How to Exfoliate for Radiant Skin

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a woman exfoliating her legs
Author Name: Lucas Cook
Date: Thursday January 18, 2024

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Exfoliation is like giving your skin a fresh makeover — shedding dead skin cells to make way for new ones. It has many benefits, such as providing your skin an instant glow. However, if not done correctly, it could cause damage to your skin.

Ready to embrace a more radiant complexion? Discover everything you need to know about exfoliation and how to exfoliate properly with these actionable tips. 

What is Exfoliation

This process refers to removing dead surface cells on the outer layer of your skin with the help of tools and substances. While these cells normally would shed off on their own, an exfoliant can help clear them sooner to make way for radiant, smooth-looking skin.

Benefits of Exfoliating

woman looking at the mirror

Your skin is in a constant state of repairing and replacing itself. Due to these processes, your outer layer can have layers of dead skin all over your body. Here are the benefits of exfoliating:

  • Unclogs pores
  • Helps prevent acne
  • Allows better absorption of other skincare products
  • Helps even out skin tone
  • Aids better circulation 
  • Increases cell turnover

Two Types of Exfoliation

body brush and loofah

There are two main methods of exfoliating skin: physical or manual and chemical exfoliation. 

Physical or Manual Exfoliation

This method uses tools like a brush, sponge, glove and scrub. It entails scrubbing the skin and using beaded products. The downside of manual exfoliators is that people can scrub too much, which may lead to irritation and skin barrier damage.

  • Brush: A bristle brush is used on the body and rarely on the face to slough away dead skin cells. Some are used for dry brushing, while others are used with body wash or facial cleanser.
  • Sponge: This tool provides a gentler alternative to brush. You can use it with soap, warm water or body wash.
  • Scrub: Body scrub products come in large or small granules applied in a circular motion. After lathering this product on the body, you can rinse using warm water.
  • Glove: This tool provides an easier grip than a sponge and brush. All you have to do is lather it with soap or body wash. An exfoliating glove is best used for large body areas like arms and legs.

Chemical Exfoliation

This method utilizes chemicals to dissolve dead skin cells. Chemical products are less likely to cause irritation than physical exfoliants, making them ideal for sensitive skin. Brushing and scrubbing are unnecessary when it comes to this method. Here are the most common types of chemical exfoliators: 

Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

These are among the most popular types of light chemical peels. AHAs break apart bonds that hold dead skin cells on the top of your skin. Ingredients such as glycolic, lactic and citric acids fall into the AHA family.

Beta-Hydroxy Acids (BHAs)

These acids work on the outermost layer of the skin, lifting dead skin away. It can also penetrate pores to exfoliate the lining and help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The most common types of BHAs include salicylic and beta-hydroxybutanoic acids.

Know Your Skin Type

Knowing your skin type is the first step in understanding how to exfoliate properly. Remember that this can change with weather changes, age and lifestyle. Every method of exfoliation might not work for some skin types, so this step is crucial.

  • Sensitive Skin: Those with sensitive skin may experience irritation after using chemicals, fragrances and other synthetic products.
  • Normal Skin: You may have this skin type if you don’t experience oiliness, sensitivity or dryness.
  • Dry Skin: You may experience dry patches and dullness. You have dry skin if you feel the need to keep your skin moisturized now and then.
  • Oily Skin: You may have oily skin if you have excess sebum on your face. This skin type is prone to clogged pores and acne.
  • Combination Skin: If you have skin that isn’t dry nor overly oily, you may have a combination skin type. People with this type of skin often experience an oily T-zone, which includes the forehead, nose and chin.

How to Exfoliate the Proper Way

woman washing her face

Now that you know the different exfoliation methods and your skin type, familiarize yourself with the proper ways of exfoliating your skin. 

Select a Method Appropriate for Your Skin Type

When you have dry, sensitive or acne-prone skin, opt for gentler options like chemical exfoliators. Physical and chemical methods will work if you have oily, thicker skin. Avoid treatments with strong chemical contents if you have a darker skin tone since it may result in dark spots.

When you have an acne breakout, you can still exfoliate using over-the-counter chemical exfoliants that contain salicylic acid. Avoid using physical exfoliants as they can do more harm than good, irritating skin and worsening the problem.

Be Gentle to Your Skin

Using products with harsh chemicals and exfoliating too often can lead to redness, dryness and irritation. For instance, your skin might peel and burn if you go overboard with salicylic acid. In worse cases, irritation may require hospitalization in the event of severe skin damage.

When you exfoliate too vigorously, it may leave your skin more sensitive to sun and pollutants. As the largest organ in your body, the skin’s job is to protect your body from harmful matters in the environment.

Don’t Forget to Moisturize

Use a moisturizer that fits your skin type. Exfoliating can leave the skin dry, so moisturize to keep your skin plump and healthy. Remember that hydration is essential so your skin can repair and protect itself from harmful forces.

In the morning, always wear sunscreen, whether it’s raining or cloudy, especially if you’re going outside. Exposure to the sun can cause premature aging and irritation. Protection from UV rays is more crucial after exfoliating, as your skin is most sensitive. 

Let Your Skin Breathe

After giving your skin its well-deserved exfoliation, give it enough time to recover and repair itself. This moment is crucial because physical and chemical exfoliants can be too much for the skin. 

Only exfoliate once or twice a week. Doing this more frequently and vigorously can result in redness, increased breakouts and stinging.

Exfoliate Your Way to Radiant Skin

Now that you’ve learned the ins and outs of proper exfoliation, you’re on your way to a more radiant complexion. Whether you choose physical or chemical exfoliants, make this skincare step a non-negotiable in your routine.

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