How Often Should I Exfoliate?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Exfoliation removes dead skin and dirt, keeping your skin cleaner and healthier. Doing it regularly can create glowing, smooth skin, but if you do it too much, your skin can be damaged. How often you should exfoliate depends on a number of factors, including what exfoliant you use, your skin type, and your general skin health.

How often you exfoliate depends on the type of exfoliant you use, among other factors.
How often you exfoliate depends on the type of exfoliant you use, among other factors.

As a general rule, the softer an exfoliant is, the more often you can use it. Some scrubs are so gentle that you can use them on a daily basis; many scrubs designed for the face, for example, are soft enough for daily use. Coarse scrubs which are extremely grainy should be used no more than once a week, while scrubs which fall somewhere in between can be used two to three days a week. Salt scrubs tend to be the most coarse, while sugar and plant fiber scrubs are much gentler.

Using a moisturizer after exfoliation helps replenish the skin.
Using a moisturizer after exfoliation helps replenish the skin.

If you have oily skin, you can generally exfoliate two to three days a week without any ill effects. Obviously, you should skip it if your skin feels sensitive or irritated, or if it looks red and flaky. People with more dry, delicate skin should exfoliate one to two times a week, ideally with a gentle scrub which will not irritate their skin.

Exfoliants should be suited to a person's specific skin type.
Exfoliants should be suited to a person's specific skin type.

If you're not sure about whether or not a particular product works for you, test it on your inner elbow, where the skin is especially tender. If the scrub causes irritation, it indicates that it may not be a good choice. If no irritation is experienced, you can safely use that product on a regular basis.

Dry skin should only be exfoliated a maximum of twice per week.
Dry skin should only be exfoliated a maximum of twice per week.

Your skin health also plays a factor in how often you should exfoliate. If you suffer from eczema or other skin conditions, you may want to ease back on your exfoliation schedule, especially if your doctor recommends the use of gentle skin care products only. If you've recently been sunburned, you should also avoid exfoliating until the sunburn starts to peel, because you don't want to pull new skin off while it is trying to heal.

When you exfoliate, less is more. Use only a small amount of exfoliant and take the time to really scour your skin; if you take a large dollop, the product will grind against itself more than your skin, and you will not receive any benefit. After exfoliating, always apply a layer of moisturizer to keep your skin healthy, supple, and moist.

Sunburns should not be exfoliated until the burn has healed.
Sunburns should not be exfoliated until the burn has healed.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Exfoliate with Dudu Osun Soap and apply F&W Aha 2 lotion.


Exfoliating is not just for women. Health professionals recommend we men exfoliate our penis skin as well. This area can be a bacteria trap, and good hygiene is essential for the overall health of our penis skin. Wash and dry thoroughly every day, and start using a penis health creme containing Vitamins A, E and D. Your penis will look, feel and smell better. Trust me!


Face exfoliation has always been challenging for me, because I have dry skin. It gets flaky around my nose and forehead, and I'm tempted to exfoliate more often to remove the flakes, but this can have the reverse effect.

So, I stick to exfoliating once a week. I also apply a good moisturizer to my face right after exfoliating.


I exfoliate less in winter than I do in summer. In winter, my skin is rather dry and needs to hang onto its natural oils. In the summer, I need to exfoliate in order to fully cleanse my skin.

I wear spray-on sunscreen whenever I spend time outdoors in the summer. This stuff is impossible to remove with just soap and water, so I have to use an exfoliating scrub all over my body.

I can't use the scrub if I've gotten burned at all through the sunscreen. This doesn't happen very often, because the stuff works well, but if I am even a little bit pink from the sun, I have to skip the scrub.


@Perdido – I tried an at-home chemical peel, but it made my skin really red and tight. My face actually hurt!

I have found that using an exfoliating facial sugar scrub is best for my skin. It's definitely grainy enough to remove dead skin, but it also has a lot of soft, gooey filler that keeps it from feeling too rough or rubbing too much skin off.


@ddljohn – I use a chemical peel to exfoliate my face. It does a much more thorough job than a scrub, and as long as I'm careful with it, I won't get red and irritated skin.

I bought some exfoliating pads saturated with the chemical and stacked inside a jar. I wipe one over my face once a week, wiping no more than twice in any given spot.

I can feel a tingling sensation right away, and within half an hour, my skin looks so much smoother and fresher. I don't even have to wash or rinse afterward, because the chemical cleans up the debris for me.


@anon267665-- Physical exfoliants (any product which requires physical movements to exfoliate) are usually rough on skin. I don't think this type of product should be used more than once a week.

Overuse can result in broken capillaries. Capillaries are the smallest of blood vessels located near the surface of the skin. Exfoliating too often can break them, making them visible. You can look up real close to your face with good lighting and see them with the naked eye.

There are also chemical exfoliants such as salyclic acid (BHA) and glycolic acid (AHA) that exfoliate without requiring massage or the application of rough products on the skin. These are usually safer to use more often. I use a toner with 2% salyclic acid everyday, but I use a face exfoliation cream with cornmeal only once a week in the shower.

I have combination skin. Those with dry skin should exfoliate less often than me.


@vigilant-- Oatmeal and corn meal are good natural exfoliants for people with oily skin. You can also use coarse sugar or coffee grounds.

I usually pick one of these ingredients and add it to my face cleanser or mix with something like plain yogurt and massage it into my face.

There are also exfoliating products on the market made with these ingredients if you prefer that.


How often do you folks exfoliate your body?

I exfoliate about three times a week. I have these weird bumps on my arms and if I don't exfoliate, it looks very bad.


What is the best natural exfoliant for a person to use that has oily skin?


I have a coarse wash cloth that I use to basically exfoliate my whole body. I do it every day, but if I do my face more often than once a week I find it gets dried out and looks kind of rubbed raw. I guess the rag is strong enough for my arms and legs but too strong for my face.


Most exfoliants with small granules were too rough on my dry skin. I got a professional facial to help with my dry skin and they recommended the Made from Earth Rooibos Tea Face Scrub that will dissolve dry skin without being so rough. Of course they wanted me to purchase an incredibly expensive product, but I decided to do some looking on my own.

I settled on this Made from Earth Rooibos Scrub and have been very pleased. I can use it daily without it being too harsh on my skin. Even using it daily or every other day, the product has lasted a while (bought it in mid-August and still going here at Thanksgiving). It smells pleasant and feels soothing on my skin.


It is important to exfoliate before applying makeup, and exfoliating after removing makeup is excessive. A normal washing of makeup is sufficient to clear the face.


I have heard that certain makeups can have a harmful effect on the skin. Should people exfoliate more often if they regularly use makeup?


Your skin needs to be refreshed and cleansed every day. Exfoliating is of equal importance but too much of a good thing will cause problems. The outer layer of your skin forms a barrier against environmental hazards. If you remove too many of those cells, you increase skin sensitivity, moisture loss, and dryness. I exfoliate twice a week with good results.

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