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The Do's and Don'ts of Exfoliating

Woman exfoliating face during skin care routine

In all of the skin care, one of the most common questions I hear is, “Do I really need all this stuff? All these toners and serums and creams?” The answer is no, you don’t need every category of skin care product under the sun. Many of them are meant to address a specific problem, so tossing them into your routine won’t help if you don’t have that particular issue.

There are some products that just about everyone should use, though, and an exfoliant is one of them. If you’re new to the terminology, an exfoliant is a product that buffs away the dead skin cells on the surface of your skin.

Exfoliating is critical for brightening your skin, reducing clogged pores, and allowing your other skin care products to reach your actual skin rather than getting stuck in the layer of cells on top. At the same time, there’s a right way and a wrong way to use it.

DO Put Exfoliation Into the Right Place in Your Skincare Routine

With caring for your skin, it’s not just about using the right products. You have to use them in the right order, too. For an exfoliant, the perfect place is immediately after your cleanser and before any serums and moisturizers you use.

This way, the cleanser gets rid of the dirt and surface debris, allowing your exfoliant to focus on the dead and damaged skin cells. After all that ick is gone, you’ve cleared the way for your anti-aging serum and other products to truly sink into your skin and deliver a more effective result.

DON’T Go Overboard

As beneficial as exfoliating is, too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing. If you exfoliate too often, it can irritate your skin and strip away too much of the moisture in your skin.

Ideally, you want to be exfoliating twice per week, three times per week at the max. If you haven’t used an exfoliator in a while, start with once per week and work your way up.

By the way, did you know waxing has the side effect of exfoliating your skin? Make sure you factor that into the equation and avoid using an exfoliating cleanser on the area around your brows for a few days after a brow wax, for example.

DO Get on a Consistent Schedule

Your body is constantly killing off surface skin cells, and they build up on the surface of your skin over time. As you can imagine, the longer that continues, the longer it will take to get back to a clear complexion.

Stay on top of it by maintaining your exfoliation schedule. My personal strategy is to mark my exfoliation days on a calendar so I can stay on track.

DON’T Assume All Exfoliants Will Irritate Your Skin

I’ve had some friends who said, “I tried an exfoliator once and it made my skin so red and irritated. I’m not trying that ever again.” If you’ve said the same, hold your horses!

There are more types of exfoliants than you might expect, and not all of them will irritate your skin. For instance, while most exfoliants use a rough sand-like texture to do the job, others called chemical exfoliants use an acidic solution instead. Even within those categories, every product has a different lineup of ingredients.

In other words, don’t write off all exfoliants because of one bad experience. Try a few different options to see which ones work for you.

DO Go Beyond Your Face

When people talk about skin care, they’re usually talking about facial skin. That might be the skin you care about for selfies, but the skin throughout the rest of your body needs some TLC too.

Once or twice per week, use a body scrub or a similar product to exfoliate your body as well. It’s a simple addition to your shower routine that gives you the glorious benefits of a smoother texture, brighter skin, and a younger look. It’ll become especially beneficial as we transition into warm weather and all the shorts, skirts, and dresses that come with it.

DON’T Exfoliate Irritated Skin

As beneficial as exfoliating is, it can be irritating to your skin if the skin is already inflamed. Any time you have skin irritation, take a break from your exfoliant.

That’s especially true after skin treatments. I’m talking about chemical peels, laser treatments, microdermabrasion, you name it. For anything that leaves your skin pink afterward, talk to your treatment provider about how to modify your routine during the recovery period and follow their guidance about how long to wait before picking up your exfoliator again.

DON’T Scrub in Your Exfoliant

This is a common mistake with exfoliants. People know that the purpose is to abrade away unwanted debris, so they scrub the ever-loving heck out of their faces. Ouch!

The goal is to massage the exfoliant on your face, not to scrub. Use gentle pressure and circular motions to get the best results.

Soaking Up All the Benefits of Your Exfoliant

Exfoliating is such an impactful part of your skin care routine, and who doesn’t love the absurdly smooth and soft feel your skin has afterward? Plus, it makes the other skin care products more effective, so you get more bang for your buck. No one can hate that.

It’s all about using your exfoliator the right way, though. With the do’s and don’ts above, you can enjoy all the benefits for your skin’s look and its health too.

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