The Truth About Exfoliation

We've all heard of exfoliation — that mysterious, magical buzzword used by skincare brands and experts. We've all seen countless exfoliation products: from sugar scrubs, to loofahs, to body brushes, to pumice stones. But what exactly is exfoliation, what are the risks and benefits, and how exactly do we do it? We're here to shed some light on this beauty ritual, so you can shed some dead skin safely!

When we talk about exfoliation, we're talking about removing excess dead skin cells from the surface of our skin. But did you know that there are several different types of exfoliation? There's physical exfoliation, which involves the classic scrubs, polishes, and brushes and there's chemical exfoliation, which involves AHAs, BHAs, and retinoids such as glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and retinol.

Exfoliating both your face and body on a regular basis and using the right method can help you achieve a soft, smooth, and brighter complexion. Finding the right products for your skin type will be key to incorporating exfoliation into your routine.

The Benefits

How exactly does exfoliation benefit your skin? Well, there are many ways! Exfoliating your skin can provide both short-term and long-term benefits.

One of the most immediate benefits to exfoliation is skin texture. Immediately after exfoliating, especially with a physical exfoliant, your skin will feel noticeably softer and smoother. In addition, your skin will be better prepared to absorb the rest of your products, improving the effectiveness of your overall skincare routine.

Exfoliating on a regular basis can also help prevent clogged pores by removing dead skin cells and impurities from the skin's surface, resulting in fewer and less frequent breakouts. Long-term exfoliation will also improve your skin's overall vibrance by promoting collagen production, which improves the skin's elasticity and helps minimize visible signs of aging.

The Risks

While exfoliation is generally considered a safe and beneficial practice, there are definitely a few things to keep in mind when adding exfoliation to your routine.

Over-exfoliating can cause redness and irritation. If you are using a physical exfoliant, make sure it's not too rough or abrasive for the delicate skin on your face. Always use caution around the eye area — you definitely want to avoid getting any chemicals or abrasive materials in the eye area.

Chemical exfoliation can also make your skin highly susceptible to sunburn. Most products containing AHAs will recommend that you only apply at night, in addition to wearing a strong sunscreen for several days after using the product.


The process of removing dead or unwanted skin cells from the surface of your skin through either chemical treatment or physical abrasion.

Chemical Exfoliation

The other main type of exfoliation is chemical exfoliation. Rather than physically scrubbing off the dead skin cells, this method of exfoliation uses chemicals with enzymes to break down the dead skin cells and generate new cell turnover. Chemical exfoliation will give you faster results in terms of a glowing and radiant complexion.

Alpha hydroxy acids

Alpha hydroxy acids, or AHAs, are a type of water-soluble acid which help exfoliate the surface of your skin, making room for new skin cells to generate and create a brighter, more even complexion. AHAs are primarily used to treat hyperpigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, large pores, and uneven skin tone. Common AHAs include glycolic acid, lactic acid, and tartatic acid.


Beta hydroxy acids

Beta hydroxy acids, or BHAs, are a type of oil-soluble acid which help to unclog pores by penetrating deep into hair follicles and drying out dead skin cells and excess oils. BHAs are often used to treat acne and sun damage on the skin. The most common BHA that you've probably heard of is salicylic acid, a powerful ingredient used for treating acne.



Retinoids are a more medical-grade type of exfoliant. Derived from vitamin A, they protect the skin from free radicals and help promote collagen production, which keeps the skin firm and elastic. Retinoids are primarily used to treat signs of aging, sun damage, and even acne. The most common type of retinoid that you may have heard about is retinol, a form of vitamin A that promotes skin cell renewal and collagen production.

Physical Exfoliation

There are different types of exfoliation, the most common being physical exfoliation. Physical exfoliation refers to manually scrubbing dead or excess skin cells from the skin's surface. A physical exfoliant requires some sort of abrasion or texture being applied to the skin in order to rub the excess skin cells away. Physical exfoliants can come in the form of scrubs, body brushes, pumice stones, masks, or other products and tools with a granular or slightly abrasive texture. Physical exfoliation will give you the most noticeable immediate results in terms of skin smoothness.

Dry Brushing

One of the lesser known methods of body exfoliation is dry brushing — the process of using a brush against the surface of the skin to exfoliate dead skin cells and stimulate blood flow. This is typically done on dry skin as opposed to wet skin, because the increase in friction gives a more effective exfoliation. While this method can't penetrate deep into the skin like a chemical exfoliant would, it is an effective method of physical exfoliation and does a good job at sloughing away dead skin cells from the body.

Exfoliating The Right Way


As with any skincare product, finding the right exfoliation routine is a personalized process and unique to each person. Your ideal exfoliation products will depend on your skin type, your level of sensitivity, and your lifestyle.

If you have acne-prone skin, you may think that physical exfoliation will be beneficial because it will unclog your pores and clear your breakouts. While physical exfoliation can be effective in preventing acne, it should not be used solely as a treatment. Over-exfoliating skin with acne can cause further irritation. In this case, you should consider using a chemical exfoliant containing salicylic acid, a powerful BHA and common acne treatment.

Most dermatologists recommend exfoliating 2-3 times per week, but this number can vary drastically based on your skin type and skin concerns. For example, those with oily skin can exfoliate more frequently, while those with dry or sensitive skin should exfoliate less often.

Key Takeaways

Know your skin type before choosing an exfoliant! Oily, dry, normal, combination, and sensitive skin types all have different ideal exfoliation products and routines.

Exfoliate enough, but not too much! Over-exfoliating can cause redness and irritation, but just the right amount can make your skin smooth and bright. Start with once a week, and gradually build up frequency.

Follow up with products that complement your skincare routine, such as a serum and a good moisturizer. Your other skincare products will absorb better into freshly exfoliated skin!

Shop Our Selection

For the Face


This cleansing + exfoliating starter kit comes with 1 cleansing and 1 exfoliating reusable fibers, to provide you with all your cleansing, makeup removal and facial exfoliating needs for a full year.

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SkinKick - 2-Step Renew Kick Duo Skincare System - Daily Exfoliant Cleanser

A simple + effective system to restore your skin’s health and boost radiance (without retinol), and clinically proven to boost firmness, smooth fine lines, even skin tone, and nourish and hydrate skin.

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glycolic serum.png

This lightweight serum with an 8% AHA blend of glycolic, malic and lactic acids offers moderate exfoliation, promotes cellular turnover, refines and clears the skin.

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Experience the luxury of SNOW's all new glacier water lavender and mint sugar lip exfoliator. Comes with SNOW's revolutionary applicator that doubles as a cooling under eye roller to combat puffiness.

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For the Body


Ida Body Care Dry Skin Body Brush, Body Brushing, Dry Skin Body Brushing

Dry brushing helps by gently exfoliating skin, deeply cleaning pores, stimulating capillaries and improving circulation. Best followed by a shower or bath.

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Ida Body Care 8oz. Verbena Citrus Body Scrub

Dry brushing helps by gently exfoliating skin, deeply cleaning pores, stimulating capillaries and improving circulation. Best followed by a shower or bath.

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Ida Body Care 8oz. Verbena Citrus Body Scrub

Exfoliating and hydrating your skin at the same time, this dual-purpose peeling scrub for face and body is formulated to deliver the perfect balance between mild chemical peel and a mechanical micro exfoliator.

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