The Right Way to Exfoliate Based On Your Skin Type

Spring may only recently be in the air (and for some of us, it’s still just a dream), but really, is it ever too early to start thinking about summer? I say no, and as such, that also means it’s never too early to think about summer skin prep.

One of the most crucial aspects of getting your face ready for heat, sweat, humidity and extra SPF is the all-important exfoliation. Not only will regular exfoliation help shed the dead skin cells I’m sure have piled throughout the winter, revealing an undoubtedly glorious layer of fresh skin underneath, it also helps prep and prime skin to receive whatever products you apply after a good sloughing. And with summer approaching and a skincare overhaul likely on your horizon, now is as good a time as ever to pick that scrub habit back up.

But! Do proceed with caution. Not all exfoliators or exfoliant tools are created equally, particularly when it comes to the type of skin you’ve been blessed with. There’s so much misinformation floating around about how to exfoliate your face, and the last thing I want is for you to use the wrong stuff, have a bad experience, and never do it again. What a tragedy! So, to set the record straight, here’s how you should be exfoliating based on your skin type. Adios, dead skin cells!


If you have oily skin…don’t overdo it!

So many people with oily skin feel that they need to dry it out in order to balance it, but that couldn’t be further from the truth, particularly when it comes to exfoliation. To keep yourself from overdoing it, opt for a chemical exfoliant over a physical one. Alpha hydroxy (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) work to break down the bonds that hold dull, dead cells on the skin’s surface. Those gently broken bonds then let dead skin shed naturally to reveal smoother, brighter skin underneath.

If you have sensitive skin…gommage is your friend.

Most standard exfoliators — even acid- and enzyme-based ones — will be too harsh for reactive skin. To make sure you’re using the gentlest stuff possible on your face, you’ll want to use rice bran or oatmeal powders that you add water to, forming a paste. It may not feel as satisfying as a traditional scrub, but trust me when I say your skin will thank you for not irritating or scratching the crap out of it.

If you have dry skin…stick with enzymes.

Scrubs can be incredibly harsh for dry, thirsty skin, so skip ‘em. To effectively and safely exfoliate your dry skin, you’ll want to consider fruit enzymes that eat away at the dead skin instead of physically sloughing them off with grains, beads or sugar crystals. Exfoliating, fruit enzyme-based masks are also great for dry skin since the fruit extracts are also moisturizing, so they hydrate while they exfoliate.

One thing to keep in mind: How frequently you should exfoliate is unique to you and your skin, not necessarily based on what type of skin you have. Consider all the other products and tools you’re using that may already do some light exfoliating — serums that contain acids, retinol, a washcloth to double cleanse — and start slow. Try exfoliating just once a week at first. If your skin reacts well, or, more precisely, doesn’t react badly, try it every few days.


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Never knew that exfoliation could be specified to skin type too! This is so helpful, lifesaver for my dry skin!

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

6 years ago

Love this post! x

6 years ago

Thanks for sharing helpful article. Really love this post.

6 years ago

Thanks for sharing such useful information on how to Exfoliate any skin type.