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How To Safely Exfoliate Your Skin According to Skin Type and Body Part?

What is Exfoliation and What are its Benefits?

Exfoliation is a process by which the dead skin cells can be removed from the outer skin layer. Exfoliation is beneficial for the skin as by removing the dead skin cells, the dull or dry skin looks better as this process also increases blood circulation making the skin appear smooth and bright.(1, 2)

Depending on your skin type the method and frequency of exfoliation can be decided. Exfoliation is not recommended for certain skin problems such as rosacea.

Exfoliation is beneficial to the skin in the following ways:(1, 2, 3)

  • Exfoliation removes dead skin cells and improves circulation.
  • Exfoliation increases cell turnover, resulting in smoother and brighter skin.
  • Exfoliation helps in fading acne scars, age spots and fine lines.
  • Exfoliation allows for better absorption of serums and moisturizers

What to Use to Exfoliate?

There are various tools and methods to exfoliate your skin. For physical or mechanical exfoliation, brushes and facial scrubs are used.(3) For chemical exfoliation, skin peels and acids are used.(4)

Physical/Mechanical Exfoliation for Skin (3)

  • Exfoliation sponge is a mild and gentle tool to exfoliate your skin. An exfoliating sponge can be lathered with warm water and body wash.
  • Exfoliating brush is often a bristle brush used on the body and face for removing dead skin cells. Some of these brushes are made for dry brushing; whereas, others can be used with body wash or other cleansers.
  • Exfoliating gloves are easier to hold when compared to sponges or brushes where you can lather it using body wash or soap and use it for your body.
  • Exfoliating scrub can be directly applied to the skin using gentle, circular movements. After scrubbing rinse your skin with warm water.

Chemical Exfoliation for Skin

Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHAs): Some of AHAs which can be safely used for exfoliating your skin are: lactic acid, glycolic acid, citric acid and tartaric acid.(5) These AHAs work by dissolving the bond which holds the dead and dull skin cells on the surface of your skin resulting in shedding of the dead particles.

Beta-Hydroxy Acids (BHAs): Some of BHAs which can be safely used for exfoliating your skin are salicylic acid and beta hydroxy acid. BHAs are more suitable for acne-prone skin.(7, 8)

How to Safely Exfoliate Your Skin According To Skin Type?

When you are using physical exfoliation, it is important to be gentle on your skin by making small, circular motions and avoid harshly rubbing your skin. Use your fingers to apply scrub or gently use the exfoliating device of your choice.

When using a brush for exfoliation it is important to make light and short strokes. Gently scrub for 30 seconds, after which rinse off using lukewarm water.(6) Do not exfoliate if your skin has open wounds, cuts or is sunburned. Always use sunscreen after exfoliating your skin.

Exfoliation for Dry Skin

It is important to exfoliate dry and flaky skin and it advisable to avoid physical exfoliation on dry skin, as it can further dry out the skin and cause micro-tears. It is better to use Alpha-hydroxy acids to exfoliate dry skin.

Glycolic acid is beneficial in removing the dead skin cells present on the skin’s surface and helps in encouraging healthy skin cell turnover. Always use moisturizer and SPF after using glycolic acid, as the skin becomes more sensitive and prone to sun damage after chemical exfoliation.

Exfoliation for Sensitive Skin

For sensitive skin, do not use mechanical methods of exfoliation, such as scrubbing your skin, as this will irritate the skin and cause redness.

A mild chemical exfoliator is better for safely exfoliating sensitive skin. Salicylic acid is beneficial for acne prone sensitive skin and a peel can also be done professionally.

Exfoliation for Oily Skin

Oily skin is slightly thicker than other skin types and can benefit from brushing or manual exfoliation. Oily skin also tends to have excess accumulation of dead cells on the skin’s  surface.

Exfoliation for Combination Skin

Combination skin can need a combination of chemical and mechanical exfoliation. However, it should be borne in mind that both cannot be used on the same day, as it causes irritation to the skin. Use a moisturizer immediately after exfoliating to avoid dry skin.(6)

Exfoliation for Normal Skin

For normal skin without any complications, any form of exfoliation method can be used. Chemical and manual exfoliation, both are good and can be safely used for normal skin type.

How to Safely Exfoliate Your Skin According To Body Part?

It is important to exercise caution when exfoliating sensitive skin areas, as it can lead to itchiness, redness and dryness.

Safely Exfoliating Your Face

Exfoliating your face depends on the skin type and accordingly chemical or physical exfoliation can be used. Rub your face gently in small, circular motions and rinse with lukewarm water afterwards.

Apply chemical exfoliant using washcloth or cotton pad and you can also consult your dermatologist to find out which form of exfoliation is safe and better for your skin.

Safely Exfoliating your Hands and Feet

For exfoliating hands and feet, different peels and scrubs can be used, which are easily available; and other than this, pumice stone can also be used to exfoliate your feet.

Safely Exfoliating Arms and Legs

Using sponge, brush or glove is the easiest method to exfoliate your arms and legs to get rid of dead skin cells and to encourage blood circulation. Dry brushing can also be done.

Safely Exfoliating your Pubic Region

A body brush or loofah can be used to exfoliate the bikini line and pubic region. Always do this when taking warm shower, as it helps in softening the skin and prepares it for exfoliation. Gently scrub your pubic region and rinse thoroughly afterwards.

How Frequently Should You Exfoliate?

How often exfoliation should be done depends on the skin type and also on the type of exfoliation used. Certain chemical exfoliants are strong and should be done not more than once a fortnight; especially if you have dry skin.

Oily skin requires frequent exfoliation; however, one should also not go overboard and avoid over-exfoliating, as it can cause irritation and redness.

When to Stop Exfoliating Your Skin?

Exfoliating should not be done if the skin is getting inflamed, red, irritated or starts peeling. When using certain medications or acne products, such as Benzoyl peroxide and retinol, then it is better to avoid exfoliation, as it can worsen your skin condition.


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 21, 2022

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