How to Exfoliate Your Skin Safely & Effectively

5 minute read

You’re probably familiar with exfoliation: it’s often touted as a skin care solution that can treat anything from fine lines to acne and sun damage. But with great power comes great responsibility; learning how to exfoliate your skin without causing harm is key. 

Below, we’ll explore what exfoliation is and how it works before discussing how you can exfoliate skin on your face and body safely. From there, you’ll be equipped to create an exfoliation routine that makes sense for your skin.

Exfoliation Basics: Why Exfoliate?

Exfoliation is a process aimed at removing dead skin cells and grime from the outer layer of your skin. Whether chemically or mechanically, exfoliation digs deep into pores to remove build-up that may clog pores or create a dull, congested complexion. 

While just about anyone can stand to benefit from exfoliation, some skin types may need it more than others. Oily and acne-prone skin, for instance, might need regular exfoliation to fully remove acne-causing dirt, dead skin, and excess sebum. 

The overall goal of exfoliation is to clear out pores and reveal fresh, healthy, and new skin. This may help some skincare products absorb more fully and keeps the skin looking (and feeling) its best. It’s also an ideal part of any post-workout skin care routine aimed at removing sweat and dirt from the skin’s surface. 

Exfoliation Quick Tips

As you learn how to exfoliate, there are some key points you’ll want to keep in mind. First and foremost, it’s important to know the difference between the two main exfoliation methods: mechanical and chemical.

Physical exfoliation typically uses a tool or abrasive scrub to remove dead skin cells from pores. Brushes and sponges used on the face are common examples of physical exfoliants.

Chemical exfoliation, on the other hand, uses chemicals that dissolve dead skin cells or deeply penetrate pores to clear things out. Popular chemical exfoliants include glycolic and lactic acids, salicylic acid, and retinols. 

In most cases, chemical exfoliation is less irritating to the skin than physical. However, some chemical formulas are strong enough to risk causing inflammation and redness, especially for sensitive skin types.

Use the following tips to consider what an ideal exfoliation routine might look like for your skin type and concerns.

  • Address Your Needs. Not all skin types respond to exfoliation the same, so it’s important to consider your skin’s needs and sensitivities before you begin. Those with dry and sensitive skin will likely fare better with a gentle chemical exfoliator, for instance, but those with oily skin can usually handle stronger products. Additionally, aggressive exfoliants can sometimes cause dark spots, especially in those with darker skin tones.
  • Consider Current Products. Take a moment to think about the skin care products you currently use. If any are medications or contain active ingredients, they may increase your risk of causing irritation. It may be wise to discontinue the use of these products, if possible, as you prepare to exfoliate.
  • Evaluate Skin Health. Note any areas of your skin that tend to be dry, itchy, cracked, or prone to breakouts. Any open cuts, wounds, or scars should also be noted. It’s usually best to avoid exfoliating skin that’s damaged or weakened.

How to Exfoliate Your Face

If your facial skin looks dull, congested, or rough, it’s probably time to exfoliate. You can follow this basic procedure to exfoliate safely and without a hassle:

  1. Cleanse: Gently clean your skin using a simple, fragrance-free cleanser. Opt for lukewarm, not hot, water as you rinse the cleanser off. If your exfoliant needs to be applied to dry skin, dab away moisture with a clean towel. 
  2. Exfoliate: Apply or use your exfoliant. If you use a chemical exfoliator or a scrub that needs massaging into the skin, use small, circular motions to distribute the product. Continue this for about 30 seconds, then thoroughly rinse with water. 
  3. Dry: Thoroughly pat your face dry. If you’d like, you can use a washcloth as a form of gentle physical exfoliation as you remove the product from your skin.
  4. Moisturize: Follow up with a good face moisturizer. Don’t skip this step! Exfoliating can be very drying, and a moisturizer will help keep your skin safe and hydrated as it recovers.

Exfoliation complete! Make sure you keep an eye out for any signs of irritation before, during, and after exfoliating; things like redness, itchiness, and tightness mean it’s time to ease up a bit. 

Likewise, it’s crucial to avoid over-exfoliating, even if you’ve found a routine your skin tolerates well. It takes some experimentation to determine how often to exfoliate face and body skin based on your needs, but once a week is a good place to start. Begin slowly adding days as needed to your routine after one to two weeks.

How to Exfoliate Your Body

Exfoliating your body is very similar to exfoliating your face. But because the skin on the body tends to be less delicate than facial skin, it can usually withstand some heavier-duty exfoliators. While something like a salty scrub may be too abrasive for the face, it can be a great choice for deeply penetrating pores on the chest and back. 

Still, the general process for exfoliating the body is the same as the face:

  1. Cleanse: Choose an exfoliating body wash or body soap to combine exfoliation and cleansing. OffCourt’s Exfoliating Body Soap is the perfect choice for exfoliating, hydrating, and nourishing skin as you cleanse. Its medium-grit formula banishes dead skin, bacteria, and sweat, while shea butter and olive oil replenish vital nutrients. The result is a softer, smoother, cleaner skin surface. For a gentler option, try OffCourt’s Deep Cleansing Body Wash, which features glycolic and lactic acids that deeply penetrate pores to clear out dirt and oil. These powerful yet skin-friendly exfoliants help dissolve built-up grime to leave your skin clear and soft. 
  2. Exfoliate: If you haven’t already used an exfoliating soap, now’s the time to hit your skin with your favorite mechanical or chemical exfoliator. If you’ve already scrubbed away dead skin while cleansing, take the opportunity to use a washcloth to gently remove suds from your skin.
  3. Moisturize: Follow your shower with a moisturizer to seal in hydration and soothe your skin.

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How to Exfoliate Bikini Area

You can exfoliate your bikini area with a gentle product like OffCourt’s Exfoliating Soap, which is designed to remove sweat and dirt that might cause pore clogs. Use caution in these sensitive areas, though, and never exfoliate further than the bikini line to avoid causing irritation or infection.

How to Exfoliate Feet

Because the skin on the feet can get very rough, dry, and thick, it’s best to opt for physical exfoliants rather than chemical products. A foot brush or callus-removing brush that can physically remove built-up dead skin should do the trick. You can also use an exfoliating soap to scrub especially tough areas and keep your new skin soft and healthy over time.

Things to Watch Out For

Too much of any good thing can be problematic, and exfoliation is no exception. If you exfoliate with products that are too harsh or do so too frequently, you may begin to show signs of over-exfoliation. Examples include: 

  • Itching
  • Burning, especially when other products are applied
  • Redness
  • Inflammation (swelling, tenderness)
  • Peeling, flaky skin
  • Increased sensitivity to other products

If you spot any of these changes, hit the brakes. Take a step back and give your skin some time off from exfoliation; stick to a gentle cleanser and moisturizer as you do. Before you re-introduce exfoliants, take a look at your schedule. Try using your product(s) once weekly for a month or so before ramping things up. 

It’s possible your skin may never tolerate exfoliation more than occasionally, and that’s okay! You can still reap its benefits even if you only engage in exfoliation once in a while.

Final Thoughts

Exfoliating is a simple process that can make a massive difference, but it’s important to be careful and mindful as you use it. Start slow, always be gentle, and listen to your skin to find a routine that works for you. 

No matter what yours looks like, you can count on OffCourt to deliver products to help you toward your goals. Check out our full range of products to find out what other skin care solutions fit your needs.

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