Exfoliation: how often should you scrub your face?
Over-exfoliating is just one of the many skincare mistakes you are likely to make at some point. Whether you need to slough away dry, flaky patches of skin, or sort out skin texture, it’s a fact of life we all get a little too scrub-happy at times. This can lead to a number of issues, from breakouts to increased sensitivity, leaving you in a worse off state than you began with. But with so many varying opinions out there, it’s no surprise people get confused about exfoliation. Here, we set the record straight once and for all, on how often you should be exfoliating so your skin stays happy and not angry.
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Physical vs. chemical exfoliation
If you’re new to exfoliation you might not be aware of the two main types: physical and chemical. Because these two variations provide different benefits, one of the first steps to figuring out how often you should exfoliate is to determine what kind of product is right for your skin's needs.
Chemical exfoliators include ingredients such as alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and fruit enzymes to lift off dead skin cells, whereas physical (also known as manual) exfoliators contain abrasive substances to buff away the layer of dead skin cells. The latter category includes exfoliating brushes, which also require a physical force.
It depends on your skin type
Every other day? Twice a week? Once a week? We're all told different things. Of course it all depends on your skin type and what kind of exfoliator you use. It can all be pretty overwhelming, so with this handy guide below you'll be one step closer to nailing your exfoliation routine.
Sensitive: Physical exfoliators are best avoided in this case because they are more likely to tear the skin and cause further inflammation. Opt for a chemical exfoliator with a lower percentage of active ingredients if you have sensitive or rosacea skin, such as lactic acid, the perfect gentle exfoliant to begin with. If you experience sensitivity only exfoliate once a week.
bh loves: The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA
Ageing: Retinol is a wonderful tool to address ageing and combat fine lines and wrinkles, but it is also brilliant for its ability to increase cell turnover, revealing brighter, smoother skin. It's perfect for mature skin types, but be careful how you use retinol as it can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. Use retinol 1 - 2 times a week to begin with.
bh loves: Dermalogica Age Smart Overnight Retinol Repair, $180
Oily: Lauded as a great option for oily skin due to the way they break down clogged pores and clear impurities, beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) are a type of chemical exfoliant, with salicylic acid being the most well-known. This acid on oily skin could be used 3 - 4 times a week.
bh loves: Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Clinical Clearing Gel, $39
Normal or combination: If your skin is "normal" with limited sensitivity, you can get away with using stronger acids. Try glycolic acids to really bring the glow to your complexion. A higher concentration of glycolic acid should be used only once a week to prevent irritation whereas lower strengths are more easily tolerable and can therefore be used more often.
bh loves: Murad Rapid Resurfacing Peel, $89
Dry: Dry skin needs exfoliation too, but the key is to choose a product which gently eliminates dead skin cells while hydrating the skin, such as a cream-based scrub. Scrubs give you more power as you can choose the amount of pressure used. To slough away any visible flaky patches of skin, try using a cream scrub 1 - 2 times a week.
bh loves: Goodness Superfood Skincare Every Week Face Scrub, $15.99
Acne-prone: If you have cystic or chronic acne, exfoliation is likely to make your skin a whole lot worse. To avoid inflaming acne further and risking hyperpigmentation down the line, it might be best to skip exfoliation.
The bottom line
Less is more as far as exfoliation is concerned - it shouldn't feel like torture. Listen to your skin above all and give it a break if things start to look red and irritated.
How often do you exfoliate? What type of exfoliant do you like using?