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How to Exfoliate Your Face at Home, According to Dermatologists

Jul 25, 2023

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Courtesy of Retailer

The good news is that your body naturally gets rid of dead skin cells every four weeks. But the less-than-good news is that it sometimes needs a helping hand. When dead cells linger, they can make your skin appear dull and dry. Even worse, they can build up in your pores, which leads to blackheads and acne breakouts. To eliminate the gunk, you’ll want to master the fine (or more like medium-grade) art of exfoliation.

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There are two kinds of exfoliation: mechanical, which removes dead skin using physical friction with tools like a scrub or a cleansing brush, and chemical, which uses ingredients like hydroxy acids to dissolve the bonds that keep dead cells attached to your skin’s surface. Which type of exfoliant you choose depends on your skin type, but most dermatologists suggest chemical exfoliants because they’re less aggressive.

Birmingham-based dermatologist Corey L. Hartman, M.D., recommends using a gentle chemical exfoliant like a cleanser or toner with alpha hydroxy acids every day, and then if that’s not enough, use a scrub once a week. (Make sure not to rub too hard.) If you’ve never exfoliated before, start slowly and stick to once a week until you can work your way up to every day. Always follow with a

moisturizer, says Robert Finney, M.D., a New York-based dermatologist, especially if you have sensitive skin.

Read more: Best Face Scrubs for Men

Grab Your Tool

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

$9 at Ulta Beauty$22 at Walmart$10 at Sephora

Glycolic acid is both exfoliating and hydrating—perfect for anyone with dry skin.

Skinfix Resurface+ AHA/BHA Enzyme Exfoliating Pads

$50 at Sephora

A combo of acids clears away dead skin from the surface and inside pores.

Jack Black Face Buff Energizing Scrub

$30 at Amazon$42 at Walmart$30 at Nordstrom

Tiny bamboo-powder granules wipe away dead skin without roughing you up.

Foreo Luna 3 Men Cleansing Brush

Now 16% Off$183 at Amazon$219 at Dermstore$219 at Skinstore

Pour some cleanser on this brush and the soft silicone nubs exfoliate while you wash.

Proceed With Caution

“If your skin starts looking red, if you see scratches or scrapes, or the application of other products causes discomfort,” you’ve overexfoliated, says Dr. Hartman. Overexfoliating can also make your skin oilier, because the skin underneath hasn’t had time to heal. Avoid this fate by starting gradually and using only one exfoliating product at a time.

Olay Regenerist MAX Retinol 24 Night Serum with Vitamin B3, Fragrance Free 1.3 oz

Olay Regenerist MAX Retinol 24 Night Serum with Vitamin B3, Fragrance Free 1.3 oz

Now 17% Off

$18 at Amazon$32 at Walmart$47 at Ulta Beauty

If you’re using retinol already, you may not even need exfoliation. While the vitamin A derivative isn’t technically an exfoliant, it does help speed up the skin cells’ life cycle, says Dr. Finney. We like Olay Regenerist Retinol24 Max Night Serum. But if you are using it and still have lackluster skin, consider exfoliating once or twice a week.

Wait, Is Shaving Exfoliating?

Every time you drag a razor over your skin, you’re removing dead skin cells from the surface. Congratulations, you’re already exfoliating. But unless you’re shaving your forehead, too, that’s taking care of only half your face. You can still use an exfoliant on your forehead, nose, and cheeks, but avoid the beard area, says Dr. Finney. Exfoliating too much where you also shave could make your skin more sensitive.

Read more: Best Grooming Products for Men

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