How Often Should You Exfoliate? Its Primary Value & Essence

Find out all the answers about the value, the essence, and the process of skin exfoliation — know your skin’s worth. “How often should you exfoliate?” is the most crucial question to answer.

Too much of a good thing is bad! Agree or agree? You have no other options but to agree. LOL!

how often should you exfoliate

In our search for glowing, vibrant skin, we sometimes tend to do too much. We use far too many trendy treatments, far too many masks, and far too many extra measures.

The thing is, you should be able to tell when you’ve gone too far. This is particularly true when it comes to exfoliation.

Scrubbing, peeling, and sloughing off dead skin cells can be a lot of fun—plus it produces amazing results.

On the other hand, going overboard is particularly dangerous to the skin and may result in severe consequences. Better be careful dear!

What is skin exfoliation?

Before answering that query, let me give you a trivia. Did you know that our skin sheds around 500 million skin cells every day? Oh my gosh! But that’s the truth, you see that’s how quickly dead skin builds up.

It’s kinda crazy — that’s why we need to exfoliate. Exfoliation is the magic potion for the fresh dewy face or skin.

Skin exfoliation is the process — which involves removing dead skins with the use of either mechanical or chemical exfoliators. And, interestingly enough, the epidermis uses dead cells as a protective layer (once again: we don’t hate those skin cells there!).

The issue occurs when they build up to a point where the skin becomes dull or clogged pores are present. [1]

Why is exfoliation important?

We’ve talked about the what, now let’s discover the why — its true value and essence. Exfoliating the skin is beneficial to all, regardless of skin type.

So what are its main benefits? Why should you exfoliate? Why should it be part of your daily skincare routine? Really, why is exfoliation important? Here you go!

  1. Exfoliation gives you an instant glow by removing dry skin cells that cause dullness.
  2. It also improves the absorption of your other skincare products, making them more powerful. 
  3. Skin exfoliation helps unclog the pores.
  4. It reduces acne and breakouts.
  5. It evens skin tone. Exfoliants buff away rough, dead skin while smoothing the texture, making the skin look more smooth over time. 
  6. Skin exfoliation boosts circulation for oxygen to flow properly and stimulates lymphatic drainage for internal cleansing.
  7. It increases cell turnover. This keeps the skin’s surface fresh and safe while removing old, dry, or dying cells.
  8. Exfoliation stimulates collagen synthesis. The process even helps aging skin to become youthful again. [1] [2]

Who needs to exfoliate?

Ever wonder if you need some scrub and how often should you exfoliate? It’s not only you. We all need answers! The truth is you need to scrub it off from time to time especially as you get older.

When you are younger dead skin falls off every 28 days but as you age those skin cells last up to 40, 60, or even 80 days. 

Like you know, you are literally a walking dead skin cell by that time. And for sure clogged pores are bothering you! So that’s a clear sign of when to exfoliate – when your skin feels rough.

Girls, this is where exfoliation comes in to save the day (and your skin). Exfoliating eliminates dead skin that your body isn’t shedding, making way for younger, happier, and healthier skin cells.

How do you exfoliate?

When it comes to exfoliation, there are two main techniques: physical and chemical.

Although they both serve the same purpose (removing dead skin), the two types of exfoliation are slightly different, so you must first understand what they are and how they work before asking how many times you should exfoliate. (3)

What is Physical Exfoliation?

This may be the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word exfoliation. It is actually the classic method — anything that uses physical force to remove dry skin cells.

Mechanical exfoliation requires the use of grainy scrubs and exfoliating brushes (USA, Canada). Though adored by many this method often causes more harm than good if used on your face (thin skin and sensitivity). But it is relatively safe on thicker skin, like on your back or the body. [3]

For scrubs or polishes, that will be used on the face, this Spa Quality Exfoliating Face Mask and Scrub with Manuka Honey & Walnut (USA) is incredible.

It is great for dull, dry, and even sensitive skin-type. This babe contains organic aloe vera, manuka honey, walnut, and powerful vitamin C to protect skin from damaging free radicals and premature aging.

Available in Canada, you’ll love this Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Gentle Exfoliating Facial Scrub which consists of cocoa butter, cocoa powder, evening primrose oil, and superfine walnut shell as the buffing natural exfoliants. It is formulated to treat and repair.

What is Chemical Exfoliation?

Chemical exfoliants use enzymes and chemicals to remove dead skin cells and promote cell turnover. Two common skin acids and enzymes:

  • Alpha hydroxy acids or (AHAs) refer to a type of natural chemical compound. Many are made from organic sugars, with the most common being Glycolic Acid (from sugar) and Lactic Acid (from milk). AHAs break the bonds between skin cells, allowing dead cells to be extracted. They cannot penetrate the skin as deeply as BHAs because they are water-soluble, making them suitable for those with dry or sensitive skin.

Recommended: Exfoliating Glycolic Face Mask & Facial Scrub. A blackhead treatment to help brighten skin. It also contains plant-derived ingredients like aloe vera, turmeric, pumpkin, and ginger.

  • BHAs, or beta hydroxy acids, are oil-soluble compounds that can penetrate deeper into the skin and pores. BHAs also have anti-inflammatory & antibacterial properties, and they exfoliate the skin more thoroughly. It doesn’t only exfoliate the top layer of skin but also penetrates the pores and dissolves the sebum-dead skin mixture that causes spots. Skincare products with BHAs are most effective on dry, acne-prone skin. [3] [4]

Recommended: Paulas Choice- SKIN Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Salicylic Acid Exfoliant. It is a facial exfoliant to help dissolve blackheads, minimize enlarged pores, and smoothen wrinkles & fine lines.

  • Enzymes are the mildest chemical exfoliator. To begin with, enzymes, despite their popular classification as chemical exfoliants, are biological molecules and therefore do not theoretically count as chemicals. Since they work slowly and gently, they are an excellent alternative to chemical exfoliants for sensitive skin. There are three main groups, all of which are fruit-derived proteases. Some of the most popular are bromelain (from pineapple and kiwi), papain (also known as Carica Papaya Fruit Extract on the label), and Cucurbita pepo (pumpkin) enzyme. [5]

Recommended: Peter Thomas Roth Pumpkin Enzyme Mask. (Available in the USA, and in Canada). To be honest, of all these great exfoliants, this is my personal favorite. I had noticed it evens and clarify the look of my skin tone and smoothens the appearance of fine lines. My skin appears smoother, younger, radiant, and revitalized.

How often should you exfoliate?

Okay, now that you know the what and the why of exfoliation. It’s time to answer the buzzing question of all time — how many times should you exfoliate or how often should you exfoliate? Hmm. Such a tricky question, naaah. Just kidding!

My direct answer to that depends on your skin type. But generally, dermatologists recommend 2-3 times skin exfoliation a week. [7]

Your dull skin cells re-accumulate every day so this exfoliation is not a one-time big-time kinda thing, it should be a non-negotiable part of your beauty routine and skincare journey. [4]

  • For dry or sensitive skin

Harsh exfoliants should be avoided by people with dry or irritated skin because they can irritate the skin, causing it to dry out even more.

If you have this skin type, you should only exfoliate once or twice a week. If you’re responsive, try an enzyme; and if you’re dry, try glycolic acid. Alternatively, use bamboo or rice powder to create a very soft physical product.

  • For oily or acne-prone skin

Oily skin types are prone to blackheads and breakouts. You can exfoliate twice or three times a week if your skin can tolerate it. For this, you should use a face serum containing tea tree oil or salicylic acid.

Physical exfoliation can help to deep clean your pores and remove any residue if you have oily skin.

  • For combination skin type

If you have combination skin, you can go either way or choose between the two based on your mood. Exfoliate with scrubs, acids, and enzymes two to three times a week.

Look for ingredients like mandelic acid, which is harsh on excess oil but gentle on dry skin. [6]

What will happen if I exfoliate every day?

Good question! Can you exfoliate every day? Hold your horses! Not so quickly!

Regardless of how willing you are to improve your skin, you must avoid using too harsh exfoliants or going from one product to another too frequently.

Always bear in mind that skin exfoliation is not something that should be done daily.

In essence, you’re endangering your skin’s barrier by drying it out and causing redness, flakes, itchiness, breakouts, premature fine lines, and excess oil output. Isn’t that amusing? Remember that less is more and that you can begin small and work your way up. [1]

Before concluding about this matter, here are some useful exfoliation tips to take note of.

Exfoliation Tips

1. More than three times a week is too much.

Exfoliate the skin no more than three days a week. Excessive exfoliation can cause tiny cracks in the skin layer, which can lead to more hydration loss, inflammation, and breakouts.

2. Get the right products and be gentle with your skin.

Pick exfoliating skincare items that are appropriate for your skin type. Over-exfoliating is described as exfoliating excessively or using too many targeted procedures at once. Retinol, salicylic, and glycolic acids should not be used at the same time.

Also, stop scheduling too many facials or microdermabrasion procedures at the same time. Each of these things is beneficial on its own, but when combined, they do more harm than good to your skin. [6]

3. Exfoliate in the shower.

You probably ask the same question — when to exfoliate? Here’s one answer, exfoliate while in a warm, steamy shower or bath. Soak your face (and body, if exfoliating other areas) in hot water before you begin exfoliating to open your pores and prepare your skin for cleaning.

4. Exfoliate in the morning.

This is another tip on when to exfoliate. It is best to exfoliate first thing in the morning because the skin restores itself at night, leaving a layer of dead skin cells that demand to be brushed off. (Dead skin’s POV: Hey, sloughed me off your skin can’t breathe. haha!)

5. Never forget to apply moisturizer after exfoliating.

After exfoliating and showering/soaking, add a moisturizer or shea butter or aloe vera to help your skin retain moisture and appear radiant. [6]

6. Listen to your skin.

Let your skin guide you in the process or methods you are to use. Following a rigid schedule isn’t always a smart idea. On certain days, the skin may feel rougher to the touch than others, and it may be irritated.

You have full control over the situation. Pay attention to what you hear, see, and feel, and make changes to your exfoliation routine as needed.

Final Note

Your skin needs a delicate balance of exfoliation. If you overdo it, you risk weakening your skin barrier, resulting in irritation and inflammation.

And if you don’t do it often enough, you can develop dull skin or clogged pores. 

Again, how often should you exfoliate? As I mentioned above it depends on your skin type. For dry skin 2-3 times per week, for sensitive skin, 1-2 times will do, and for combined skin depending on your skin’s mood that day. [7]

Also, since no two people’s skin is the same, you can really try a few different exfoliating products before finding one that works for you.

If you’re unsure about what your skin needs, consult a dermatologist.

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