A Top Dermatologist Weighs In on How to Properly Exfoliate Your Legs

exfoliate legs skin shower care

If you don’t have plans to wear a skirt anytime soon, there's a chance you’re neglecting a very important body care step: exfoliation. While it often goes overlooked, exfoliating has the ability to completely transform your legs. To learn how to exfoliate our legs properly, we reached out to dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD, for tips as well as a few of her favorite product recommendations for silky, smooth skin.

Meet the Expert

Dendy Engelman, MD is a board-certified dermatologic surgeon with a focus on cosmetic enhancement procedures for both the face and body as well as skin cancer treatment. She is also a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, American Society of Dermatologic Surgery, and American College of Mohs Surgery.

If you want truly gorgeous gams, it’s important that you regularly exfoliate them. Engelman says proper exfoliation is a great way to "boost circulation and reduce the appearance of cellulite in the legs by removing dead, flaky skin cells resting on the surface of the skin.” While Engelman encourages exfoliating regularly, she warns of over-exfoliation, which happens when skin is less hydrated. So, dry skin gals, if you plan to exfoliate, remember to also hydrate! To learn how to properly exfoliate your legs for smoother, more radiant skin, keep reading for Engelman’s favorite products and tips.

Step 1: Dry Brush

Aromatherapy Associates Polishing Body Brush
Aromatherapy Associates Polishing Body Brush $32

The first step of the exfoliation process is dry brushing, which Engelman says is beneficial as it “increases circulation, which helps with cellulite, aids in lymphatics drainage, and exfoliates the skin.” To properly brush your body, Engelman recommends applying gentle pressure while brushing upward toward the heart. For more detailed instructions on how to dry brush, check out our comprehensive guide to dry brushing.

Step 2: Polish

kp bump eraser body scrub
First Aid Beauty Cleansing Body Polish With Active Charcoal $28

Key Ingredients

Activated charcoal is created from carbon-rich materials burned at high temperatures, like coal, coconut shells, and wood. In skincare, there are claims that it binds to and removes impurites from the skin, but more research is needed.

Follow up your dry-brushing routine with a multi-tasking body polish that works to cleanse, exfoliate, and smooth flaky and or bumpy skin. While this is a great treatment for all skin types, it works especially well for those with keratosis pilaris. (The original product recommended by Engelman, First Aid Beauty's Cleansing Body Polish With Active Charcoal, has since been replaced by the one pictured.)

Step 3: Apply Oil

bio oil
Bio Oil Skincare Oil 2 oz. $13

Immediately after polishing your legs, “hydrate with an oil to restore the skin’s moisture and build back the barrier,” Engelman says. Her go-to product is Bio Oil, a great option for those who are looking for a heavy dose of hydration.

Step 4: Moisturize

elizabeth arden
Elizabeth Arden Superstart Skin Renewal Booster $67

Once the oil has been absorbed into your skin, Engelman recommends applying Arden’s moisturizer to “reinforce the integrity of the skin’s moisture barrier.” While you can use your moisturizer of choice, Engelman prefers this lotion because it's formulated with a probiotic complex that “helps optimize the skin’s microflora to help strengthen defense against possible infections.” Which, if you think about it, is rather important considering the mini abrasions possible from over-exfoliation or shaving.

When in Doubt, Use a Two-In-One Formula

iS clinical
iS Clinical Body Complex $72

If you don’t have time for the full step-by-step exfoliation process, Engelman recommends using this two-in-one exfoliating and hydrating lotion that uses fruit acids and white willow bark extract to increase cell turnover and reveal smooth, radiant legs.

Want more tips on how to get radiant legs? Check out these seven products for gorgeously glowing legs.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Sanchez N, Fayne R, Burroway B. Charcoal: an ancient material with a new faceClin Dermatol. 2020;38(2):262-264. doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2019.07.025

  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Keratosis pilaris: diagnosis and treatment.

  3. Gopaul R, Knaggs HE, Lephart JF, Holley KC, Gibson EM. An evaluation of the effect of a topical product containing salicin on the visible signs of human skin agingJ Cosmet Dermatol. 2010;9(3):196-201. doi:10.1111/j.1473-2165.2010.00512.x

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