Ever since Gen-Z skincare guru Hyram Yarbro said that “face scrubs in general are trash” in a TikTok video last year, we’ve had a lot of unanswered questions about exfoliating.

The process – which generally involves using a granular substance to slough away dead skin cells – promises to improve skin clarity, texture and even help with issues like acne.


But is exfoliating worth the effort, and how often should you actually be including it in your pamper sessions? We put the question to skin experts and dermatologists. Here’s what they had to say…

Is exfoliating good for the skin?

Using a brush to exfoliate

“Exfoliating helps to remove dead skin cells from the outer layer of your skin and should be a key part of your skin care regime,” assures Dr Ross Perry medical director of Cosmedics skin clinics.

“It’s important to exfoliate the skin because, as we age, our skin’s natural ability to shed skin cells slows down – which can lead to dull, flaky and congested looking skin.”

Cleansing won’t do quite the same job as an exfoliator and, as Perry notes: “The dead skin cells left on the skin can inhibit other products working, so regular exfoliating gives the skin a good base for make-up.”

There are two types of exfoliators that can work with the skin. “Mechanical exfoliation involves physically scrubbing your skin’s surface with a scrub, dry brush, or another exfoliating skin care tool,” says Perry.

“Chemical exfoliation, meanwhile, involves the use of salicylic acid, alpha-hydroxy acids or enzymes to chemically break down surface build-up.” Products formulated with these exfoliating ingredients are often liquid exfoliators, but they can also be included in the formulas of face creams and cleansers.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by The INKEY List (@theinkeylist)

How often should you exfoliate?

It all depends on your skin type. “Some people can handle exfoliating the skin every two to three days, and for others it’s more a case of just once a week,” says Perry. “It’s important to see how your skin reacts to exfoliating the first time and go from there.”

Chemical exfoliators and exfoliating acids “work really well” to get rid of dead skin cells without overly scrubbing the skin, according to Perry, who has a couple of standout ingredients.

“Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA’s) will help to smooth the skin and unclog blocked pores, while BHA’s (beta-hydroxy acids) help to reduce breakouts, control excess oil on the skin and help with inflammation.”

He continues: “For acne-prone skin, look for an exfoliator containing salicylic acid as it helps to penetrate deep into the skin’s surface. If you’ve got sensitive skin, look for products containing fruit extracts such as pumpkin, papaya and pineapple, as these products help to break down dead skin cells without causing irritation.”

Can over exfoliating be bad for the skin?

In a word, yes. “It’s important to judge your skin type when exfoliating,” says Perry.

“Scrubbing too hard can damage the outer layer of the skin and people with sensitive skin can actually cause further breakouts if they’re exfoliating too frequently.”

For oily skin, you can get away with exfoliating two to three times a week to keep skin healthy looking, says Perry, but for those who have dry skin and tight feeling skin, exfoliating isn’t recommended more than once or twice: “That’s because this skin type tends to be lacking in natural oils, so it isn’t necessary.”

Rocking combination skin? “Two or three times a week is perfectly fine, but you might want to focus more on the areas of the face which are more oily,” says Perry.

Is exfoliating different from dermaplaning?

“Dermaplaning is a pain-free method of removing dead skin cells and unwanted facial hair at the same time,” says Sara Waterman, senior aesthetician at Young LDN.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Dermaplaning By Holly (@dermaplaningbyholly)

Unlike at-home exfoliating, it must be performed by a trained aesthetician, as dermaplaning involves using an exfoliating blade to gently scrape dead cells and hair.

Many people anecdotally say that it’s a far less invasive than a chemical peel, but creates the same smooth and even-toned results. If you have acne or cold sores though, dermaplaning probably isn’t for you, as Waterman says it can spread bacteria and cause further inflammation of the skin.

Any do’s and don’ts with exfoliating?

“Only exfoliate the skin at night,” says Perry. “This is because you’re essentially taking off the top layer of skin so you might feel a little sensitive. You’re also more susceptible to sun damage if you exfoliate during the day, so it’s important to allow the skin to repair itself overnight.”

You should always wear sunscreen too, and not just on sunny days either. “This is a given year round, but skin will always be more prone to UV and environmental damage for a few days after exfoliating.”

It’s easy to overdo exfoliating, because it feels so great to wash away any unwanted debris, but Perry says you should always listen to your skin and make sure you’re opting for the right ingredients.

“Don’t immediately rinse off a chemical exfoliator as it needs time to do its job and dissolve the dead skin cells,” he adds. “Try to wait at least 15 mins before gently rinsing it off.

“You should also look for products containing alpha hydroxy acids, which are best for dry and sun-damaged skin, and appear under the ingredients glycolic acid and lactic acid.”

He concludes: “For acne-prone and oily skin opt for beta hydroxy acids, which are found in products that list salicylic acid as a main ingredient.”

Best-selling gentle facial exfoliating creams

Stuck for inspiration? Check out our list of best-selling Amazon products!

SaleBestseller No. 1
ARGAN BEAUTY DEEP Carrot and Seabuckthorn Moisturiser - Anti Aging Face Cream Reduces Fine Lines...
  • ✅SEA BUCKTHORN INFUSED FACIAL MOISTURIZER - Bursting with the goodness of omega 3, 6, 7, and 9, sea buckthorn seed oil works best for dry and mature skin. It repairs skin, regenerates skin cells,...
  • ✅DAY AND NIGHT ORGANIC FACE CREAM - Carrot-infused face moisturiser cream that prevents your skin from being damaged by UV rays bringing out a natural glow. Perfect to be used in day and night time....
  • ✅REDUCES SIGNS OF AGING - The carrot and sea buckthorn seed oil-infused moisturizer help to remove tan from skin and fights signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles, crow’s feet, etc. It...
SaleBestseller No. 2
Elemis Papaya Enzyme Peel, Gentle Face Exfoliator Infused with Natural Fruit Enzymes, Non-Abrasive...
  • purify and regenerate tired or sensitive skin
  • Extracts of bladderwrack and sunflower remineralise and condition
  • Exfoliate and purify tired, lackluster skin. Non-abrasive, skin is left soft, revitalized and radiant.
SaleBestseller No. 3
NIVEA Gentle Face Cleansing Cream Wash for Dry & Sensitive Skin (150 ml), Sensitive Exfoliating Face...
  • Sensitive cleansing: Facial cleanser removes impurities and dead skin cells and helping to unclog pores. Leaves skin oil-free and cleansed
  • Gentle cleansing: Exfoliating face wash or normal and combination skin for a fresh skin feeling. Pore cleanser removes residue and excess oils
  • Caring formula: The face cleanser formula with Almond Oil is mild to the skin and makes sure skin is cleansed, refined, looking healthy and beautiful
Bestseller No. 4
Face Scrub, Premium Exfoliating Charcoal Face Scrub 70ml by PROCOAL - Instantly Reveals Skin's...
  • ★ FAST, EFFECTIVE & ALL-IN-1 EXFOLIATING FACE SCRUB - Powerful black charcoal face scrub helps draw out excess oil and pore-congesting debris like a magnet from dull and dry skin. The potent active...
  • ★ ACHIEVE A RADIANT & CLEANSED COMPLEXION IN MINUTES - This pore cleansing exfoliator is deal for your nose, cheeks, chin and neck. Expertly manufactured in the UK, this face scrub removes toxins...
  • ★ EXFOLIATOR, CLEANSER & DETOXIFIER - Use charcoal face scrub 2-3 times a week to gently exfoliate, cleanse and detoxify your skin. Packed with potent active ingredients, this facial scrub is far...
SaleBestseller No. 5
Neutrogena Refreshingly Clear Daily Exfoliator, 150ml
  • Deeply cleanses to help prevent imperfections without over drying skin
  • For a clearer radiant complexion
  • With pink grapefruit and Vitamin C

Last update on 2021-09-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

You may also be interested in…

Wise Living Magazine may receive a small commission to help support the running of this site from purchases made from links on this page, or some links may have been sponsored to be included in the article. Affiliate or sponsored links do not influence our editorial or articles published by Wise Living.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.