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Woman practicing how to exfoliate face with the Lancome Rose Sugar Exfoliating Scrub

Exfoliation is too often a missed step when building a good skincare routine. At first glance, incorporating a facial exfoliant into your routine may seem like a nice-to-have, but if evenly smooth, bright skin is part of your skin goals, it’s critical. Regularly exfoliating skin, be it with a gentle physical exfoliant, chemical exfoliant, or a combination of the two, is one of the best ways to achieve smooth and bright-looking skin. We've got you covered with everything you need to know about how to exfoliate face & neck, what does exfoliating do, how often you should exfoliate based on skin type, and more.

What Is Exfoliating?

Exfoliating is the process of removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. As we age, the process of shedding dead skin cells slows down. And while youthful skin naturally sheds dead skin cells, they can build up over time, accumulating environmental damage and contributing to the look of dry texture and dull skin. Additionally, lingering dead skin cells combined with excess sebum on skin’s surface can lead to clogged pores and unwanted blemishes. Exfoliating the face works by sloughing off the outermost layer of dead skin cells using a physical or chemical exfoliant to reveal fresh, smooth skin underneath.

What Does Exfoliating Do?

Exfoliation helps to unclog pores, improve skin texture, promote cell turnover, and create the ideal skin environment for your other skincare products to do their thing.

There are two main types of exfoliation:

Physical Exfoliation: This method involves using a scrub to physically remove dead skin cells. Scrubs typically contain small granules, such as sugar, salt, or microbeads, which gently buff away the dead skin cells when massaged in circular motions onto the skin.

Chemical Exfoliation: Chemical exfoliation involves using specific ingredients, such as alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), to dissolve the bonds between dead skin cells and the surface of the skin. AHAs, like glycolic acid and lactic acid, are water-soluble and work on the skin's surface, while BHAs, such as salicylic acid, are oil-soluble and can go deeper into the pores. Chemical exfoliants help to loosen and remove dead skin cells to reveal a visibly smooth, bright complexion.

How to Exfoliate Face & Neck

Exfoliation should be done in moderation, as over-exfoliating can lead to irritation, redness, and dryness. The frequency of exfoliation depends on your skin type and sensitivity. And the more aggressive your exfoliation method, the less often you should do it – so, 1-2 times per week are general guidelines for an exfoliating scrub like our Rose Sugar Exfoliating Scrub, while you can use a gentle hydrating and exfoliating face essence like Clarifique Double Treatment Essence both day and night.

How Often Should You Exfoliate Based on Skin Type

Exfoliation methods can be adjusted based on different skin types to ensure optimal results and minimize the potential for irritation. Here are some general guidelines for how to exfoliate face and neck based on skin type:

Normal Skin:
• Physical Exfoliation: Use a gentle scrub with small granules and exfoliate 2-3 times a week.
• Chemical Exfoliation: Opt for AHAs like glycolic acid and lactic acid and exfoliate 1-2 times a week.

Dry Skin:
• Physical Exfoliation: Choose a gentle scrub with moisturizing ingredients and exfoliate 1-2 times a week.
• Chemical Exfoliation: Use AHAs like glycolic acid and lactic acid, but limit exfoliation to once a week to avoid the potential for dryness.

Oily or Acne-Prone Skin:
• Physical Exfoliation: Select a scrub with small, natural granules and exfoliate 2-3 times a week. Be gentle to avoid overstimulating oil production or causing irritation.
• Chemical Exfoliation: Exfoliants with BHAs like salicylic acid are particularly beneficial for oily or acne-prone skin. Start 1-2 times a week and adjust as needed.

Sensitive Skin:
• Physical Exfoliation: Choose a very gentle scrub with soft granules and exfoliate sensitive skin no more than once a week. Consider using a konjac sponge or a washcloth for milder physical exfoliation.
• Chemical Exfoliation: Opt for a mild AHA like mandelic acid or a PHA (polyhydroxy acid). Start exfoliating once every 1-2 weeks and monitor your skin's reaction before adjusting.

Combination Skin:
• Physical Exfoliation: Use a gentle scrub, focusing on the oily areas (T-zone) 2-3 times a week. Be cautious not to over-exfoliate drier areas.
• Chemical Exfoliation: AHAs and BHAs can be used 1-2 times a week, adjusting the frequency based on the specific needs of different areas.

Keep in mind, these are general guidelines – but your skin knows best. Listen to your skin's response and adjust as needed. If your skin ever looks red or feels tight or uncomfortable, take a break from using your face exfoliator until it returns to normal. You can also try reducing the frequency of exfoliation or switching to a milder exfoliant. Additionally, it's a good idea to follow the instructions provided by the specific exfoliating product you are using since different products may have slightly different application methods or recommendations.

What Is the Best Way to Exfoliate?

The best way to exfoliate is on damp skin after cleansing, and before applying your face serums and moisturizers.

After exfoliating, it's important to follow up with moisturizer to hydrate and nourish the skin. Exfoliating can make skin more sensitive to the sun, so be sure to finish your daytime skincare routine with your favorite broad-spectrum sunscreen SPF 30 or higher.

Do You Exfoliate Dry or Wet?

Exfoliation is typically done on wet skin. This helps to spread the product more evenly and smoothly across the skin's surface. This can allow for better coverage and ensures the exfoliating granules or chemical actives are distributed evenly. Wetting the skin before exfoliation also helps soften the surface layer of the skin and create a barrier of moisture that reduces friction between the exfoliant and skin. This can help minimize the potential for irritation when you exfoliate sensitive skin and promote a smoother exfoliation experience – pun intended!

Do You Exfoliate in the Shower or Out?

Exfoliating in the shower is absolutely acceptable and may be a more convenient option. It allows you to rinse off the exfoliant and any residue more easily, as you have direct access to water. The steam and warm water in the shower can help open the pores and soften the skin, making skin more receptive. However, exfoliating outside of the shower is also perfectly fine. Some people prefer to exfoliate at the sink or in front of a mirror, especially if they have specific products or tools they like to use.

Once you start your exfoliation journey – or pick up where you left off – and see smoother, brighter, more even skin, it’ll make the extra step in your skincare routine so worth it. If you have concerns or questions about exfoliation and exfoliating products, consult with your skincare professional or Board Certified Dermatologist for personalized recommendations.

You may also like:
Essence vs Toner: What’s the Difference?
Skincare Guide for Oily Skin
Ingredient Guide to Glycolic Acid
Ingredient Guide to Salicylic Acid
Ingredient Guide to PHAs (Polyhydroxy Acids)

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