Exfoliating: 411

Now that you have a good idea as to what form of exfoliator your skin needs, let's take a minute to figure out how to exfoliate safely and effectively.  The last thing you want is for your poor skin to be overstimulated or end up with micro-abrasions!  When done correctly, exfoliating is incredibly beneficial for the different layers of the skin, but if done for too long or with too much pressure, you will end up doing more harm than good.

1: The most important rule?  Don't overdo it.  How often you exfoliate will be up to your skin type, but a general rule of thumb for most skin is to not use heavier treatments more than twice a week.  This includes all the scrubs and masks.  The gentler forms of exfoliation, like muslin cloths and tools like the Foreo Luna 2 can be used daily, but be sure not to combine them with other exfoliants.  Using an exfoliating balm to cleans?  Rinse instead of wiping off with a muslin.

If you find your skin starts showing irritation or suddenly is full of unwanted spots, the culprit might just be over-exfoliation.  Take several days off to let your skin settle down, then slowly reintroduce a single exfoliant.  And remember, if you have oily or acne prone skin you want to be careful about what you are using so you avoid stripping the natural oils and congesting your skin even further.  Your skin type would probably find 1-2 treatments a week most effective rather than a daily one.

2: If you are using a chemical peel, be very aware of the strength of the solution.  This will tell you not only how long to keep the formula on your face initially, but also how often you can use this type of treatment.

There are three 'strengths' of peel: superficial, which penetrates minimally to target minor skin problems such as blemishes, uneven texture, or minor discolouration; medium, that targets more troublesome skin issues like mild scarring, wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots; and deep, which penetrates down to the middle layer of the skin to tackle serious cases of damaged cells, severe scarring, deep lines, and full discolouration (this type should ONLY be done by a professional).  The mid-highest strength peels can only be carried out once every 4-6 weeks, so be sure to check the percentage of acid!  Most at-home superficial peels can be done safely 1-3 times a week, but be sure to read any directions that come with your product.

3: Be sure to wash your face thoroughly with lukewarm water before exfoliating.  You want a face free from makeup or other products before starting, otherwise your skin won't receive the full benefit of the deep clean.  Plus, the warmth will help open up your pores, making it easier for them to soak in any nutrients coming their way.  Just be sure the water is not too hot, as that

4: Gentle and slow is best! Try using a circular motion, as this will help buff off any dead skin cells and pull out blackheads without the need to push down or use more pressure.  Think of it this way -- if you were washing and buffing a car, you wouldn't want to scrape rocks across the paint -- the same goes for your skin!  You do not want to scrub too hard or the exfoliant (whether it is sugar, salt, walnut, or bristles) can start to break the surface and cause tiny cuts.

5: Wet the area you are exfoliating before you start.  You wouldn't dry-shave (unless you want those uncomfortable red bumps!), and the same principal goes for exfoliating.  By starting with a moist patch, you can avoid scrubbing away healthy skin cells.

6: Try to exfoliate in the morning, as the effects of the treatment will last longer since the skin repairs itself overnight.  By using your scrub, mask, or tool in the morning, you can get rid of all those extra skin cells that appeared in the night.

7: Don't miss your neck, jawbone, and chest!  It can be easy to forget these areas when exfoliating, as the main areas we think about are face, arms, and legs.  However, these forgotten areas are prone to cell-buildup and can become congested easily.

8: Tried different exfoliants on your body and still unhappy with the outcome?  Consider body brushing, which not only rids the surface of dead skin cells to give a more radiant appearance, but also improves circulation and can reduce cellulite if done correctly.

You can find several varieties of brushes that will work, but you want one made with natural hair bristles and that is easily maneuverable, as the technique requires brushing from toe to head.  It is really simple, as you use long and quick gentle movements that steadily move upward, spending more time on any 'problem' areas.  You want to do this for about three minutes.  To learn more, read this full article written by Green People.

9: Don't skip the moisturizer after exfoliating.  You have just applied a relatively aggressive treatment to the largest organ of your body, and you want to be sure your aftercare is just as thoughtful as the effort you put into exfoliating.  By sloughing away those dead skin cells, you have left the area prone to drying out -- moisturizing thoroughly will combat this and ensure a bright, healthy complexion!

10: Check up on ingredients, especially when using a chemical exfoliant.  The different types of solution have different effects, just like every ingredient has it's own special use.

Glycolic acid boosts collagen production and is best for minimizing the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, and minor scarring.  It can help brighten skin tone and can help with acne or hyperpigmentation.  Similarly, but less harsh, salicylic acid is ideal for treating acne, but can also treat hyperpigmentation, cell build-up, and other minor issues.

For more sensitive skin, enzymes are probably the way to go, as they are more gentle.  Instead of promoting growth of new cells, enzyme peels refine pores and remove dead cells to give the appearance of brighter, fresher skin.

There are many other types of acid, including lactic, TCA, mandelic, and Jessner's, each of which have their own strengths (as well as weaknesses! some of these higher strength acids can have you laid up for more than a week due to skin peeling and sun sensitivity!).  For less common acids such as these, it is worth checking with an expert to see if the solution will help your skin, and what percentage should be used.


Did you know that younger skin regulates itself naturally?  Crazily enough, the body sheds about 30,000-40,000 cells every minute!  This is a biological exfoliation, so if you are under 30 years old, be aware of your skin's cycle.  The total renewal process (meaning from one set of skin to another) tends to be every 25 days, so try to avoid more intense treatments that remove the full surface layer unless truly necessary, as you might actually be disrupting your body's in-built processes!

Waxing is in a way a form of exfoliation, so if you plan on waxing, do not exfoliate too soon before or after.  Give your skin a break, and it will thank you later!

Exfoliating is not just about having radiant skin.  The process helps boost blood circulation, which in turns helps with elasticity and skin tone.  Looking good from the inside out -- what more could you ask for?


I hope you find these tips useful, and keep an eye out for the next piece in this mini-series which will be all about my favourite products (many of which you got a sneak peek of in my first post!).

Blogger Note: Every product mentioned in all of my posts are purchased with my own money, are gifts from friends or family, or were won in public competitions unless otherwise stated.  However, my posts may contain affiliate links. This will never change my approach to my reviews, nor will it influence how I represent the products I am writing about, as I only choose to represent or work with brands and companies that I 100% respect and trust.


  1. It always surprises me how often and how many skin cells we shred x

  2. These are great tips for looking after your skin. I'm terrible (and lazy) but reading this made me think I think I should look after myself more.

  3. I wish I had known all that before I started buying exfoliators. Thanks for sharing.

  4. All this time I've been using a muslin! I shall be rinsing from now on. Thank you for the great post. We learn something new every day.


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