How Often Should You Exfoliate Your Face? Hint: Less Than You Think!

How Often Should You Exfoliate Your Face? Hint: Less Than You Think!

Your skin cells are constantly shedding and renewing themselves — in fact, you probably lose around 500 million skin cells every single day. The frequency with which your skin cells regenerate has given rise to the idea that your skin is basically completely new and fresh every seven years or so. 

“Over-exfoliating can be counterproductive! One to two times a week is great for most skin types”

  • Shani Darden, Esthetician

Whether or not that’s scientifically accurate, it is useful to know that your body is constantly refreshing and restarting! This system of cell turnover happens naturally, but you can also bolster it by exfoliating regularly to help slough away dead skin cells from your skin’s surface to reveal smoother, more even skin.

But how often do you need to exfoliate for glowing skin? Should it be part of your everyday skincare routine or less frequent? Let’s break it down.

Why Do You Need To Exfoliate?

Since your body naturally replaces the top layer of your skin, you may wonder why you need to exfoliate. There are a couple of reasons why exfoliation should be part of your skincare regimen.

The first is buildup. Even if you don’t wear makeup and are religious about washing your face, sunscreen and other impurities can build up on the surface of your skin. If your skin feels gritty or oily, or you’re noticing many blemishes like blackheads or whiteheads, this may be the cause. This build-up can clog your pores, especially when combined with dead cells that haven’t shed. Exfoliatingunclogs this buildup.

The other reason is that your skin cell turnover rate decreases as you age. It’s part of why your skin changes as you get older, and blemishes or tonal issues seem to take longer to fade. Exfoliating is an important part of any anti-aging routine because it can help to stimulate skin cell turnover and keep your complexion looking fresh and youthful.

How Often Should You Exfoliate?

This is the all-important question, as over-exfoliating can quickly damage your complexion. Over-exfoliating can cause dryness by damaging your healthy skin barrier, making it more difficult for your skin to retain moisture and more likely to suffer from excessive TEWL or trans-epidermal moisture loss.

If you have dry skin or sensitive skin, it might be a good idea to speak to a board-certified dermatologist before loading your skin up with skin care products that could potentially strip your skin of its natural oils and leave you raw and over-exfoliated. And either way, if your skin is sensitive, it’s best to start by exfoliating once a week to avoid unwanted side effects.

Something like my Lactic Acid Serum is a great place to start if you’re new to exfoliation,lactic acid is a great chemical exfoliant in general, but it’s also ideal if you’re new to chemical exfoliation because, unlike other AHAs, which can be drying, lactic acid is milder and can even promote hydration.

Another option for chemical exfoliation is my Retinol Reform Anti-Aging Serum. In addition to being formulated with a chemical exfoliant, retinol is also a powerful antioxidant. When it comes to how often you should be using retinol, there are two answers.

The first is that if you haven’t used retinol before, you should introduce it to your skin gradually. Start by using it once a week, and follow it up with my Weightless Oil-Free Moisturizer to help keep your skin hydrated and soothed. If your skin tolerates retinol well, you can build up your usage until you’re using it two to three times a week at most.

If you’re using physical exfoliants, it’s probably best to stick to exfoliating once a week. Physical exfoliants can be harsher on your skin than chemical exfoliants, so be sparing and listen to your skin.

That’s the long and short of it: the amount you should exfoliate depends on your individual skin. So just pay attention and be mindful when using exfoliants to get your best skin yet.

How Can You Exfoliate?

There are two types of exfoliators, and it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each when deciding how to work them into your routine. You don’t have to use both types of exfoliation, although that’s an option. But whichever you choose, it’s good to be mindful of how they work so you don’t overdo it on either one and end up damaging your skin barrier.

Physical Exfoliants

Physical exfoliants are exfoliants that refresh and rejuvenate your skin manually. However, they’re also pretty abrasive, which means that they can cause micro-tears in your skin. 

Even using a washcloth or an exfoliating glove can damage your skin barrier and lead to irritation. This also goes for cleansers or face scrubs that use jojoba beads or other microbeads to slough away dead skin cells.

Physical exfoliants are generally not recommended for those with sensitive skin. Even if you have normal, dry, or oily skin, there are better ways to exfoliate — such as with chemical exfoliants.

Chemical Exfoliants

Chemical exfoliants help break down the bond between your skin cells, allowing old, dead skin to be more easily removed and revealing brighter, more youthful-looking skin. You can get chemical exfoliants over the counter, but if you’re looking for extremeexfoliation to address hyperpigmentation or deeper skin issues, chemical peels are a form of chemical exfoliation, too, and can be highly effective. 

Chemical exfoliants are particularly effective in the right concentration for people with combination and oily skin and can be very beneficial to breakouts because they can help to clear out your pores. In fact, salicylic acid is one of the most commonly recommended ingredients for acne-prone skin, and it’s a member of a family called beta hydroxy acids (BHA), which are chemical exfoliants.

Other popular chemical exfoliants include alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic acid and lactic acid or antioxidants like retinol. Chemical exfoliants can come as a separate treatment or be a part of other skincare products like cleansers, toners, or face masks.

You can enjoy the benefits of chemical exfoliants with my Triple Acid Signature Peel. This peel features lactic acid, glycolic acid, and mandelic acid to thoroughly resurface the skin, while kaolin clay and bentonite clay deeply purify and cleanse to provide an overall clear and glowing complexion.

In Conclusion

Exfoliating your skin is an important part of a well-rounded skincare routine. While you may not think of it as fundamental to your skincare regimen, it can work wonders on the overall health of your skin. 

It can also address breakouts and blemishes by unclogging your pores, minimize the appearance of acne scars and dark spots by resurfacing and refreshing your skin, and address visible signs of aging for a brighter, more radiant complexion overall.

Basically, whatever you’re trying to address with your skincare routine, exfoliating can help! Just be sure not to over-exfoliate, and you’ll be on your way to clearer, brighter skin in no time.


shedded skin cells | UCSB

Characteristics of the Aging Skin | National Library of Medicine

A Practical Approach to Chemical Peels | National Library of Medicine

Beta Hydroxy Acids | Food and Drug Administration


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