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Skincare 101: How to Exfoliate Your Face & Body for GLOWING skin source: shutterstock
Best Festival Accessories Under $50 for Coachella and Beyond
Best Festival Accessories Under $50 for Coachella and Beyond

Skincare 101: How to Exfoliate Your Face & Body for GLOWING skin

Written by Elaine Tu

Exfoliating is the act of getting rid of dirt, grime, and dead skin cells from the surface of your skin. So, yes you should know how to exfoliate your face and body (the right way) and make it a habit to exfoliate at least 2-3 times weekly! You might be getting away with just washing your face with cleanser and being done with it, but when it comes to your skin health (look & feel, too!), exfoliation is a must. Not only are you getting rid of all that sh*t from your face, but you are stimulating the production of new skin cells, a key process of your skin’s natural anti-aging.

Exfoliating your skin helps to prevent wrinkles and preserve youth. It can also improve dull, dry skin, unclog pores, treat blemishes (and prevent them), and improve uneven skin tone in one fell swoop.

So, you’re probably wondering: what is the best exfoliator for my skin type? Well, we’ll help you choose one that’s right for you. Just be sure you’re taking all the steps to resurface, repair and rejuvenate your skin to avoid texture and clogged pores (and prevent wrinkles). Exfoliation is one step in a full skincare routine, so learn more about the steps you should take in your routine!

Types of Exfoliation Products

Exfoliators can come in many forms: active ingredients in cleansers, toners, serums, essences, moisturizers, masks, and even devices—to name a few. There are a ton of ways you can introduce this step into your regimen, and we’re here to help you find a convenient and effective one.

How to Exfoliate Your Face (the right way)

There are a few ways to exfoliate your face and get rid of all those dead skin cells and stimulate cell production (pssst: an anti-aging technique!). The traditional method involves using your hands, facial scrubs, or a wet cloth.

Another method that has really been trending in the beauty world in the past few years is chemical exfoliating. We’ll even talk about electronic devices that were specially made for scrubbing the outer layer of your skin and what our faves are, so stay tuned!

Manual/Traditional Exfoliation

With any of the methods for exfoliation, be sure you’re being as gentle as possible. You don’t ever want to overdo the scrubbing on your face. You’re probably most familiar with facial scrubs as your exfoliating step. Don’t get us wrong—they’re great—but it can be easy to go overboard with scrubbing with abrasive beads or particles. Somehow got it in our heads that we need to scrub the crap out of our faces to get all the dirt off… but let’s stop doing that. When using a facial scrub with scrubbing particles like an apricot scrub or a brown sugar scrub—even a homemade one—be sure to use circular motions gently in tiny sections as you make your way around the face. Careful! Redness or bumpiness as a result of exfoliating can mean you’re over-exfoliating.

Chemical Exfoliation (aka Hydroxy Acids)

Chemicals—EEK! Acids—AHH! Yes, these sound crazy, but to clear the air here, ‘chemical’ exfoliants like glycolic acid, are substances derived from natural sources such as sugar cane, milk, and even apples! They are effective, widely used, and safe. If you aren’t sure or have had issues in the past with other face products or experience sensitivity when putting anything on your skin, please consult your physician or dermatologist.

As far as we’re concerned, these chemical exfoliants have been super effective in helping keep our skin fresh, smooth, and have even helped fade acne scars! It can also be gentler on your skin than manually exfoliating since the chemical exfoliants are doing all the work for you—no scrubbing required. Read the instructions on the labels and swipe onto skin gently (no rubbing).

Note: Some chemical exfoliants with higher concentrations instruct that you only use 1-2 times a week, so be sure to read the instructions and warnings before using any new product!

To choose a chemical exfoliant, evaluate your skin type.

If you tend to get oily all over your face (test this by using an oil blotting paper), you are probably in the market for something that will control your skin’s sebum production, balance pH levels, and whisk away oil and grime from your pores.

For dry skin types, you probably suffer from flaky skin or tightness around your face (especially after cleansing). Severely dried-out skin can result in the formation of wrinkles, so it’s important to exfoliate to remove the dried skin and to moisturize properly afterward to keep skin supple and promote cell turnover.

If you have combination skin, you have a little bit of both—oily in some areas, dry in others. Some chemical exfoliants work for both, attracting oil and sebum whilst sloughing away dry, flaky skin.

Chemical exfoliants you need to know about:

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

skincare: how to exfoliate your face and body for glowing skin source: theordinary

AHAs are effective on epidermal and the dermal levels, so they’re able to get down to the source of your skin issues, resulting in sloughing off dull skin and promoting cellular renewal. This promotes smoother skin, fades wrinkles (and prevents them), lightens age spots or discoloration, and decreases blemishes. Studies have also shown AHAs to increase collagen density (the thing that preserves your youth!), skin hydration, elasticity, and tone. AHAs are synthetically derived to keep the acids stable and make the product friendly for people with allergies to natural substances. This also controls its strength to be less irritating with normal use, making it gentler on the skin.

Glycolic Acid– One of the most commonly used AHAs, derived from sugar cane
Lactic Acid– another common AHA, derived from milk
Citric acid– derived from citrus fruits
Malic acid– derived from apples and pears

Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs)

Salicylic Acid: derived from the Willow Bark Tree
Citric Acid: derived from citrus fruits (depending on the formula, this can be considered an AHA or BHA)

Exfoliating Devices & Tools


skincare: how to exfoliate your face and body for glowing skin

Dermaplaning is something that’s been around for years (we’re talking mom’s generation), but quickly becoming more mainstream with mentions from beauty bloggers like Carli Bybel and others. It’s a tool with a razor specially made for scraping off the outer layer of your skin. Don’t worry, dermaplaning tools are made for the tiny facial hairs and dead skin so you won’t knick yourself unless you’re doing something terribly wrong. You can even find angled/disposable razors that serve the same purpose. These can be a little scarier to use, so be sure you’re using the right angle and slight movements of your wrist to safely remove the dead skin and peach fuzz from your face. You’ll even be surprised at how smooth your makeup application is after dermaplaning! It’s amazing.

Exfoliating Brushes

skincare: how to exfoliate your face and body for glowing skin source: Sephora

Rotating exfoliating brush devices like the well-known and extremely popular Clarisonic, effectively scrub your face without the effort of scrubbing with your fingers alone. With these devices, you can use your normal facial cleanser or whatever cleanser works for you, squeeze a pea-sized amount onto your brush head, and move slowly in circular motions around your face. The great thing about devices like this is that you can get a deeper clean than just using your hands alone and aren’t restricted to buying facial scrubs. You can also change the brush heads depending on your skin type, and for sanitary reasons.

Silicone Exfoliation Devices

skincare: how to exfoliate your face and body for glowing skin source: foreo

Silicone exfoliation devices like the Luna are also widely used, and less bulky options for all you travelers out there. You can’t change the bristles unless you buy a whole new device, but they design different patterns of exfoliating bristles for different skin types so you pretty much don’t need to worry about that! It’s also arguably more sanitary than bristles from a traditional brush head, and will save you money on replacement brush heads!


At-home Microdermabrasion Kits

On the pricier end, microdermabrasion kits could be a catch-all to all your skin issues. Running about $200-300 for a good one, these machines will allow you to get the spa-like treatment without the spa. If you plan or need to go to the esthetician more than a handful of times, this machine could pay for itself. However, be sure you are carefully following the instructions to do this safely. If done properly, these devices can help smooth skin’s surface, extract blackheads and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

For the Bod

Yes, your body needs exfoliator love too. The build-up of dead skin cells on any surface of the skin will result in clogged pores and even some intense blackheads, dry/dull skin, wrinkles, breakouts or acne, rashes, infections and even ingrown hairs—yikes! Need more motivation to scrub your body? Check out Dr. Pimple Popper (viewer discretion is advised). Scrubbing your skin is also amazing for helping blood circulation throughout the body, so grab your weapon of choice, and let’s get scrubbin’!

Body Scrubs


skincare: how to exfoliate your face and body for glowing skin source: shutterstock

Bring on the LUSH products! We’re obsessed with an invigorating body scrub to really get your body refreshed, clean, and glowy. You’ll find a ton of eco-friendly natural products that are good for your skin and smell amazing. We prefer all natural products because they’re gentle on your skin but polish as well as any synthetics microbeads (plus, they’re better for the environment).

Loofahs & Body Brushes

skincare: how to exfoliate your face and body for glowing skin source: amazon

If you don’t like fragrant body scrubs or are staying away from microbeads and things of the like, we feel you. A faithful friend is the loofah, and its trusty cousin, the body brush. Loofahs come in both synthetic plastic materials and all natural materials. The body brush is usually a long paddle-shaped brush (designed for you to reach your legs and back with minimal effort) with bristles that do all the heavy lifting. They’re both great for scrubbing your skin with your favorite body wash, or if you have one prescribed by your doctor.

According to Sejal Shah M.D., a New York-based dermatologist, natural loofahs should be replaced every 3-4 weeks and plastic ones should be replaced every two months. You should hang them in a dry area of your shower or bath where they can dry completely when not in use. If they develop any spots or mold, throw them away immediately; you don’t need that sh*t on your body!

Wash Cloth

For you sensitive skin babes, scrubs that contain fragrances, or loofahs and brushes can be too harsh on your skin. Luckily, you can also use a washcloth to gently exfoliate your body! Wet your washcloth while you’re in the shower and use it as you would with a pouf, loofah, or body brush. It’ll give you the scrub you need to get rid of dead cells without being overly abrasive.

Professional Services


If skincare products aren’t working for you or if you have the means, professional estheticians can cater to your exfoliation needs to bring you smooth skin through facials and non-invasive services like Microdermabrasion. During a microdermabrasion treatment, the esthetician will use a machine that uses tiny crystals or a diamond tip, buffing and polishing your skin. Some machines also vacuum the dead skin cells from your skin. This service usually takes around 30 minutes. This results in an overall rejuvenation of skin for soft smooth skin, and faded acne scars or uneven tone. It should leave your skin feeling refreshed and should not be at all painful.

Chemical Peel

What is a chemical peel? It’s a technique used by estheticians and dermatologists to apply a chemical solution to the skin (face, neck, and hands), which will exfoliate and peel off the outer layer of skin. This leaves the skin smoother and clearer. Chemical peels can help heal acne scars, crow’s feet, wrinkles, and more! Read more about chemical peels and whether or not this is the solution for you.

Top Products for Exfoliating

If you’re new to this, don’t worry—we’ve got a few tried and true products that will help to brighten your complexion and help you fight hyperpigmentation, clogged pores, and wrinkles.

Exfoliating Cleanser

The Kate Somerville Exfolikate Cleanser is a holy grail item for a lot of beauty bloggers and highly revered for its gentle exfoliating properties–it really works! The granules in this cleanser aren’t too harsh which makes it perfect for daily use.

skincare: how to exfoliate your face and body for glowing skin source: Sephora



This AHA/BHA toner works to fight your skin troubles and, just like the name says–it helps with clarifying those pores and lifting away dead skin onto your cotton pad and off your face. We love this because it contains both AHA and BHA chemicals as we learned above, help with different skin issues. The toner step is a step in your skincare routine that you shouldn’t miss.

skincare: how to exfoliate your face and body for glowing skin source: amazon

 At-home Chemical Peel

Yes, you can skip the expensive appointments at the esthetician’s office and do a chemical peel at home instead! These little wipes pack a punch and swipe away that outer layer of skin, revealing beautiful new skin underneath! It’s a 2-step so don’t forget to do the swipes, wait for your face to dry, and follow with your favorite essences, serums, and moisturizer.




skincare: how to exfoliate your face and body for glowing skin source: Sephora

Peel-off Mask

Honestly, who wouldn’t want to look like a metallic orange extraterrestrial being? All jokes aside, this mask is the peel-off you need to resurface and get glowing, soft, smooth skin. Tip: make sure you apply enough so that your mask comes off in one piece (the layer should be completely opaque).

skincare: how to exfoliate your face and body for glowing skin source: Sephora


Japanese Wash Cloth

Aside from normal plastic loofahs, opt for a sustainable, organic Japanese washcloth. You can scrub away at any nook and cranny of your body and not have to worry about polluting our environment with more plastic (ew!). It mimics a towel so you can easily pull it across your back to get those hard-to-reach areas. These do a great job of scrubbing and exfoliating your body so you can avoid clogged pores (aka acne and blackheads) and even ingrown hairs!

skincare: how to exfoliate your face and body for glowing skin source: Amazon

Body Scrubs

We love Lush and the wonderful cruelty-free, all natural products they produce. Their bath products are amazing and definitely worth a try! These scrubs will help smooth your skin and get rid of any dead skin (goodbye winter dryness), leaving your skin supple and smooth. For the most benefit from your bath exfoliation, be sure to apply body lotion right after towel drying your body so your skin can absorb all that moisture!