How to Exfoliate The Right Way for Your Skin Type

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but like so many things in life, starting with a fresh canvas often yields the best results. Painting your bedroom walls? You clean, sand, prime, then paint. DIY manicure? Buff, file, condition, then shellac. Want the most out of your skincare products? It starts with exfoliation.

From irregular texture to unpredictable cell turnover, dead skin and clogged pores, a gentle scrub/buff/acid (pick your poison) can go a long way — not just in the appearance of your skin, but also in its overall health. That said, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution: the right product, tool and frequency varies from face to face, skin type to skin type. So before you start scrubbing, be sure you’re taking the right approach to fresh, smooth skin.

Dry Skin

Though it may seem counterproductive to scrub already-thirsty skin, it’s good practice to exfoliate 1-3 times a week with an oil- or balm-based physical exfoliant. Look for one with ultra-fine ingredients like sea salt or sugar to gently exfoliate while the essential acids in the oil base moisturize skin and prevent it from feeling dry or tight when you’re done.

If you’re skittish about a physical exfoliant on dry skin, consider a gentle chemical exfoliant like fruit enzymes. (Look for papaya-based products.) These wonders of the natural world literally eat away dead skin without any rubbing by breaking down the inactive proteins found in the dead cells and eliminating them. Start with a weekly treatment and increase to twice a week if your skin feels ok.

Oily Skin

Just because your sebaceous glands are working overtime doesn’t mean you should be matching them with how often you exfoliate. On the contrary, the more you scrub and the harsher the ingredients, the oilier you’ll get. Instead, exfoliate 2-3 times a week with acids like alpha-hydroxy and beta-hydroxy acids — not a scrub — for a bright, glowy complexion.

Combination Skin

Similarly to oily skin, combination skin should be exfoliated with a gentle acid 2-3 times a week. Look for a serum, cleanser or mask with AHAs like glycolic, lactic and malic acid. If your combo skin is on the sensitive side, grab a physical exfoliant with fine micro-particles (jojoba beads FTW) to do the job instead of an acid that may cause irritation.

Sensitive Skin

Don’t fear the exfoliants, sensitive skinned people of the world! But do proceed with caution — no more than once a week and with the right products, namely fruit enzymes like papaya, pineapple and bromelain. These enzymes gently release dead skin cells and debris to promote healthy cell turnover without inflaming or aggravating sensitive skin. 

Normal Skin

If your skin is totally normal and unproblematic — mazel tov! Don’t change a thing. That said, if you did want to get into the exfoliation game, AHA 2-3 times a week will do the trick to help continue dead skin cell turnover. More into a physical option? Look for a fine, granular scrub and massage it on oh-so-gently so as not to strip your skin.

And of course, after all exfoliation, no matter your skin type, make sure to moisturize right away to keep skin healthy and bright.


+ Here for all cruelty-free natural exfoliants!


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I’ve actually never heard of oil-based exfoliator before, but I guess it makes sense for dry skin. Will be on the lookout for these exfoliators from now on!

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

3 years ago

Super helpful tips, thanks for sharing :)


3 years ago

Great post! :)