Tips and Tricks for Proper Exfoliation

As part of your skin regimen, you likely try to exfoliate at least every now and then. However, are you getting the benefits that you are looking for? Some people exfoliate with products that are too harsh for their skin, resulting in redness and skin aggravation. On the other hand, using an exfoliator that is too gentle may have no effect at all.

Exfoliation can help resolve a wide range of skin issues. The process involves the removal of old dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. This is done during facials, microdermabrasion, and chemical peels. Some of the top dermatologists have shared some of their best tips for exfoliating so that you can have picture-perfect skin.

There are two different type of exfoliation, physical (which is done by scrubbing) and chemical (which is done by peeling). Chemical exfoliation is an effective method to brighten the thin skin on your face, making you look younger. Alternatively, physical exfoliation is great for areas that have thicker skin such as your knees and elbows.


Two types of acids that are great for chemical exfoliation are glycolic and lactic acid. These chemicals can be found in over-the-counter moisturizers in small enough amounts that they are safe for daily use or in masks or in-office peels at a higher strength.

Salicylic acid is another common exfoliating ingredient that is commonly used for the treatment of acne. Salicylic acid can be found in over-the-counter cleansers, spot treatments, and moisturizers.

For those with sensitive skin, enzyme-based masks are available and are gentler than acids.

If you live in a cold climate, you should only exfoliate your face twice a week during the colder months. This is because your skin will be more dehydrated in the winter and exfoliating can dry out the skin even more. When it is warm, you may be able to exfoliate every day, depending on your skin type and the product you are using.


Use a very gentle exfoliator on your lips. It is best to find a gentle cleanser that includes a chemical exfoliator and then moisturize with a thick shea butter balm. You should continue to apply the balm every few hours as needed.


Using an exfoliating lotion on your arms can help get rid of the small, irregular bumps that tend to pop up on the back. These bumps will never completely go away because they are the cells lining the hair follicles that don't shed, but they can be slightly smoothed down with an exfoliator.

However, it is important to be gentle when exfoliating your arms because they tend to dry out easier than more oily parts of your body, such as your face. A dermatologist can prescribe a 15% glycolic acid lotion if your skin is especially uneven.

Knees and Elbows

In these thicker areas, using a mechanical exfoliation is more effective than a chemical one. This can range from using loofahs to getting a rougher scrub that contains coarse nuts. After you exfoliate your knees and elbows in the shower, use a towel to pat yourself dry and then apply a moisturizer to keep the water from the shower in your skin.

Hands and Feet

Urea, available in lotions, is the best ingredient to use on hands and feet. Urea not only exfoliates, but it also hydrates the skin. It can help remove dead skin while also pulling in water molecules to keep the skin moisturized.

If you want to try to make an exfoliator yourself at home, go through your pantry to create a DIY scrub. Mix sugar and honey together to create a gentle exfoliator for sensitive skin or you can even crush up aspirin to make an effective exfoliator.

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