How To Exfoliate The Proper Way & Is It Necessary?

Exfoliation - it’s a word that gets thrown around a lot on skincare social media with benefits attached to it that seem too good to be true. If these posts are to be believed, when you exfoliate skin, you’re also fighting off the signs of ageing, brightening skin, smoothing skin texture, and even reducing your likelihood of breakouts.

Is it true that any old exfoliation method - whether it’s using a natural scrub or chemical exfoliants - will help? Here’s our guide to everything under the sun about how to exfoliate skin and why you might want to add this extra step to your skincare routine.

Woman exfoliating skin with natural coconut scrub

What Is Exfoliation?

Put simply, exfoliation is the process of helping your skin shed dead skin cells. There’s a few reasons why you might want to help this process along; lingering dead skin cells can block pores and make skin look duller than it really is, so it’s best to help them move along for healthier, more radiant skin. 

Eve Lom Rescue Mask Eve Lom Rescue Mask
This two in one clay mask and physical scrub from Eve Lom helps buff away dead skin cells and minimise pores.

There are two main ways to exfoliate skin: with chemical exfoliants and with physical exfoliants. Chemical exfoliants include exfoliating acids and enzymes, which work to gently dissolve away dead skin cells without needing to rub or scrub the skin. Common exfoliating acids you might already be familiar with include Salicylic Acid, Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid

Physical exfoliants use natural granules or physical pressure to literally scrub the dead skin cells away, however, its effects are limited by how large (or how small) the exfoliating granules are. Even using a muslin cloth in a circular motion on your skin can work as a form of physical exfoliation! Other types of physical exfoliants include gommage exfoliants, microdermabrasion, and jojoba beads.

Dermalogica Skin Resurfacing CleanserDermalogica Skin Resurfacing Cleanser
Infused with Lactic Acid, this exfoliating cleanser sloughs away dead skin cells quickly and effectively retextures ageing skin. 

How Does Exfoliation Work?

Regular exfoliation works by helping your skin along the process of shedding dead skin cells and also spurring on other natural skin processes, such as cellular turnover to help your skin look the best that it can. Chemical exfoliants are better suited to speed up cellular turnover as they’re able to influence skin on a cellular level compared to physical exfoliants, however, each type of exfoliant can still help you on your journey to reaching your skin goals!

Sisley facial buffing creamSisley Facial Buffing Cream
Gently buff away dead skin cells with this gommage exfoliator that’s gentle enough for all skin types. 

Why to Exfoliate Skin?

Do I really need to exfoliate skin? Well, at the end of the day it’s totally up to you - but after reading this list of exfoliation benefits, we’re sure that you won’t want to skip this skincare step any longer! Here’s a list of our favourite reasons to exfoliate skin. 

  • Reduces Breakouts & Congestion 
  • Smooths Rough Skin Texture
  • Minimises Appearance of Pores
  • Fades Hyperpigmentation
  • Regulates Sebum Levels
  • Stimulates Collagen Production
  • Reduces the Appearance of Wrinkles
  • Improves Skin Radiance & Clarity

How Often to Exfoliate: A Quick Guide

Here’s the thing - you might think that exfoliating as often as possible is going to speed up the results you want right? Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work that way. Exfoliants are a powerful tool for revealing radiant skin and boosting glow and need to be used carefully, especially if your skin is not used to them at first. Most people overestimate how often to exfoliate skin - when really, for most people, once or twice a week is plenty

dermalogica microfoliantDermalogica Daily Microfoliant
The Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant is a hybrid powder exfoliator that transforms with water, using the power of Enzymes, Exfoliating Acids and natural scrubbing granules to smooth and clarify skin.

The reason you won’t want to exfoliate skin too frequently is that you risk something called over-exfoliation. You’ll know if you’ve reached this point if your skin seems unusually dry, stings, and perhaps unusually shiny and red. Any of these are signs you need to back off your exfoliating routine as you’ve damaged your skin’s moisture barrier

Now that you know why to exfoliate and how often to exfoliate skin for a luminous glow, we hope we’ve helped you get your beauty affairs in order! If you’re still trying to put together a skincare routine - with or without an exfoliator - try our skin analysis. 

Beauty Affairs Skin Analysis Quiz

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Alexis Adrienne

Alexis Adrienne

Alexis Adrienne is a passionate beauty writer with over 10 years of experience. She’s incredibly keen on all things skincare, makeup and cosmetics, with a fingertip on the pulse of the latest global beauty trends at all times.

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