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by Women's Health Updated 12/2021

You may be cleansing, moisturizing, and slathering on the sunscreen—but if you’re not exfoliating, your skin isn’t as healthy as it could be.

What is Exfoliation?

Exfoliation refers to the removal of the dead skin cells on the skin’s surface. Exfoliation can be performed mechanically, by using abrasive scrubs on the skin or chemically, by using scrubs that contain special kinds of acids that dissolve and remove the dead skin cells without scrubbing.

Why is Exfoliation Important?

As we age, the process of cell regeneration slows down. This means that the body is slower to shed skin cells and generate new ones. When old skin cells start to pile up on the surface of the skin, it can leave skin looking dull, rough, and dry. Furthermore, the build-up of dead skin cells can result in excess oil and clogged pores, leading to blemishes and acne.

Proper exfoliation removes the barrier of dead skin cells clogging the skin and uncovers fresh new cells below. This opens the way for moisturizing products to penetrate more deeply into the skin, which makes them more effective. In short, a regular exfoliating routine will leave your skin looking fresh and healthy.

What is the Best Way to Exfoliate?

The best type of exfoliation depends on your complexion and the health and sensitivity of your skin. If you have extremely sensitive skin or severe acne, you will want to choose an exfoliating product and method carefully. A professional esthetician can help you choose the method most appropriate for you.

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Most women use manual exfoliation on a regular basis (once a week) and reserve chemical exfoliation for more intermittent use.

If you use a manual exfoliating scrub, choose one with smooth, round granules rather than jagged, rough particles to avoid injuring your skin. Be gentle with the scrub—a light touch is all you need to slough off the dead skin cells. Any more than that and you’re likely to irritate your skin.

If you choose chemical exfoliation, peels and masks that contain alpha or beta hydroxy acids provide a deep level of exfoliation. If you have sensitive skin, you may wish to look for more natural peels that contain fruit derived enzymes.

Healthy, Shining Skin

If you want healthy, glowing skin, regular exfoliation is a must. Limit your exfoliation routine to once a week—over-exfoliating can leave your skin dry, irritated, and damaged. Take good care of your skin and put your best face forward.