The Best Way to Exfoliate According to Your Skin Type

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Exfoliation is a must for healthy skin. If you do not exfoliate your skin will appear dull, be flaky, breakout, and feel rough. This skin care step is key if you want your skin to be smooth, blemish free, and to glow. 

Yet exfoliation can be very confusing - which product should you use to exfoliate your skin? How often should you exfoliate? At what point do you exfoliate during your skin care routine and which products should you apply afterward? This article will break down how to exfoliate according to your skin type and help you clear up any exfoliating confusion in the process.

Sensitive Skin

Even someone with sensitive skin can exfoliate regularly, just be sure that you do so gently and just once or twice a week. Since sensitive skin can easily become red, irritated, and dry look for a product that contains lactic acid in it. Lactic acid will not only gently exfoliate your skin but will also give your skin much needed hydration at the same time. If you have sensitive skin do not scrub your skin or use a cleansing brush - both of these exfoliation methods can be too harsh for your skin. Use a product like Dermalogica Age Smart Skin Resurfacing Cleanser once a week to sweep away dead skin cells without irritating your skin. Apply a soothing, moisturizing serum or moisturizer after exfoliating.

Dry Skin

Dry skin definitely needs exfoliation. If you do not exfoliate regularly layers of dead skin cells will sit on the very top of your skin making it hard for your other skin care products to penetrate and do their job such as moisturizing. Also if you do not exfoliate often your dry skin can become flaky and look dull. For these reasons, it is important to find the right product for your skin and be diligent about using it. Like with sensitive skin, dry skin does not need harsh scrubs or aggressive products for your skin to glow. Try a product like Kiehl's Turmeric & Cranberry Seed Energizing Radiance Masque or Kiss My Face Start Up Exfoliating Face Wash, which can be used a few times a week to effectively exfoliate.

Normal/Combination Skin

Normal skin can be dry in some places and oilier in others. This skin type can change with the seasons becoming drier in the winter and feeling oilier in the summer. While you can be more aggressive with normal skin than with sensitive or dry skin you still do not want to go overboard with strong facial acids or overusing your exfoliation products. This skin type can handle different types of facial acids including glycolic and salicylic or you could use a skin device to deeply cleanse and exfoliate your face.

If you find that your t-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) are more oily than the rest of your face you can use a strong product in those areas or even just exfoliate there more often. It is helpful to apply a moisturizing serum after exfoliating or even a serum that treats a specific skincare issue like dark spots or wrinkles. 

Lots of different products are good for normal/combination skin including scrubs and facial acids. Try St. Ives Nourished & Smooth Face Scrub and MaskBiore Baking Soda Powder Cleanser, or Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel.

Oily Skin

It is very important to regularly exfoliate oily skin to try to avoid pimples, blackheads, and clogged pores. While facial acids such as salicylic acid are an excellent skin care ingredient for oily skin you need to make sure that you do not overdo it when it comes to such ingredients. Even oily skin can become red and irritated from using too much of an exfoliating product. Oily skin may be exfoliated more often than any other skin type. Besides looking for products with salicylic acid in them like Paula's Choice SKIN PERFECTING 2% BHA Liquid Salicylic Acid Exfoliant, you can also try a product with ingredients like charcoal found in such products as Biore Warming Anti-Blackhead Cleanser or Freeman Facial Charcoal and Black Sugar Polish Mask.

Important Tips

Do not exfoliate your body and your face with the same products. The skin on our body is not as sensitive or as oily as the skin on our faces so it needs to be treated differently. The body scrub you love so much should be used below your chest and never above. 

If you do use a facial scrub avoid rubbing hard on your face. Even people with oily skin might damage their skin if they are too aggressive with their exfoliation. Some people find that using a washcloth to exfoliate is both low cost and effective, just be sure you do not scrub too hard with the washcloth, and it needs to properly dry in-between ​uses to try to avoid bacteria growing in it.


Article Sources
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  1. Cleveland Clinic. 5 Ways to exfoliate your skin without irritation. Updated February 12, 2020.

  2. Algiert-Zielińska B, Mucha P, Rotsztejn H. Lactic and lactobionic acids as typically moisturizing compoundsInt J Dermatol. 2019;58(3):374-379. doi:10.1111/ijd.14202

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