How Often Should You Exfoliate Your Face?

Exfoliation is a bit of a Goldilocks skincare step: Not enough exfoliation, and you won’t reap the benefits — but too much exfoliation, and you might damage your skin barrier. So how often should you exfoliate your face, and are the benefits really worth it anyways? We answer your top five skin care 101 FAQs about exfoliation:

What Are The Main Benefits Of Exfoliating Your Face?

To start, exfoliating your skin leaves your complexion smoother. This evens out your skin tone and also provides a nice base for makeup, if you wear it. Exfoliating also helps to treat dry, dull, dehydrated skin and can help get rid of flaking or peeling patches. Exfoliating your face regularly can also help to control oil production and reduce shine and grease throughout the day. By clearing away dead skin cells, exfoliating also helps to free up clogged pores and reduce the frequency and severity of acne breakouts. In short, if you want a smoother, brighter, clearer complexion, then exfoliating is for you!

How Often Should You Exfoliate Your Face?

How often you should exfoliate your face depends on your skin type, your skin sensitivity, and also the weather and climate where you live. People who have normal, combination, or oily skin can typically tolerate exfoliation 2-3 times a week. People with dry and/or sensitive skin may only tolerate exfoliation once a week, or every other week.

Generally speaking, people can tolerate more exfoliation during the summer or if they live in a hot climate. Once the weather gets colder, you might find that you need to exfoliate less to avoid over-drying your skin.

If you are new to exfoliation, start with exfoliating only once a week and then slowly build up the frequency over time. We also recommend starting off with more gentle exfoliators that feature lower percentages of active ingredients. You can work up to stronger exfoliators over time as your skin’s tolerance builds.

Where Does Exfoliation Go In A Skincare Routine?

How to exfoliate your face and when you should exfoliate during your skincare routine all depends on what type of exfoliator you use. Here are some general guidelines to follow:

  • Physical scrub: When using a physical scrub to exfoliate, you should do this after removing your makeup and washing your face, but before you proceed with the rest of your skincare routine. Once you are finished, rinse off the scrub, pat your face dry, and proceed with the rest of your skincare routine.
  • Exfoliating toner: Like all other toners, an exfoliating toner should be the first step in your skincare routine. After washing your face, pat your skin completely dry. Then apply the toner to your face using your hands, a cotton pad, or a mist bottle. Let it dry down, then proceed with the rest of your skincare routine.
  • Exfoliating serum: This should also be used at your typical serum step. Remove your makeup and wash your face, then apply any toners and allow them to dry down. Then apply your exfoliating serum all over your face, being careful to avoid the eye area. Let it dry down, then proceed with the rest of your skincare routine.

Which Type Of Exfoliator Is Best To Use?

Different types of exfoliators have their own benefits. Here are the ones you should be familiar with:

  • Physical scrub: Environmentally friendly face scrub are a great option for people who want results immediately. Exfoliating scrubs use powders and other ingredients to buff away dead skin cells, leaving your complexion smooth and silky.


  • Exfoliating toners: These toners use ingredients like AHAs and BHAs to dissolve the bonds between dead skin cells overnight, so you wake up to a smoother complexion. Because toners are so thin in texture, they are often preferred by people with oily skin who don’t want a bunch of layers on their face. People who have elaborate, multi-step skincare routines may also prefer toners, since they absorb nicely under other products.
  • Exfoliating serums: These also use AHAs and BHAs to exfoliate your skin, but the formulation is thicker than a toner. As a result, exfoliating serums are often preferred by people with normal to dry skin.

What Are The Exfoliating Ingredients To Look For?

There are many different exfoliating ingredients in the market. Companies often combine multiple exfoliating ingredients in a single formula so that you can get multiple benefits in one product. Here are some exfoliating ingredients to look for:

  • Physical exfoliants: Physical extracts can take many forms, such as avocado powder and walnut shells and even coffee grounds. Look for physical exfoliants that are finely milled to create a gentle yet effective exfoliating texture.
  • AHAs: Alpha hydroxy acids, also known as AHAs, are the most powerful chemical exfoliators because their small molecules can sink deep into the pores. Some popular AHAs include glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, and citric acid.
  • BHAs: Beta hydroxy acids, also known as BHAs, are another chemical exfoliating agent. Unlike AHAs (which are only water soluble) BHAs are oil soluble, making them a great choice for people with oily, acne-prone skin. The most popular BHA is salicylic acid.
  • PHAs: Polyhydroxy acids, also known as PHAs, are the gentlest category of chemical exfoliants. They have a larger molecule size that doesn’t penetrate the skin as deeply, making them a great choice for people with sensitive skin. The most popular PHAs are gluconolactone, galactose, and lactobionic acid.
  • Fruit enzymes and plant extracts: These natural skincare ingredients combine exfoliating benefits with antioxidant properties. Pumpkin, pineapple, and papaya enzymes are pretty common, and there are also non-fruit-based options like bamboo stem extract as well.

Still not sure which exfoliator is perfect for your needs? Take this personalized skincare quiz to find out!

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