What you need to know about exfoliating, according to pros

Jamé Jackson

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Before we get into the discussion around if you are exfoliating enough, let’s first get something out of the way: Yes, you should be exfoliating. Period.

Exfoliating is not the newest beauty craze or a gimmick to randomly add into your skincare routine. There are a plethora of benefits to regular facial exfoliation, not to mention all skin types can safely do it (although you may have to swap a few products out to make it work for you).

What is exfoliating?

Most importantly, exfoliating helps clear away dead skin cells that are sitting on top of the skin, making your skin appear brighter and allowing your skincare products to penetrate deeper.

According to Renée Rouleau, exfoliation should be the main focus of your beauty routine if you have blemishes and clogged pores. If you don’t have sensitive skin, you can use a chemical exfoliant with beta hydroxy acid which works “to reduce bacteria on the skin while exfoliating and cleaning clogged pores,” Rouleau told Byrdie.

exfoliating
exfoliating

Credit: Getty Images

Can you exfoliate too much?

There is a possibility that you could be exfoliating too much, which can actually create tiny cracks in the skin barrier, Joshua Ziechner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, told Allure. Other than the fact it sounds incredibly painful, those tiny cracks can actually “lead to more loss of hydration and inflammation,” said Zeichner.

Exfoliating too often can also have long-term effects on your skin. “Over time, it can actually thin the skin and cause it to wrinkle more easily,” Shen Beauty aesthetician Carrie Lindsay wrote. “Plus, the skin is a smart organ and sheds dead skin cells on its own; if we exfoliate too often, it can actually slow cell turnover.”

How often should you exfoliate your face?

So how often is too often? Humans lose around 500 million skin cells every day, which accounts for that dead skin build-up. If you’re just starting out, once a week is a good starting point. If you don’t have sensitive skin or your skin doesn’t easily react to new skincare products, most experts advise to exfoliate two to three times a week.

What exfoliant is best for me?

Celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas told Glamour that she recommends “a versatile exfoliant that is both mechanical and chemical” for those with normal or combination skin. FYI: Physical exfoliants are usually ‘mechanical’ because they remove dead skin cells through friction, and chemical exfoliants help dissolve dead skin cells.

Physical exfoliants usually feel slightly gritty, however it is important to pay attention to ingredients that can be harmful.

For those with sensitive skin, a gentle exfoliator will make sure you aren’t doing more harm than good. No matter what, you should immediately follow up with skincare products such as serums and moisturizers to replenish the moisture in your skin and deeply penetrate your skin for a boost of vitamin goodness.

Below, check out a list of some of our favorite products for exfoliating.

Good for sensitive skin:

Shop: Philosophy The Microdelivery Exfoliating Facial Wash, $28

Credit: Ulta

Good for oily skin:

Shop: Clinique Exfoliating Scrub, $23

Credit: Ulta

Good for all skin types:

Shop: First Aid Beauty Travel Size Facial Radiance Pads, $10

Credit: Ulta

Good for dull skin:

Shop: The Body Shop Vitamin C Microdermabrasion, $23

Credit: Ulta

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