Exfoliation can make your complexion glow—or turn your skin raw and sensitive. Find out how often you should exfoliate and what product to use for your skin type and concerns.
Exfoliation can impart both positive and negative effects to your skin. Exfoliate too little, and results will be extremely gradual. Exfoliate too much, and you'll find yourself with dry, sensitive skin that's prone to reactivity. Here's how to find that sweet spot when it comes to exfoliation frequency.
Understanding how often you should exfoliate depends on your answers to these two questions:
What Kind of Exfoliant Are You Using?
There are two families of exfoliants: physical and chemical. This concept is fairly simple to understand but can become blurry when both kinds of exfoliants are combined. Technically, there are three types of exfoliating products:
- Physical exfoliants (scrubs, brushes, cloths)
- Chemical exfoliants (leave-on glycolic, lactic, or salicylic acid treatments)
- Combination exfoliants (usually in the form of a cleanser)
If you're using a physical exfoliant, the level of exfoliation your skin receives depends on two things:
- The granules themselves (jojoba wax beads vs ground apricot stones)
- The pressure you use to exfoliate (how hard to you buff and for how long)
If you're sensible with pressure and use a smooth, perfectly spherical exfoliating ingredient such as beads, then you could exfoliate once a day—or, more advisably, once every other day.
For regular exfoliation, integrate one of our jojoba wax bead products into your skincare routine:
- Mirenesse Powerlift Massage Bead Cleanser
- Elemis Gentle Rose Exfoliator
- Thalgo Comfort Softness Exfoliator
Now, if you're using a chemical exfoliant, the advice changes somewhat.
Chemical exfoliants remain on your skin longer and are active on a much deeper level than physical exfoliants. This creates long-lasting results, which means the regular application needed from a physical exfoliant is not required with a chemical one.
Depending on your skin type and concerns, we recommend applying a leave-on chemical exfoliant two to three times per week. This might be in the form of a toner, liquid-soaked pads, or a face cream.
Finally, what do you do if you're using a combination exfoliating product? For example, Skinstitut Glycolic Scrub 14% combines microbeads with glycolic acid.
These kinds of products are more similar to physical exfoliants. That's because the product is quickly washed off, which gives the chemical (in this case, glycolic acid) a limited amount of time to penetrate.
If you're using a cleanser or scrub that combines physical and chemical exfoliants, it's likely you'd be safe to use the product every other day or perhaps more frequently, depending on your skin type and concerns.
What's Your Skin Type?
At this point, you have a pretty good idea of how frequently you should use an exfoliating product. The final influence in this decision is your skin type or skin concerns. Your complexion most likely falls into one of the following four categories:
- Dry/dehydrated (most suited to glycolic and lactic acid)
- Oily/combination (most suited to salicylic acid)
In general, dry/dehydrated and normal skin types fit nicely with the frequency of product use already discussed. Whereas for oily/combination and mature skin types, the frequency of using chemical exfoliants can be increased.
Oily and combination skin types are often prone to spots. Acne-prone complexions are characterised by many signs and symptoms, one of which is hyperkeratinisation.
Hyperkeratinisation causes dead skin cells to remain within the pores longer, causing a build-up that provokes the formation of spots. Chemical exfoliation is the perfect solution to this condition.
If you have oily or combination skin that's prone to acne, you may benefit from using a salicylic-acid-based exfoliant three to four times a week. We recommend Medik8 beta Gel – Acne Treatment Gel, which is great to use regularly on spot-prone areas, even before blemishes have formed.
If you have mature skin, you'd also likely benefit from frequent exfoliation. Mature skin regenerates more slowly and becomes prone to age spots, dehydration, fine lines, and wrinkles. Chemical exfoliation goes a long way towards preventing and reversing these flaws.
We recommend Alpha-H Age Delay Anti Wrinkle Night Treatment, which pairs exfoliating acids with several other anti-ageing actives. Whatever product you choose, aim to use it about four times a week.
Our final note on exfoliation frequency: this advice is geared towards average complexions. If your skin is prone to sensitivity, you should adjust your exfoliation frequency downwards.