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How to Exfoliate your Face: The Ultimate Guide

how to exfoliate your face: the ultimate guide

Hello there. Having an exfoliating routine can either make or mar you skin. It could be the difference between a smooth, texture free skin and a rough looking one; what you need to get results from your skin care products and routine and what you need to take your makeup game to a 100. Seems like a plus, right? But did you also know that going about it the wrong way can be damaging? Before you dive in, I want you to know that over here at femmeaffairs, we think every skin is beautiful. If you have smooth, clear and texture free skin, great! But if you don’t, know that your imperfections make you perfect! I, for one, do not have clear skin but its one of those things that make me, me. In addition to the other articles in our #grandfemmebasicskincareseries, this post dwells on “how to exfoliate your face”.

 You probably think that there isn’t any science to exfoliating your face and all you have to do is lather your face with your exfoliant, do some circular motions, and you’re done.  But do you know that going about it wrongly can cause great damage? Before we go into the topic of discussion, how to exfoliate your face proper, let’s touch on skin types.

Skin Types

how to exfoliate your face: the ultimate guide

Normal skin: Skincare experts love this skin type and commonly refer to it as well balanced skin. It’s indeed well balanced, as it is neither too dry or oily. It produces sebum in just the right amount and because of this, it’s less prone to acne. 

Dry Skin: this skin type produces less sebum than normal skin. It is characterized by rough texture, skin tightness after your facial Cleansing routine and sometimes, dullness in color.

Oily Skin: this skin type produces more sebum than normal skin and it always has a shine to it. People with this skin type are more prone to acne and have enlarged pores. 

Sensitive Skin: with this skin type,you have to be careful of what you put and do to your face/skin. You’re prone to irritation and reactions which usually come in the form of redness, acne and burning. 

Combination Skin: This skin type is a mixture of oily and dry skin. Usually, the t-zone which consists of your forehead, nose, chin and the area below your mouth tend to be oily while your cheeks will be dry. 

What to Exfoliate your Face with 

how to exfoliate your face: the ultimate guide

To Exfoliate your face, you need an exfoliant. Generally, they’re two types of exfoliants: physical exfoliants and chemical exfoliants.

Physical Exfoliants

how to exfoliate your face: the ultimate guide

A good example of this is your face scrub. you know the one with little granules in them. With physical exfoliation what you do is use friction to remove dead skin cells from your face. If you’re going to choose this manner of exfoliation, you really do have to consider the thickness and sensitivity of your skin, along with the size of the particles/granules in your exfoliant.

You could decide to make your own DiY scrub or buy from a trusted skincare brand. Either way, they’re a certain things to consider before choosing your exfoliating scrub.

Large particles/granules: under this category are sugar used in your DIY facial scrub and magnesium oxide crystals which are sometimes used in microdermabrasion procedures. Personally, I think only people with super oily skin should go large particles in their exfoliant. These large particles are more abrasive and since more oily skin has larger sebaceous glands, they are able to tolerate these particles with no damage. 

Small particles/granules: these particles include jojoba beads and ruby crystals. They’re usually small and uniform in shape and so are less likely to cause little skin tears, a reaction or irritation. If you have sensitive and dry skin look towards scrubs that contain these small particles.

Seeds and crushed nutshells: these are a lot more popular than scrubs with large or small particles. Ok, can I just say here that natural or organic doesn’t always mean better and not all skin types benefit from scrubs with seeds or nutshells. Also, you want to steer clear of them if you have sensitive skin as they’re not always uniform in size and could give you little tears and cuts. 

Mechanical Exfoliants

how to exfoliate your face: the ultimate guide

Closely related to physical exfoliation is mechanical exfoliation. Here, you use certain tools that aid the removal of dead skin cells. These tools include:

Exfoliating brush: this involves using a facial brush on the face to get rid of the dead skin cells. To use, apply  some drops of your face wash to it and brush your face in circular motions. If you have sensitive skin, do not use more than twice weekly and always use a light hand.

Exfoliating gloves: if brushes are too hard on your skin, then think exfoliating gloves. They are specially designed to remove dead skin cells while paving way for  healthier, brighter skin. Like facial brushes, apply a drop or two of your face wash and work it into your face in soft, circular motions. This is best if you want a really soft and gentle way of getting rid of the dead skin cells on your face. They’re great for whole body exfoliation too.

Chemical Exfoliants

how to exfoliate your face: the ultimate guide

Chemical exfoliants work by breaking down the tissue that holds dead skin cells together, promoting exfoliation and revealing healthier, smoother skin. Skin care experts recommend this exfoliation type for oily and sensitive skin. They help your acne prone skin and are highly tolerable, so you don’t have to worry about irritation or damage unless you have extremely sensitive skin. 

Hydroxy Acids

Hydroxy acids are the most common way to chemically exfoliate your skin. They smoothen, tighten, brighten and firm up your skin through the promotion of new skin cells. One good thing about these acids is that almost everyone can tolerate them in low concentrations and in over-the-counter  products. Basically, hydroxy acids come in two main types; Alpha Hydroxy acids (AHA) and Beta Hydroxy acids (BHA).  They’re gotten from food (sugarcane, milk) and plant based sources (Willow bark). These acids work in similar ways while producing slightly different results. While AHA dissolves in water, BHA dissolves in oil, making them an holy grail for oily skin. 


The common types of AHA are glycolic acid, lactic acid, and mandelic acid. 

Glycolic Acids

how to exfoliate your face: the ultimate guide

Beauty experts consider this acid to be the best performing AHA as it’s able to penetrate the your skin very deeply and fast. Derived from sugarcane, this acid while exfoliating your skin will stimulate collagen production, reduce the appearance of wrinkles and will reduce photo damage. 

You’ll benefit from this acid if you have mature skin or dry skin.  This is because it draws moisture into your skin and prevent water loss as well as increase the levels of hyaluronic acid in your skin. 

While it penetrates your skin deeply and fast, you should know that because of this, you’re more likely develop an irritation. If your skin is sensitive, avoid this acid. 

Lactic Acid

As the name suggest, it’s most commonly derived from sour milk. Like glycolic acid, lactic acid works by increasing the moisture level in the topmost layer of the skin, it increases your skin’s barrier function, reduces dryness while also getting rid of dead skin cells. 

Lactic acid is also loved by skincare junkies for being able to increase the skin thickness and brighten sun spots. 

Because lactic acid does not penetrate the skin as deeply as glycolic acid, you’ll benefit from it if your skin is sensitive. 

Mandelic Acid

how to exfoliate your face: the ultimate guide

Often referred to as the multitasking acid, mandelic acid is derived from bitter almonds and wild cherry. This highly versatile acid helps to reduce fine lines, firm up the skin, reduce acne and clear hyper pigmentation. 

If you’re dark skinned or have sensitive skin, you’ll benefit from using this acid. Also, if you’re prone to acne, you might want to consider this acid as it’s highly effective against clearing out clogged pores. 


Salicylic acid is the most commonly used BHA.

Salicylic Acid

This acid is derived from Willow bark and can be considered to be the most commonly used hydroxy acid. Salicylic acid is highly effective at dissolving dead skin cells on the surface of your skin while also clearing excess sebum and gunk that lead to acne. It’s also great at clearing dark spots without irritating your skin because of its anti-inflammatory properties. 

Dark skinned people and people with acne prone oily skin will benefit from this acid. If you have hyper pigmentation issues, salicylic acid does an amazing job at skin brightening. It works astonishing well on age and sun spots too. 

One reason why salicylic acid is so commonly used in skincare products is because of its predictability. Generally it’s considered safe and less drying to the skin if used properly. For those with acne prone skin, you want to pair this acid with an antibacterial product for best results. 

The recommended concentration for this acid is 0.5 to 2%.


how to exfoliate your face: the ultimate guide

To eliminate dead skins on your face while employing a physical exfoliant, you should begin with washing your face with your regular cleanser. Like a prescription given to you by your doctor, use the required dosage or quantity of face scrub and apply on your face, in a circular motion whilst avoiding your eyes. Leave on the skin for as long as the instructions say. Sometimes, it’s a minute, sometimes it’s less. After this, rinse off with lukewarm water and gently pat your face dry with a clean towel. Follow suit your hydrating mask, serum or moisturizer.

If you decide a chemical exfoliant is your cup of tea, you should first of all, cleanse your face before applying your exfoliant. If you desire, you can apply it on your neck too. Usually, you’re required to leave it only for a few minutes, just ensure you follow the instructions on your product. Your chemical exfoliant could be in form of gel, cream, serums but the application is the same, rub in a circular, soft motion. 

How Often should you Exfoliate your Face

how to exfoliate your face: the ultimate guide

Ideally, you should exfoliate your skin one to two times weekly, most especially if you use a physical or mechanical exfoliant and you have oily skin. These exfoliants have a tendency to be abrasive on the skin so using them more than three times weekly can be damaging.

Chemical exfoliants, on the other hand, are more gentle on the skin and are safe to use more often. Three times weekly is standard.

People with dry or sensitive skin need to be really careful with exfoliants. I would recommend they do it once weekly and with a chemical exfoliant. Ensure you moisturize your skin immediately after.

Benefits of Exfoliating your skin

how to exfoliate your face: the ultimate guide
  • Remove Dead Skin Cells: To Exfoliate means to remove dead cells resulting to a brighter, smoother and healthier skin 
  • Improves Blood Circulation: because the skin opens up, blood flows better. 
  • Improved Skin Condition: by getting rid of dead skin cells on your face, your skincare products work better and you get to see actual results. You get younger looking skin and that glow we all crave.

These benefits are too good to miss out on, so exfoliate your face the proper way!

8 thoughts on “How to Exfoliate your Face: The Ultimate Guide

  1. This is such an interesting post, I learnt so much! Exfoliating is something I never do enough, I do find a chemical exfoliating better for my skin and sometimes quicker too x

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