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Exfoliation and Your Skin Type: How Much Is Too Much?

September 11, 2019

Exfoliation and Your Skin Type: How Much Is Too Much?

When it comes to facial cleansing, the urge to purge has become part of the human condition. When people spot a dry patch or clogged pore area, they reach for the scrubbers and scour away as if searching for some hidden answer.

But if blemish-free skin is what you’re looking for, the answer has already surfaced: don’t over-exfoliate, which one of the most significant causes of breakouts.

Types of Exfoliants

There are two types of exfoliants: chemical and mechanical. Both are used to remove dead skin cells from the outer layer of skin (scientifically known as the stratum corneum).

Chemical exfoliants use acidic solutions to help loosen the skin cells. Mechanical exfoliants involve using an actual tool (like a scrub, brush, or sponge) to dissolve the skin cells.

Read more about chemical vs. mechanical exfoliants in our guide to understanding the benefits of exfoliation for the skin.

So, How Often Should You Exfoliate?

The short answer: you don’t need to exfoliate more than three times weekly. 

However, with exfoliation frequency, skin type can serve only as a loose guide. You should also consider the strength and type of exfoliant.

Below is a simple guide to one of life’s toughest questions:How often should you exfoliate?

How Often Should You Exfoliate Dry Skin? 

Frequency1-2 times weekly

Type: Chemical

Skincare secret: Over-exfoliating dry skin can remove too much of the protective layer that helps skin retain moisture. Look for a chemical solution with a gentle alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) such as lactic acid.

Exfoliate dry skin once or twice a week and follow it up with a hydrating mask, serum, or cream

How Often Should You Exfoliate Oily Skin? 

Frequency: 2-3 times weekly

Type: Chemical and mechanical

Skincare secret: Look for a solution that contains a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) such as salicylic acid, which penetrates the pores more deeply than AHAs. This helps to reduce oil and sebum production.

To find your perfect match, we recommend experimenting with some different mechanical exfoliants. Those with oily skin can tolerate more stringent products (like face scrubs and cleansing brushes) because oily skin sheds dead skin cells more slowly than most skin types. 

However, steer clear of harsh scrubs with elements like ground nut shells, as these are not recommended for any skin types. Instead, try a scrub with crystals or sea salt.

How Often Should You Exfoliate Acne-Prone Skin?

Frequency: 1-3 times weekly (depending on how dry or oily the skin is)

Type: Chemical

Skincare secret: A chemical solution with a BHA like salicylic acid is best for acne-prone skin. 

So how often should you exfoliate acne-prone skin? The answer depends on the severity of your condition and the concentration of the exfoliant. Read more about the benefits of salicylic acid for acne here.

...And Sensitive Skin?

Frequency: 1-2 times per week

Type: Chemical and mechanical

Skincare secret: Mild exfoliants are key for sensitive skin. 

If you choose a chemical solution, an AHA such as lactic acid would be best. 

For mechanical exfoliants, go for gentle and natural. Non-plastic ingredients like jojoba beads and poppy seeds are best for your skin (and for the environment).

What About Normal and Combination Skin?

Frequency: 2 times per week

Type: Chemical and mechanical

Skincare secret: Sugar scrubs are gentle exfoliators that work well for targeting specific dry areas on your face. 

Normal skin is neither excessively oily nor overly dry, and combination skin is dry with oily areas. As such, both types of exfoliants can be used to target problem areas.

Stop, Exfoliate and Listen

The key to this process is to get to know your skin — and listen to it! Not every person with the same skin type will need to exfoliate with the exact same regularity. 

Once you start to pay attention to how your skin looks and feels with slightly varying exfoliation methods and schedules, you’ll begin to sense when your skinneedsexfoliation — which will not always be the same time (or type!) every week.