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The Ultimate Guide: How To Exfoliate Your Face

Your skin dramatically impacts your appearance - but it’s also a vital indicator of your overall health. Most of us know the essentials for proper...

The Ultimate Guide: How To Exfoliate Your Face

Your skin dramatically impacts your appearance - but it’s also a vital indicator of your overall health. Most of us know the essentials for proper skincare: cleansing and moisturizing. However, exfoliation is an oft-overlooked factor in your skin health that can drastically improve the look and feel of your skin.

At NuFACE, we’re dedicated to providing high-quality skincare backed by science. So keep reading to learn about exfoliation, why you should exfoliate your face, and which exfoliation methods and products are best for you!

What Is Exfoliation?

Dead skin cells are shed during skin cell turnover. This process, called desquamation, causes dead skin cells to sit on the top layer of the skin. These dead skin cells build up over time, and you must exfoliate the skin properly to remove them.

When dead skin cells build up, you’ll notice a variety of common skin problems: wrinkles, dryness, uneven skin texture, and increased acne. Desquamation, or shedding dead skin cells, occurs less frequently the older you get, so exfoliation becomes even more critical with age. You remove these dead skin cells when you exfoliate and allow new skin cell turnover, leading to a fresh, rejuvenated appearance. 

Who Benefits From Exfoliation?

All skin types benefit from exfoliation. There are five main skin types: dry, oily, sensitive, combination, and normal. Dry skin is typically dull and prone to cracks or rough patches. Oily skin can appear greasy to the naked eye and can harbor acne. Those with sensitive skin often report redness, splotchiness, irritation, and allergic reactions to certain skincare ingredients. Combination skin is a mixture of dry and oily skin types and can alternate between the two. Finally, normal skin is neither dry nor oily and is not sensitive to touch, skincare formulas, or tools. 

Most people will notice smoother, clearer skin when they begin to exfoliate regularly, and exfoliating may even help even their skin tone. While exfoliation is an excellent practice for everyone to adopt, it can be especially beneficial to people with mature skin, people living in dry climates, and people with acne-prone skin. 

Dry Climate Dwellers 

Everyone knows that your skin is impacted by the foods you eat and the skincare products you use - but did you know that the environment also plays a role in the health of your skin?

Skin craves moisture. For this reason, moist, humid environments are better for the skin. The more hydrated your skin is, the less likely it is to become dry, break out or attract infections from exfoliants like chemical peels or scrubs.

On the other hand, dry climates dehydrate the skin. This may make skin uneven, tight, and prone to sensitivity. In addition, dry air may cause the skin to break and crack, creating room for excess irritation. 

Those who live in dry climates may find that frequent and thorough exfoliation keeps their skin looking fresh and smooth. In addition, it is a good idea to exfoliate after you have endured severe climate disruptions. This is why the process is highly encouraged at the end of summer and winter as your skin adjusts to new moisture levels.

Mature Skin

With age, skin cell turnover naturally slows, collagen production declines, and you may be more prone to dull skin. In addition, a buildup of dead skin cells can add to any hyperpigmentation, dullness, or fine lines you may already be experiencing.

Exfoliation is a great way to restore the youthful look of your skin. Removing dead skin cells from the skin surface allows new skin cells to breathe, soak up moisture and skincare, and even out the texture of your skin.

Acne-Prone Skin

Breakouts are commonly believed to be caused by oily skin or stressful circumstances. However, acne can also be linked directly to hormonal fluctuations or imbalances. In addition, dead skin may clog pores, resulting in breakouts and uneven texture — both of which exfoliation may help ease. 

Regardless of the cause of your breakouts, we recommend seeing a dermatologist to get a professional opinion if you are concerned with frequent breakouts or persistent acne. While exfoliation may help balance your skin texture and unclog pores, more treatment may be required to clear breakouts.

How Should I Exfoliate My Face?

Not all exfoliation is created equal. It is essential to be mindful of your skin type and work with it, not against it. For example, harsh or abrasive exfoliants, like a face scrub or sugar scrub, can be too rough on sensitive or dry skin. 

If you know that you have sensitive skin, try using a washcloth and a gentle cleanser or a mild exfoliating product to gently buff away the layers of dead cells with circular motions.

It is also helpful to note that exfoliating with benzoyl peroxide products may further damage your skin. This chemical is often found in acne medication and masks but can lead to irritation for many skin types. So check the label before you break out that new product. 

Mechanical Exfoliation

Mechanical exfoliation, also called physical exfoliation, entails scrubbing or buffing away dead skin with a physical abrasive like a washcloth, brush, or product with microbeads. As we mentioned, these methods work best for normal and oily skin types and are not ideal for sensitive skin.

Microdermabrasion is one form of mechanical exfoliation you can seek from a dermatologist. Since the efforts of this method of exfoliation are more profound, the results last longer. There is also less maintenance, which can be convenient for those who don’t have much free time to dedicate to skin care. 

Face scrubs with small granules or microbeads, loofahs, and scrubbing tools like brushes are all mechanical exfoliators. Using gentle, circular motions with any physical method of exfoliation can help you reveal fresher-looking skin without irritating it. For example, a cleansing brush mimics your hands' movements for a more effortless sweep of the dead skin and can be used with cleansers to double up on the benefits. 

Chemical Exfoliation

Chemical exfoliators use a chemical process to break down dead skin cell buildup. Like the ABCs, the BHAs and AHAs deserve a special place in our memory. AHAs are alpha hydroxy acids, and BHAs are beta hydroxy acids that support a healthy balance of sebum on the skin. In addition, AHAs and BHAs can help clear your complexion of dead skin cells and clogged pores. 

Good examples of AHAs are glycolic acid and lactic acid, which can both be used as mild chemical exfoliators or for chemical peels, one of the most potent but most effective types of exfoliation. Lactic acid works explicitly well for normal or combination skin types that have a small degree of sensitivity. Salicylic acid, known for its use in acne medication, is a popular BHA also used in chemical peels. 

Retinol works alongside chemical exfoliators to smooth out the skin’s appearance and even skin tone. Retinols are antioxidants with vitamin A origins. Alone, they help support the skin cell turnover process. 

Chemical Peels

Chemical peels entail a type of acid (AHA or BHA) being placed on the skin to clear away any dead skin cells, leaving a fresh face underneath. In addition, chemical peels cause your top layer of skin to peel away, revealing a new, rejuvenated complexion. Peels can even help reduce scarring and deep-set wrinkles when done correctly. Generally, dermatologists may offer AHA peels of nearly 70% stronger acids. Still, your dermatologist may recommend having your first chemical peel with acid on the weaker end of the spectrum (near 20%).

Although popular, this method can be harsh on sensitive skin and is best done under careful instruction or by a licensed dermatologist. Chemical peels can be adjusted in strength to match your skin type, but you should still expect a bit of discomfort after the process.

How Can NuFACE Help

Microcurrent technology targets muscles under the skin, mimics the body’s natural current, re-energizes muscles, increases collagen production, and firms the skin itself! NuFACE Microcurrent technology helps lift, tone, and contour the facial muscles and smooth out fine lines and wrinkles. Of course, the best way to maximize these effects is to use the right skincare products, including proper exfoliation to prep the skin for microcurrent treatment.

Prep-N-Glow Facial Wipes

The best way to prep skin for microcurrent treatment or to absorb skincare products is by cleansing and exfoliating with oil-free Prep-N-Glow Exfoliating Face Wipes. These dual-sided wipes feature micro-dots for gently buffing and exfoliating the skin and a smooth side for cleansing and hydrating the skin with antioxidants and hyaluronic acid. 

The wipes contain powerful antioxidants from grapeseed, maqui berries, and hyaluronic acid. In addition, Saccharomyces copper combines with zinc ferments and manganese to soothe irritation for smooth, supple skin.

Does Exfoliation Come With Risks?

Most exfoliation methods can be safely performed at home. However, if you have sensitive skin, visit your dermatologist before trying specific exfoliation methods, and steer clear of aggressive chemical peels. 

While exfoliating is helpful, be mindful of over-exfoliating. Cell turnover takes time, and if you’re constantly scrubbing away at the outermost layer of your skin, you may damage the skin barrier, resulting in sensitivity, breakouts, and uneven skin tone. To begin exfoliating, start slowly with once or twice weekly gentle exfoliating treatments and work up to more advanced methods.

If you have questions about the exfoliation process, you should consult a board-certified dermatologist for recommendations on products like cleansers or restorative moisturizers. They can also assess your skin and prescribe necessary medications or treatment methods to help ease sensitivity or breakouts. 

Follow Up With Moisturizer and SPF

For best results, nourishing and protecting the skin is vital after exfoliating. When you exfoliate the skin, you remove build-up from the outer layer of the skin, which leaves fresh, new skin cells exposed to the elements. To protect the skin, moisturize after exfoliating to lock in moisture and prevent dehydration.

After applying moisturizer, use SPF, especially if you are exfoliating in the morning. This helps to keep your skin protected from sun damage.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to exfoliating, the exact method for you largely depends on your skin type. For example, physical exfoliation can benefit regular to oily skin but may be too abrasive on sensitive skin. On the other hand, ingredients like AHAs and BHAs can offer practical and gentle chemical exfoliation, especially when paired with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid. 

Follow up your cleansing and exfoliating with a nourishing serum, moisturizer, and SPF before heading out for the day to keep your fresh skin soothed and protected. 


How to safely exfoliate at home | AAD

5 Ways to Exfoliate Your Skin Without Irritation | Cleveland Clinic

Shedding your skin | Harvard Health

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