How to properly exfoliate your skin

November 18, 2019

How to properly exfoliate your skin

Who doesn’t want an even toned skin? No matter your skin type, our skin functions the same way, it sheds the old, dead skin to reveal a newer, healthier one underneath.

Exfoliation is a method of sloughing away dead skin cells from the outer layer of your skin by using any kind ofexfoliants. It’s quite an easy thing to do and can be fun, satisfying even, because it not only breaks the monotony of just using cleansers for your face, but you also get to see the results right after. 

Pleasing as it may be, though, it can also be easy to either use the wrong type of exfoliants for your skin or do it incorrectly that you end up not getting your desired outcome.

Here’s a quick guide on how to properly exfoliate your skin. 

What are exfoliants?

Exfoliants are products that remove dead skin cells from the skin’s surface. There are two kinds of exfoliants: Physical and chemical.

Physical vs. Chemical Exfoliants

Physical or Mechanical Exfoliants

Physical exfoliants loosen and scrub off dead skin cells by using tools or ingredients. This type of exfoliant can be a sponge, cloth, pumice, wipes, or brush where you can either put a cleansing product or use it on its own. 

It can also be in the form of sugar, salt, ground nuts, seeds, plants, or grains which are included in products like face or body scrubs. 

Chemical Exfoliants

This method uses acids that help release layers of dead skin cells and excess oil, depending on which type you use. 

The most common chemical exfoliants used in skin care are the water-soluble AHA (Alpha-Hydroxy Acids) such as glycolic, lactic, mandelic, malic, and tartaric acids which help with surface exfoliation to minimize brown spots and leave skin brighter and more even toned. 

BHA (Beta-Hydroxy Acids) on the other hand are oil-soluble hydroxy acids such as salicylic acid which can dive even deeper into the pores and help remove excess oil and dead skin cells. It can also help get rid of hyper pigmentation and acne, reduce the look of pores, and fight the signs of premature skin aging like fine lines and wrinkles.

Chemical exfoliants AHA and BHA

Should I really be exfoliating my skin?

Exfoliation plays an important role in making sure your skin cells regenerate faster. Our skin's cell turnover slows down as we age. In order to contradict the effects of skin aging, our skin needs a little bit of help to maintain its youthful glow.

Getting rid of dead skin cells, help your skin care products penetrate through the skin much more efficiently to deliver nutrients and benefits .

It also helps to stimulate collagen production in the skin, a protein responsible for keeping its shape and elasticity which in turn provides you with a healthy smooth skin texture.

Exfoliating not only helps remove dead skin cells but it also takes away excess oil and other impurities that can cause acne and reducing the chances of getting acne blemishes. It can even help diminish the look of acne scars by aiding in the skin’s regeneration process.

Before you start

Check your skin type and build a goal around it

For the most part, whether to use a physical or chemical exfoliant is mostly up to your preference. But you may also want to take note of how your skin will react. Your skin type will be the basis in setting up your skin goals, and using that helps you narrow down your choices when it comes time to shop for your exfoliant.

Viva Glow Charcoal Clearing Mask

For instance, if you have oily skin, look for something that can absorb excess oil like our Charcoal Skin Clearing Mask.

If you have combination skin, then products with fruit enzymes may be more suited to address both the dry patches and the excess oil in the T-zone area. 

Dry skin may need a physical exfoliant like facial scrubs or tools like face brushes or a soft towel but you may want to do this only once or twice a week as physical exfoliants can be rough on the skin. 

For acne-prone skin, chemical exfoliants, specifically BHAs like salicylic acid and glycolic acid are good options as they work their way deep into the skin to unclog pores and take away excess oil to prevent breakouts.

Viva Glow Blueberry Face Mask

Those with sensitive skin may want to stay away from the usual BHA and AHAs as they may cause some degree of irritation to the skin. Instead, you may want to opt for other ingredients like honey or oatmeal to remove dead skin cells. These natural exfoliants can still lift away impurities from the skin without causing damage or inflammation.

Choose the right method of exfoliation

Your experience with choosing the right one doesn’t have to be so hard. Again, based on your skin type and skin goals, you can choose one (or more) that will help you achieve that goal.

Physical and chemical exfoliants both have their own merits and demerits so it’s necessary to do a bit of research on the product you choose and find out how it can affect your skin.

Lab muffin created a very thorough explanation on this with a laundry list of products, tools, and ingredients so you can decide which one to choose to add to your skincare routine. 

Exfoliants come in many shapes and forms from cleansers, moisturizers, serums, and everything else in between. Whichever one you prefer, be sure it will not counteract with any of the active ingredients in your other skin care products.

Patch test your chosen product

It can be pretty exciting to open up and try out that new exfoliant right off the bat, but it won’t hurt to be careful and do a bit of self-check first especially if it’s your first time using one.

Your skin can react to products differently than others, so before your scrub your skin away, patch test the product first. Here is a guide to help you do a patch test.

Over exfoliating is a thing

As much as we love exfoliating masks, keep in mind that doing it too frequently or keeping it on for longer than it should can have negative effects on your skin.

Look out for warning signs when you exfoliate. Scrubbing your face too heavily can cause redness and irritation, and so can high potency chemical peels. 

If any of these show up after you’ve exfoliated, reduce the frequency if you’re using physical exfoliants or minimize the percentage for chemical exfoliants.

Our skin reacts differently from each other. What can be okay for one person may be too harsh for your skin, so always check your skin every time you try something new.

Signs you're over exfoliating

How to Exfoliate Your Skin the Right Way

When using a physical exfoliant for your face

If you are using a tool to exfoliate, put a small amount of gentle cleanser on it. For facial scrubs, take a quarter sized amount. Carefully rub your tool or fingers onto your face and neck area in a small circular motion for about 30 seconds. 


When using physical exfoliants for your your body

Do the same thing for your entire body starting from your arms, back, legs, and feet. Keep the pressure light, especially around the eye area and on parts of your body where skin is much thinner like your armpits, elbows, groin area, and the back of your knees. 

Rinse thoroughly and make sure to remove all the product completely.

Finally, dab (don’t drag) a soft clean cotton towel to remove excess water. Always follow up with a toner and moisturizer for your face and body lotion or body butter on your body right after you exfoliate.

Physical exfoliant salt scrub

When using a chemical exfoliant

Chemical exfoliants should be applied after cleansing and toning. Put an ample amount on your fingers or on a cotton pad if it’s in liquid form and spread evenly onto your face and neck. Allow a few seconds to soak in on the skin and follow up with your next skincare product. 

If your chemical exfoliants come in the form of masks or gels, depending on the instructions, they may need to be rinsed off a few minutes after. So make sure to read and follow the instructions carefully to avoid any misuse.

Precautions after exfoliating

Use only one exfoliant per day

If you have acne prone or oily skin, you may want to try using both physical and chemical exfoliants and see how that goes. However, never try to use both methods together in the same day. If you really have to, it’s best to alternate using them to prevent over exfoliating. 

If using for the first time, it would be better to ease in one exfoliant in your routine for the entire week before adding another one. That way, you can allow your skin to get used to the new products first and avoid damaging or dehydrating your skin.

Using physical and chemical exfoliants together

Be sure you’re using them right

In general, AHAs and BHAs are fine to be used together. The key in making sure both work effectively is by using the acid with the lower pH first before the higher one. Check the instructions on each product first before trying or check with a dermatologist if you’re still unsure.

Post chemical exfoliation and sun care

When used in the morning, make sure to wear sunscreen as your last step as some chemical exfoliants can make your skin sensitive to sunlight. Caps, hats, and sunglasses can also help prevent overexposure to UV rays so wear some when you can.

Exfoliants help keep your skin looking young and keep it in top health. Whether you choose a physical or chemical exfoliant to be incorporated into your skin care routine, these instructions on how to properly exfoliate your skin should give you a guideline on how things should go. Just make sure that you are using the proper ones to suit your skincare goals.


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