Exfoliating away dead skin cells is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your skin - but it can also be one of the most confusing.
Get it right and you’ll have glowing, healthy-looking skin.
But get it wrong and your face will look like you’ve attacked it with sandpaper.
For men, things get even more complicated because you have to factor in shaving as well.
Below we set out why you need to exfoliate, which exfoliator is the right one for your skin type and how to fit it around shaving and/or your beard.
We want to make sure you get exfoliation right.
Why do I need to exfoliate? What are the benefits?
Exfoliation is the one step in your skincare routine that will really make your skin glow.
It eliminates dead skin cells, accelerates cell renewal and stimulates your skin’s natural repair mechanism.
This leads to an instant improvement in the appearance of your skin
- the texture of your skin looks smoother
- there’s an improvement in overall skin tone
- there’s less chance of ingrown hairs
- allows for better absorption of your moisturizer
It also increases blood circulation to the skin, bringing nutrients to the skin’s surface. This in turn leads to a healthy, vibrant and glowing complexion.
Why is it so important for men?
It’s the build-up of dead skin cells that can lead to annoying razor bumps and ingrown hairs when you shave. Exfoliating them away stops these from forming and goes a long way to improving the overall texture of your skin.
And if you have a beard, exfoliation will keep beard dandruff at bay, improve the texture of your skin and keep the hair follicles clear and healthy, encouraging strong growth.
What can I use to exfoliate my face?
Exfoliation isn’t only limited to the usual grainy facial scrubs, which can be too harsh for your face, especially if you have sensitive skin.
Essentially there are two different types of exfoliant you can use – physical and chemical.
- Facial Scrubs
- Facial brushes and electronic cleaning devices
- Sponges or wash cloths
- Natural substances such as Alpha Hydroxy Acids, either included in your face wash or as a separate exfoliating lotion
- Professional chemical peel
What is the best way to exfoliate my face?
A lot depends on personal preference and your skin type, but we would always recommend a gentle, natural chemical exfoliant as the best way to go.
And here’s why…
Exfoliating Scrubs - the mechanical action of the exfoliating beads against the epidermis can cause micro-tears, making your skin more susceptible to environmental aggressors and irritation.
But if you prefer the satisfying ritual of manually sloughing of dead skin cells try to choose one that is cream-based and suitable for sensitive skins too. Avoid fruit pits and nut shell in scrubs. The jagged particles can damage your skin’s natural barrier. Instead choose a scrub based on smooth, round granules.
Facial brushes and electronic cleaning devices, sponges, wash cloths – whilst these tools can be quite effective, there’s always the risk of spreading bacteria unless you keep them scrupulously clean.
Professional chemical peel – not for the faint hearted! Whilst a professional peel is undoubtedly the most effective exfoliator, it is also the harshest. Always go to a trusted and certified practitioner and take extra care of your skin in the sun afterwards. The risk of developing sun spots and sun damage are greatly increased after a chemical peel.
Natural chemical exfoliants - (less scary than they sound!)
A natural chemical exfoliant, and a policy of ‘little and often’ is a much kinder way to go.
Gently exfoliating everyday using a mild Alpha-Hydroxy Acid, like Glycolic Acid or Lactic Acid, is the best option for your skin. These can be found incorporated in a face wash, or as a separate exfoliating lotion.
Natural chemicals tend to exfoliate in a much more uniform way. On top of that, Alpha Hydroxy Acids also act as antioxidants, which stimulate the skin’s natural repair mechanisms and collagen production, as well as gently removing dead skin cells.
So we advocate gently exfoliating everyday using our Daily Face Wash which contains a mild AHA, Lactic Acid. Leaving it on your skin for an additional two minutes will increase the exfoliating effect.
How often should I exfoliate my face?
This depends on the method you are using and also the sensitivity of your skin.
As a general rule the following schedule should apply:
Is it better to exfoliate in the morning or wait until evening?
There isn’t an exact answer to this question. Again it depends on the exfoliant you’re using and how your skin normally behaves.
If you’re using our exfoliating Daily Face Wash, then it’s perfectly safe to use both am and pm. In the morning it will clear away any excess oil that has appeared during the night and brighten your skin to start your day. In the evening, as well as washing away the debris and sweat of the day, it will eliminate any dead skin cells that have built up.
However, if you’re using a facial scrub exfoliator in the morning then it’s important not to be too rough or you’ll walk around with bright red skin all day!
If you’re planning on using a stronger chemical exfoliating lotion, a night time application would be safer as some can irritate the skin in sunlight. Erring on the side of caution would be our way to go.
Is it possible to exfoliate too much?
If you are using an exfoliating scrub it should only be used once or twice a week maximum. Over-exfoliating will dry out and irritate the surface of your skin, ultimately causing it to produce more oil to compensate.
But if you are using a more gentle exfoliator then it’s safe to use twice every day.
EXFOLIATION AND YOUR SKIN TYPE
I have sensitive skin. How often should I exfoliate, and what should I use?
You may need to experiment to see what your skin will tolerate without it becoming too dry. But it’s best to steer clear of any rough grainy scrubs, or strong chemical exfoliants.
Our Daily Face Wash can be used every day, even if you have sensitive skin, and won’t leave your skin feeling tight and dry.
What about other skin types?
Dry skin? You need to avoid any strong exfoliants that will irritate your skin and cause it to dry out even more.
So, as with sensitive skins, a gentle exfoliating face wash is your best answer.
Oily skin? Exfoliating every day can be very beneficial to an oily skin. It will effectively unclog pores, reduce blackheads and decrease the chance of breakouts.
However, one of the most common errors in those with oily skin is over-exfoliation using harsh agents. This will dry out and irritate the surface of your skin, ultimately causing it to produce more oil to compensate. And a vicious circle will be created.
Again, this can be avoided by using a gentle exfoliating face wash. By adopting a policy of ‘little and often’ your skin will get all of the immediate benefits of exfoliation, but without prompting any irritation or unwanted increase in oiliness.
Can I exfoliate if I have acne?
If you have acne you may think that exfoliation isn't a good idea, and it's true that scrubbing away at skin that’s already red and inflamed is not wise.
However, exfoliating away dead skin cells is extremely important in the treatment of acne. This is because acne-causing bacteria actually thrive on dead skin cells.
Exfoliation not only limits the number of cells that remain on your skin but also reduces the amount of time they remain. Both of these benefits help to remove a key factor in the cause of acne.
But if you have acne-prone skin, you should avoid grainy scrubs at all costs! They can inflame your skin through excessive scrubbing action - and irritating an already inflamed skin is not a good idea.
Whilst facial brushes and sponges can be a breeding ground for more bacteria.
Acne-prone skin types should stick to gentle chemical exfoliants, which dissolve the glue that holds dead skin cells together – without any irritating scrub action.
While all chemical exfoliants are excellent at this, one is perfectly formulated to help in the treatment of acne: Salicylic Acid.
Most people who suffer from acne also have an increased rate of sebum or oil production. Salicylic acid is most soluble in oil, and so this ingredient can easily travel deep into pores.
In addition, Salicylic Acid is:
Salicylic Acid tackles the acne cycle from multiple sides, which is why this ingredient is so effective.
EXFOLIATION AND SHAVING
Should I exfoliate before or after shaving?
Definitely exfoliate first on days that you shave. Removing the dead skin cells beforehand means you can shave with less pressure, and so less chance of irritation – and avoid ingrown hairs. But again, gentleness is the key!
What’s the best way to exfoliate in your shaving routine?
Shaving already provides quite a rigorous mechanical exfoliation of the skin in the beard area, so using a rough, harsh exfoliant before you shave will cause more irritation than is necessary.
The best option is to use a gentle exfoliating face wash all over your face. This will give your entire face the benefit of exfoliation but without over-sensitising the beard area prior to shaving.
Our Daily Face Wash will do an excellent job of removing the dead skin cells, but without making the area dry or sensitised.
EXFOLIATION AND YOUR BEARD
How can I exfoliate when I have a beard?
Beard dandruff can ruin even the sharpest look! It appears because the facial hair creates a barrier to any skincare that you use. While the rest of your face is smooth, nourished and hydrated by your skincare, the skin underneath your beard becomes dry and flaky.
So bearded guys need to make some adjustments.
The following two steps, done daily, will banish any existing dandruff, while strengthening the skin to prevent further flaking.
Firstly, exfoliate with a beard brush. The brush will lift all the ready-to-flake skin from your face.
Secondly, clean with a lactic-acid facial cleaner – like our Daily Face Wash - which will naturally dissolve the dead skin that the brush has lifted up.
THE MAIN TAKEAWAY ON EXFOLIATION: GENTLY DOES IT
The more aggressive the method, the less it should be done – and the more care you need to take. Aggressive methods are not our preferred way to exfoliate, but if you go for it, make sure that you space treatments out to avoid harming your skins natural barrier. And always be scrupulous about applying sunscreen afterwards.
Ultimately though we would always recommend a policy of ‘little and often’ to get the maximum benefits of exfoliation, with no downside.
If there’s anything we’ve missed, or any question you’d like answered, please leave a comment below. We’re here to help.