The skin renews itself naturally every 30 days or so. This process occurs when the outer layer of skin, or epidermis, sheds dead cells and replaces them with new ones. Dead cells are shed during normal daily activities, such as putting on and taking off clothes. A person does not realize that old skin cells fall off during the day. Exfoliation allows a person to get rid of those dead cells from the top layer of skin faster. However, people should be very careful when using an exfoliator to do this, as these products can easily damage or irritate the skin.

In this article, we look at the different ways to exfoliate facial skin, taking skin type into account. We will also see what to avoid, because the skin of the face is more delicate than that of some other parts of the body.

How to exfoliate the face

If a person wishes to exfoliate their face, they must follow a number of steps:

Use gentle methods specifically for the face.
Avoid the delicate skin around the eyes and lips.
Make sure your face is always clean before exfoliating.
Exfoliate the skin manually or chemically.

Manual exfoliation

Manual exfoliation involves using a tool or scrub to physically remove dead skin cells from the face.

Chemical exfoliation

Chemical exfoliation involves using a mild acid to dissolve dead skin cells.

Most products marketed for use on the face contain low levels of exfoliating chemicals, so are safe to use by most people. Chemical exfoliants may not be suitable for people with sensitive or dry skin, as they can cause dryness or irritation. For any chemical exfoliator, gradual use can help prevent skin irritation. At first, chemical exfoliants should not be used more than once a week. A dermatologist can advise you on the use and choice of the right product.

The most common types of chemical exfoliants are:

alpha hydroxy acid (AHA)
beta hydroxy acid (BHA)
It is advisable not to use AHAs, BHAs and retinol together as they would be too harsh on the skin.

Forms of exfoliants

The different possible exfoliating options.


1. Washcloth

Using a washcloth is a good option for people with more sensitive skin.

Take a regular washcloth and dampen it with warm water, then use it to gently rub the skin in small circles.

Cleansing the face before exfoliation can also be beneficial as it opens up the pores of the skin.

2. Natural sponge

A natural sponge can be helpful in removing dead skin cells from the face.

Wet and wring the sponge, then make small circular movements to exfoliate the face.

Try not to put too much pressure on the skin, as this can cause irritation. Light movements should easily get rid of dead cells, as they are no longer firmly attached to the surface.

3. Facial scrub

Scrubs are a popular way to get rid of dead cells on the face. However, they can damage the skin because their ingredients can cause micro tears or irritation.

Avoid products that contain hard lumps that don’t dissolve.

Scrubs made from salt or sugar dissolve easily and are gentle on the skin. However, they should be used with caution and no more than once a week. They are generally not suitable for people with sensitive or dry skin. Instead of buying commercial facial scrubs, a person may want to make one at home, such as a sugar or oatmeal scrub. Again, she should only apply them to her face once a week.

Chemical exfoliants

4. AHAs

AHAs work by dissolving the top layer of skin to reveal new skin cells underneath. Use AHAs to make pores appear smaller or to reduce the appearance of fine lines.
Glycolic acid is the most common AHA.

5. BHAs

BHAs penetrate pores to unclog them and are best suited for oily and combination skin. Salicylic acid is the most common BHA used by healthcare professionals to treat acneTrusted Source.

6. Retinol

Retinol is a form of vitamin A that people use for skin care. It is a powerful chemical exfoliator that a person can apply to treat acne. Retinol can cause inflammation, so people with eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea may wish to avoid using it.

What to avoid

Below is a list of what to avoid when exfoliating and tips to avoid damaging the skin.

Be careful if you use products that already contain benzoyl peroxide or retinol. Exfoliation in addition to using these products can cause skin problems.

Avoid buying products that manufacturers have designed for use on other parts of the body, as they are too harsh on delicate facial skin. Choose a product specifically designed for the face.

Avoid exfoliating skin that is damaged, sunburned, or has an existing skin condition. Testing an exfoliator on a small area of ​​skin can help check for irritation.

Moisturize your skin after the exfoliation and use a high factor sunscreen to protect it. Any exfoliation increases sensitivity to ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Exfoliate your skin before shaving or using other hair removal methods. This helps prevent dead skin cells from clogging pores that could open further during shaving.

Avoid exfoliating the morning of an important event, or even the night before. Removing dead skin from the face can cause some redness or irritation.

skin type

It is important to understand a person’s skin type to find the best way to remove and exfoliate dead skin from the face.

The main skin types are:


A person can determine their skin type at home by washing their face with water and then gently patting it dry. After an hour, a tissue should be applied to the chin, nose, forehead and cheeks in turn. By looking for traces of sebum on the fabric, you can determine your skin type:

Normal skin: No sebum on the fabric and no signs of dryness.
Dry skin: No oil on the fabric, the skin is tight or looks flaky.
Oily skin: The fabric is oily and the skin looks shiny.
Combination skin: Cheeks are normal or dry; oil is present on the tissues of the nose, forehead or chin.
Sensitive Skin: The skin is itchy and red or dry.


A range of exfoliants are available and there are many easy recipes for making a scrub at home. Use exfoliators with caution, as they can damage sensitive skin.
Excessive use of exfoliants or using products that are too harsh can irritate even non-sensitive skin. Gentle exfoliation once a week, with the right type of exfoliator for the skin type, can help clarify the complexion. It may also help treat or prevent rashes.

* criptom strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the opinion of a health professional.