When people talk about exfoliation, many beginners who have never exfoliated before would tend to imagine rubbing their faces with sand, or something as abrasive.

We are here to assure you that this is not true. While some exfoliants use coarse grains of ground up fruits or seeds, exfoliating your skin the right way should be an entirely painless – in fact, very therapeutic – process.

Knowing how to exfoliate your face may seem very straightforward, but this tutorial would prove useful not just to beginners! We’ve unearthed a lot of points to note about exfoliation that even seasoned skincare users don’t know about.

If you’re intending to make regular exfoliation a part of your skincare routine in 2020, read on!

Summary: How to exfoliate your face the right way

These are what you’re going to learn in this article:

  • Why exfoliation is important
  • How your skin type affect the exfoliation routine
  • The type of exfoliant to choose based on your skin type
  • Other tips to exfoliating your skin properly

1. Why do you need to exfoliate?

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When you exfoliate your skin, you’re basically clearing out the dead skin cells off the top layer of your skin. While your skin naturally exfoliates itself, the process slows down (like everything else) as you age. What this means is that the dead skin cells accumulate at the surface of your skin, preventing newer and brighter-looking skin from surfacing, and at the same time, make it harder for your skincare products to penetrate deeply into your skin.

Think of it as sweeping the dust off a surface – leaving your dead skin cells there will make your skin look duller and rougher.

2. Know your skin well

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As part of learning how to exfoliate your face, you also need to know what your skin actually needs.

Exfoliation is actually suitable for all skin types, even if you have dry or sensitive skin. You just need to make sure that the way you’re exfoliating is healthy for your skin.

If you have completely no idea how to exfoliate your face, or how your skin is going to react, DV recommends that you start with exfoliating only two times a week. You can slowly adjust the frequency according to how your skin reacts.

Since, obviously, everyone’s skin is different, everyone’s tolerance to exfoliation is different as well. You want aim for healthier-looking skin, without experiencing rawness or excessive dryness all over your face.

3. Pick the exfoliant best suited for your skin

Depending on your skin type, you may find that some exfoliants work better for you than others. Exfoliants can be broadly divided into two categories: physical and chemical.

Dry skin exfoliation

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Try using mild chemical exfoliants. Instead of physically rubbing off the dead skin cells on the surface of your skin, chemical exfoliants gently dissolve them.

Don’t be afraid of how that sounds – it actually gives you more control over the process. If you’re using a mild enough chemical exfoliant, it dissolves the dead skin cells at a slower rate than physical scrubs, so you don’t have to worry about overexfoliating.

Avoid strong exfoliating acids, as this may be too harsh on your skin. Instead, go for products that contain alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), such as glycolic acid.

Glycolid acid is not just exfoliating, but it also helps with collagen production and moisture retention. Nobody’s going to say no to that!

An alternative you can consider are those that use plant enzymes – a popular one is using those found in papaya.

These have a mild exfoliating effect which is very suitable for those with dry skin, or even those who are just starting out and don’t know yet how to exfoliate their skin properly.

Oily, acne-prone skin exfoliation

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When you have oily skin, it’s even more important for you to know how to exfoliate your face properly. One of the biggest challenges for oily skin types is removing excess sebum so that it doesn’t clog up pores and cause pimples, but without stripping too much moisture from the skin.

For exfoliation, oily skin types can try using AHAs like glycolic acid, or beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), such as salicylic acid.

If you have a lot of active acne, stay away from physical exfoliants. These are basically anything that’s literally grinding your skin, such as scrubs, beads, or even facial cleansing brushes.

While physical exfoliants has its usefulness for other skin types, it may cause micro-tears on pimples, which may then release acne-causing bacteria. Needless to say, this may result in unwanted breakouts!

Combination skin exfoliation

If you have combination skin, it probably means that you have some oily areas and some not-so-oily areas. Learning how to exfoliate your face will involve some extra work for you.

With combination skin comes combination skincare. The best way to exfoliate your skin would be to use AHAs on your dryer areas, and BHAs on your oily areas.

If this sounds like too much work for you, however, you can also choose to go for a catch-all chemical exfoliant like glycolic acid. This may not help as much for your oily areas though!

Normal skin exfoliation

Lucky for you, you have well-balanced skin! However, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have to learn how to exfoliate your face. You can also benefit from some glycolic acid exfoliation.

As we’ve mentioned above, glycolic acid doesn’t just remove dead skin cells, but it can also assist your skin’s collagen production process, and also improve its hydration properties.

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Alternatively, if you like the feeling of physical scrubs, you can also try these, but make sure you are using a product with small enough grit so that you’re not accidentally overexfoliating.

If you don’t feel like spending the cash on physical scrubs, you can also consider using washcloths to wipe your face. This tends to be slightly gentler than physical scrubs too.

Simply wet any clean washcloth you own, and use it to wipe your face after cleansing. The roughness of the cloth will provide the exfoliation you need.

Sensitive skin exfoliation

Because your skin is more sensitive, knowing how to exfoliate your face is vital to prevent unwanted flare-ups on your skin. You need to be a bit more cautious with the exfoliating products you want to buy.

There is a high chance that physical scrubs would be out of the question for you, since even the smallest grit would feel like sand on your sensitive skin.

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Instead, try going for milder acids like plant and fruit enzymes (remember what we said about papaya enzymes earlier?), or milder chemical exfoliants like lactic acid.

If the stores you’re visiting have a tester for these products, we strongly recommend applying a tiny bit on the back of your hand and leaving it for at least 20 minutes to see if you experience any reactions.

We also recommend that you start off exfoliating only once a week, or even once in two weeks. You can slowly and cautiously increase the frequency if you feel that your skin is up to it.

4. Exfoliate gently

No matter what exfoliant you choose to use, it never hurts to go in with a light hand, especially if you’re just starting to learn how to exfoliate.

This is especially pertinent if you are using a physical scrub on your face, since the strength you use directly impacts the roughness of your exfoliation.

Rub your face gently in an upwards motion, going in circles around your face. There isn’t really a recommended amount of time you should be exfoliating your face for, so just stick to a safe two to three minutes unless your product advises otherwise.

Remember that exfoliation should never be painful, nor should it leave your skin feeling raw and warm after!

5. Hydrate your skin afterwards

If you have picked the correct exfoliant, it shouldn’t be making your skin excessively dry, but it’s still a good practice to use a hydrating lotion or moisturiser after exfoliating.

This step is especially important if you have dry skin!

Because exfoliation removes the dead skin cells on the surface of your skin, it actually helps your other skincare products, including moisturisers, penetrate your skin layers better.