How to Exfoliate Skin

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

By now you’re probably well aware that exfoliation is a must in any good skincare routine. But you might be wondering what kind of exfoliator you should use, how often you should exfoliate, and how to actually use exfoliating products (all of the conflicting info out there can be overwhelming!). Don’t worry—we’re here to answer all of your questions and teach you everything you need to know about exfoliation so you can get smoother, brighter, more even skin.


Method 1 Method 1 of 3: Picking the Right Exfoliator for Your Skin
  • You will likely be able to exfoliate 3 times a week if you have oily skin.

Tip: Stick to a gentle exfoliator if you have dark skin or are prone to dark spots. Some exfoliators may damage your skin and make your skin look uneven.

  • If your skin gets irritated, apply the product with your fingers instead of a washcloth.
Method 2 Method 2 of 3: Exfoliating Your Face

Massage your entire face with the exfoliator for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

  • If you used a scrub, make sure that you don’t have any granules in your hair line or stuck on your skin. It can be hard to remove all of the exfoliator.
  • If you use a face serum, apply the serum before you use your moisturizer.
  • If you have sensitive skin, you may only be able to exfoliate once a week. Try 2-3 times per week but reduce how often you exfoliate if your skin is red, dry, or itchy.
  • The best time of day to exfoliate is in the morning. Your skin renews itself at night, so the morning is the best time to scrub away your dead skin cells.[11] X Research source

Variation: You may be able to use your chemical exfoliator every day because they’re milder. However, stop using your exfoliator as often if it irritates your skin.

  • You may be able to use a chemical exfoliator daily, but start with 2-3 times per week to see how your skin tolerates it.
  • Read the label on your exfoliator and follow the instructions for the product you chose.
  • A salt or sugar scrub will be milder than a scrub that has plastic beads or ground up nuts.
  • You can make your own salt or sugar scrub by adding 2 tsp (8 g) of salt or sugar to your regular cleanser. As another option, combine .5 c (120 mL) of coconut oil, 2 tbsp (24 g) of sugar, and 1 US tbsp (15 mL) of lemon juice to make a homemade facial scrub.
Method 3 Method 3 of 3: Exfoliating Your Body

Did You Know? Plastic beads can add pollution to the water cycle, so you might want to avoid them. Fortunately, sugar, salt, and chemical exfoliators are all great for your skin!

  • If you don’t use an exfoliating body wash, it’s okay to use a body scrub twice a week, if you like.
  • You can purchase a commercial body scrub or make your own. For a simple body scrub, combine equal parts brown sugar or salt with coconut oil, almond oil, or sweet almond oil.
  • Using the brush or sponge can irritate your skin, especially if it’s sensitive. If this happens, use your brush or sponge once a week or switch to a different exfoliator.

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