How Often Should You Exfoliate Your Face?

5 min read

How Often Should You Exfoliate Your Face? How Often Should You Exfoliate Your Face?

You know exfoliation is an important part of an ideal skincare routine. Heck, you might even have a few different exfoliators in your bathroom cabinet right now. But as you reach for one between cleansing and moisturizing every once in a while, you might wonder… how regularly am I supposed to be doing this? How often should you exfoliate your face?

For cleansing and moisturizing, it’s an easy answer. But how often you should exfoliate your face is a little trickier to answer. Do it too often, and you could over-exfoliate and damage your skin… but too little and you might under-exfoliate, leaving your pores clogged and your skin dull.

Learn the ideal frequency of facial exfoliation for different skin types.

How often to exfoliate

Generally, you should exfoliate the skin on your face 1-2x a week. But the exact best frequency depends on your skin, your habits, and the current climate.

There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but there IS a right answer to this question, for you, at least. Generally, it’s a good idea to start using a gentle exfoliant once a week and then increase or decrease the frequency depending on how your skin reacts.

Related: How Often Should You Cleanse Your Face?

Exfoliation for Different Skin Types and Conditions

Exfoliating is one of the most important skincare routine steps for every skin type. It offers loads of healthy skin benefits, including:

  • Removes dead skin cells
  • Prevents acne
  • Brightens skin
  • Evens skin tone
  • Cleans pores
  • Reduces hyperpigmentation
  • Reduces the appearance of wrinkles
  • Softens and smoothes skin

That being said, exfoliation can and should look different depending on whether your skin is oily, combination, normal, dry, mature, or sensitive.

Here are a few tips on how to exfoliate and how often to exfoliate based on your skin type:

How to Exfoliate Oily Skin:

Exfoliate oily skin once or twice a week, ideally using a chemical exfoliator. Glycolic acid and salicylic acid are great active ingredients for oily skin. Cleansing daily with a sonic facial cleansing brush can add extra gentle exfoliation throughout the week without overdoing it.

How to Exfoliate Dry Skin: 

Exfoliate dry skin just once a week, using a gentle chemical exfoliant like lactic acid. Avoid astringents, BHAs, or anything alcohol-based – these may be too drying for you. 

If exfoliating your skin once a week leaves your skin feeling too dry and tight, reduce the frequency to once every other week.

How to Exfoliate Combination Skin: 

Exfoliate combination skin once or twice a week, ideally using a chemical exfoliator. Experts say azelaic acid and PHAs can be great for combination skin. If you’d like to focus exfoliation primarily on oily areas, consider choosing a stronger chemical exfoliant with salicylic acid and using it only on those problem spots.

How to Exfoliate Normal Skin: 

Exfoliate normal skin once a week, eventually working your way up to twice a week if it doesn’t dry out your skin too much. Use a gentle chemical exfoliant with PHAs.

How to Exfoliate Sensitive Skin: 

Exfoliate sensitive skin just once every two weeks, using a gentle chemical-based exfoliant. 

If you have rosacea or eczema, be especially gentle – look for gentle, non-irritating products including PHAs and/or azelaic acid and apply once every two weeks. Avoid harsh physical exfoliants.

How to Exfoliate Mature Skin: 

Exfoliate mature skin no more than once a week – intense exfoliation can damage mature skin. Use a very gentle scrub or a mild chemical exfoliant.

How to Exfoliate Dark Skin: 

Exfoliate dark skin once or twice a week. Black skin can be more prone to hyperpigmentation, acne, and certain types of scars, and overexfoliation can worsen those outcomes – start with once a week and increase to twice a week as long as you don’t notice any irritation or hyperpigmentation. As far as active ingredients go, go with acids like AHAs or BHAs rather than enzymes. 

How to Safely Exfoliate Your Face

For a skincare girly like you, exfoliating your face isn’t exactly rocket science – it’s as easy as scrubbing your face or patting a serum in. But here are a few important tips to help you exfoliate your face safely:

  • Avoid the eye area. The skin around the eyes is even more delicate than the rest of your face and doesn’t really need exfoliating anyway – avoid exfoliating on or around the eyes.
  • Ditch the rigorous scrubs. Avoid exfoliants with large, rough particles like walnut shells or apricot pits. They used to be all the rage, but they’ve been found to cause micro-tears in the skin.
  • Keep an eye on your skin. Even just once a week can be too much for sensitive skin. Dryness, tightness, breakouts, redness, or irritation can all be signs that you’re exfoliating too often. On the other hand, excessive oil, dead skin buildup, and clogged pores may be signs that you can try upping your exfoliation frequency.
  • Don’t exfoliate more than twice a week. Too much of a good thing turns into a bad thing – over-exfoliation can dry out your skin and lead to irritation.
  • Always use sunscreen. SPF was already a must, but now it’s even more of one – exfoliating can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.

Exfoliation Techniques and Tools

Exfoliation methods fall into two main categories: physical and chemical.

Chemical exfoliation uses active chemical ingredients to remove dead skin cells and reveal a healthy glow. Chemical exfoliants can sometimes get a bad rap for being harsh – and some of them absolutely deserve it – but as long as you can find a gentle one that’s a good fit for your skin type, it’s a great method.

Physical exfoliants are great, too. You can also use a scrub (a gentle one that won’t cause micro-tears, please!), konjac sponge, or exfoliating brush once or twice a week to literally scrub away dead skin cells.

Related: How to Exfoliate Your Face with a Brush

Sonic facial cleansing brushes like Petal 2 are a great way to maximize your weekly exfoliation routine. Petal 2 features circulating magnetic beads that pulsate over 10,000 times per minute to penetrate deep into your pores and offer a deeper, glowier clean. Use it daily with your favorite cleanser to deep clean and (very, very gently) exfoliate your skin, then use a targeted exfoliation treatment 1-2 times a week as previously outlined.

Related: How to Use a Facial Cleansing Brush and See Results

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