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Why you need to exfoliate – and exactly how to choose the right formula

January 1 | 4 minute read

Why You Need To Exfoliate Hero 16x9

Words by Darcy Brown

Originally published on | June 1

We can all agree there's no better feeling than having a good scrub.

Whether you are clearing all evidence of the weekend's sins (we're talking to you, lazy makeup removers!) or prepping your skin to achieve a seamless makeup base, exfoliating is key to wiping the slate clean.

Did you know your skin is the largest organ in the body? It's a clever organ, too, shedding millions of dead skin cells daily to reveal newer ones beneath. Exfoliation offers your skin a helping hand in removing dead skin cells from the surface and allowing younger ones to shine.

That fresh feeling straight after exfoliating is no coincidence; clog-free pores, even skin tone and a serious glow await. And with no dead skin cells blocking their path, your luxury face oils or creams will do their job just that little bit better. Do we have your attention yet? Here's everything you need to know about why you should take exfoliation seriously. Run, don't walk, to the exfoliation aisle.

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The types of exfoliation

It's safe to say we are spoilt for choice when it comes to finding the perfect exfoliator for our routines. From physical scrubs to clever chemical and enzyme-based formulas, there are many different forms of exfoliation. But instead of getting overwhelmed with options, let's embrace the possibilities and start by breaking down the beauty jargon.

Physical/mechanical exfoliators

When you think of exfoliation, we bet those gritty granules are the first to spring to mind. And while the abrasive scrub-like formulas took centre stage in our teenage years, they've come a long way when it comes to formulation. These days, brands are turning to ingredients like finely ground coffee or seeds to evolve physical exfoliators into gentler particle formulas that work to physically loosen stubborn dead cells on the skin's surface. They have stood the test of time, thanks to their ability to offer instant transformation in the texture of your skin. If you're looking for that instantly smooth feeling on your face or body, these are the ideal choice for you.

Chemical exfoliators

Rest assured, chemical exfoliators may sound scary, but they're actually very gentle - they use acids to loosen dead skin cells, allowing them to shed faster. If you're on the sensitive side, opt for formulas with AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) like water-soluble glycolic acid, which work gently on the outer layer and allow your skin to retain moisture. If you have oily or blemish-prone skin, BHAs (beta hydroxy acid) like salicylic acid are your best bet, which sink deeper into the pores to further clear excess debris and sebum. Hooray for the HAs!

Enzymatic exfoliators

If your skin is sensitive or reactive (in other words, it lets you know when it doesn't like something), then these fruit or rice-derived formulas will ensure you don't miss out on that post-exfoliation glow. They work to digest the bonds holding dead skin cells together. The great thing is that you can tailor the exfoliation to your skin's needs; the longer you leave them on, the deeper they will exfoliate.

How to incorporate exfoliating into your routine

Often overlooked, exfoliation is usually the missing piece of the perfect skincare routine's puzzle. 'But when should I exfoliate?' we hear you ask. You can do it in the morning or evening, depending on your preference, but cleansing your skin first is essential to remove makeup and product residue. Going in after with an exfoliator will get deeper into the pores to ensure no dead skin cells or other impurities are left behind.

A physical exfoliator is used best in a hot, steamy shower on a wet face, to allow the pores to open and prepare for deep cleaning. Body exfoliators also work best as part of your bath or shower routine. Chemical and enzymatic exfoliators generally work best when the skin is dry. But of course, be sure to read the directions for use and wash off the exfoliator if required. And once you've exposed your new, shiny skin cells, you can apply your favourite moisturiser to hydrate the skin and reap even better results from your serums and oils. All thanks to your hard work!


The benefits of exfoliating your face

We like to describe exfoliating your face as pressing your skin's reset button. It's no surprise introducing this hero skincare step comes with some seriously transformative skin rewards. Allow us to convince you.

Unclogs pores:

Dead skin cells, dirt and product residue can build up on your skin, leading to clogged pores. Exfoliating will help sweep away those unwelcome guests, allowing your skin's natural oils to flow freely to stop breakouts, blackheads and other blockages in their tracks.

Assists with cell turnover:

Have you ever noticed a blemish disappear overnight? Though your emergency pimple buster might have had a part to play, the skin itself has the incredible ability to repair naturally, thanks to a clever process called cell turnover. Exfoliating gives your skin a helping hand in buffing away the dead skin cells on the surface to reveal the younger cells beneath. Pretty impressive if you ask us!

Brightens and evens out the complexion:

Over time, revealing new skin cells can really up the ante on your glow. We're talking about brighter, fresher-looking skin and a noteworthy glow that won't go unmissed. Plus, if uneven skin tone is one of your skincare woes, achieving smoother skin and removing dull patches will bring it one step closer to a more uniform appearance.

Helps skincare products to penetrate:

Exfoliation can help increase the efficacy of your skincare products by removing the obstacles that stand in their way. Yep, your serums, oils, and moisturisers will be sure to have an easier time working their magic if they are able to penetrate deeper into the skin.

How often should you exfoliate?

The saying 'you can have too much of a good thing' runs true when exfoliating is involved. We won't judge; that smooth skin feeling is kind of addictive, so it is easily done. But too much exfoliation can disrupt the skin barrier, and your skin will be sure to let you know. Irritation, redness, dry skin, blotchiness, or breakouts are tell-tale signs that you have overdone it. We've got your back; here's how often to exfoliate depending on your skin type.

If you have normal skin:

Oh, the joys of having balanced skin! If you're on the normal skin side, exfoliating once or twice a week will allow your skincare products to work more effectively and create a clearer and brighter-looking complexion.

If you have sensitive skin:

We recommend using an enzymatic exfoliator once a week (your sign to make exfoliating part of your self-care Sunday ritual) to reap the benefits of increased cell turnover and a new-found glow. If you're on the sensitive side, be sure to patch-test first and work your way up in terms of frequency, depending on the product. Ensure you are even more attentive to your SPF application (although we don't need to remind you that, do we?).

If you have dry skin:

We recommend exfoliating twice a week to turn over dead skin cells, remove flaky skin and aid the moisture absorption of your favourite hydrating products like moisturisers and hyaluronic acid serums.

If you have oily skin:

We think exfoliation is a must-have step in any oily-skincare routine. Avoid it, and you will miss out on pore-clearing abilities that will help manage oil flow. Start by exfoliating twice a week, once with a physical exfoliator and once with a chemical exfoliator. If your skin tolerates it, you can increase usage to three times a week.

If you have combination skin:

If an oily T-zone and dry skin around your cheeks are your skincare concerns, then chances are you have combination skin. We recommend exfoliating twice a week, with the second time focusing on just the T-zone area. Pair with your favourite moisturiser, and you are good to glow!

When not to exfoliate

It is worth mentioning that there are times when you should skip exfoliating entirely, like if you are experiencing sunburn, injury or a reaction. Though buffing away peeling or scabbing skin may be a tempting quick fix, it is best to hold off on exfoliation until your skin is completely healed, or you could cause further damage. Hypersensitive skin should also be wary when using exfoliators; start by using a gentle enzymatic exfoliator once every two weeks to see how your skin reacts.

Related topics and brand tags

ExfoliantSkin careDry skinCombination skinNormal skin

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