salicylic acids).

You need to choose the right exfoliator based on your skin type – there is no ‘one size fits all!’

Which Exfoliation Method Is Best For Your Skin Type?

  • Normal Skin

You can use papaya and honey to prepare a natural homemade exfoliator. This DIY scrub can help remove dead cells, unclog pores, and improve blood circulation.

The papain enzyme in raw papaya makes it a great exfoliator (1). It helps eliminate damaged skin cells and reduces freckles and brown spots, making your skin healthy-looking. Honey exhibits antimicrobial and antioxidant properties that help soothe the skin, prevent wrinkles and treat various skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, and contact dermatitis (2), (3).

  • Oily Skin

The best exfoliator for those with oily skin types is salicylic acid. This chemical exfoliator affects the inner pore lining to unclog it from its root. Regular usage of this exfoliating agent helps reduce blemishes and lighten scars.

  • Dry Skin

Skin dryness is primarily due to the accumulation of dead skin cells. That’s why regular exfoliation is required to help keep it healthy. However, it is essential to moisturize dry skin after exfoliation. Some common exfoliators for dry skin include sugar scrub and commercial scrubs that are gentle and contain plastic microbeads, apricots, yogurt, or coffee grounds.

There are many benefits of exfoliating your skin. However, it is important not to go overboard as it can accentuate dead skin formation. Here is how many times you need to exfoliate, depending on your skin type.

How Often Should You Exfoliate Your Skin?

  • Normal Skin

Normal skin is the easiest and simplest to exfoliate. You can opt for both mechanical and chemical exfoliation methods. For normal skin type, exfoliate once or twice a week to get a healthy, fresh look.

  • Oily Skin

Oily skin requires exfoliation more frequently than any other skin type. This is because the dead skin cells form a thick layer with the oil and sebum. People with oily skin type must exfoliate at least 2-3 times a week for smooth skin.

You might be tempted to use strong chemical exfoliators for better results. However, make sure to have enough gap between two exfoliation sessions based on the strength of your agent.

  • Dry Skin

Dry skin is a tad bit more sensitive than oily skin, and exfoliating it not more than once or twice a week is a good practice.

Is exfoliating enough to keep your skin healthy and radiant? Not really! Exfoliation only helps clean the surface of your skin. The skin surface needs some nourishment and protection as well. Check out the next section to explore the things you must follow after the process.

What To Do After Exfoliating

A basic skin care routine that everyone must follow includes four steps: cleansing, exfoliating, toning, and moisturizing. Thus, you need to tone and moisturize after exfoliating your skin.

  • Toning

Toning helps restore the essential nutrients of your skin and shrink the open pores. It helps soothe the skin and maintains the pH balance after exfoliation. This step also reduces skin inflammation and dry, red patches.

Note: Avoid toners that contain alcohol, artificial fragrance and color, and harsh ingredients as they might aggravate your skin sensitivity.

  • Moisturizing

You must moisturize your face after washing and cleansing it every time. The best time to apply a moisturizer is when your skin is slightly damp – this enables better absorption of the product. Moisturizing helps keep your skin healthy, supple, and hydrated, preventing dullness. You can opt for moisturizers with SPF to protect your skin from sunburns and photoaging.

The ingredients for exfoliation must be gentle that do not harm the skin’s natural barrier.

What Ingredients To Look For In An Exfoliating Product

Physical exfoliators, such as scrubs, can include sugar crystals, jojoba seeds, oats, and coffee grounds. It is recommended to use chemical exfoliators that contain alpha-hydroxy acids like glycolic, lactic, and malic acids and beta-hydroxy acids like salicylic acid. The concentration of alpha-hydroxy acids must not be greater than 10-15% and 2% in the case of beta-hydroxy acids.

If you have a sensitive skin type, exfoliators with mandelic acid are great for you.

Now that you know when to exfoliate, many people might wonder when it is not suitable to exfoliate. Well, here is when you should keep the scrubs and peels away from your skin.

When Should You Not Exfoliate?

Avoid exfoliating if:

  • Your skin is red, irritated, and inflamed.
  • You have an allergic reaction on your skin.
  • You have boils or pustules.
  • You have wounds, scars, and skin burns.
  • You are experiencing an eczema flare-up.

The Bottom Line

Exfoliating your skin helps unclog the pores, remove dead skin cells, improve blood circulation, and rejuvenate dull skin. Select the right exfoliation method – physical or chemical – that suits your skin type and improves its health. However, do not exfoliate more than three times a week to prevent your skin from becoming sensitive and causing discomfort. If you experience redness, inflammation, or infection, you must stop the process immediately.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Is it OK to exfoliate your face every day?

No. You must exfoliate your skin not more than three times a week.

Is it better to exfoliate your face in the morning or at night?

The right time for exfoliation depends on your skin care routine and lifestyle. However, it is recommended that you must exfoliate, tone, and moisturize your skin at night to remove the dirt, impurities, and pollutants accumulated over the day.

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Shiboli Chakraborti

Shiboli has a Master’s degree in English Literature and is proficient in French. She believes that words have a healing power and considers poetry her lifeline. Her writing background and editorial dexterity help her guide her team members to create crisp and authentic content. Shiboli is also a trained Bharatnatyam dancer and has a fascination for traveling. She is passionate about cooking and dreams of opening a restaurant of her own.
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