How to Exfoliate Your Skin | 7 Transformative Ways

how to exfoliate your skin

How to Exfoliate Your Skin: 7 Transformative Ways

Exfoliation is a very popular skin treatment and a great way to feel fresh, smooth, glowing skin immediately.  It's the thing you do before a date or reunion, because you know it will help you look your best.  Whether it is a physical scrub, mechanical tool, or done chemically, exfoliation feels fantastic. 

Exfoliation is not usually a final solution to all skin care issues but, in my perspective, it creates a pathway to a cleaner, clearer canvas of skin so that you can effectively move onto whatever skin care treatment or procedure you plan to implement.

A clear canvas of skin will be much more receptive to skin care products, treatments, and procedures as opposed to skin that has a build up of dead cells, covering and blocking the fresh layers of skin that you need to treat. Some examples of treatments or procedures might be implementing some scar removal, tattoo removal, the reduction in wrinkles, the clearing of blackheads or acne, and a variety of aging issues.

Our Papaya Enzyme Mask with Fruit Acid is a great choice for face exfoliation.

The History of Skin Exfoliation

The history of exfoliation can be traced back to ancient Egyptian times when abrasive masks, minerals and alabaster particles were used for this purpose. Since then, a variety of substances have been used to peel, exfoliate, and rejuvenate the skin. These include the use of acids, poultices of minerals and plants, and direct irritants such as sandpaper like materials.

Egyptians used specks of alabaster combined with milk and honey. The earliest chemical exfoliant was lactic acid, an active ingredient of sour milk that was used by the nobles as part of a skin rejuvenation regimen. In the Middle Ages, old wine with tartaric acid as its active ingredient was used for achieving the same results. Both of these exfoliants are known to contain alpha hydroxy acids, which are the active ingredients responsible for the skin exfoliation. Alpha hydroxy acids are naturally-occurring, organic carboxylic acids with a hydroxyl group in a carbon position. Lactic, glycolic, citric, and tartaric acids are naturally found in sugar cane, fruits, wine, and milk.

German dermatologist Paul Gerson Unna first described the properties of salicylic acid, resorcinol, phenol, and trichloroacetic acid in 1882, and the development of other peeling agents for varying depths of penetration followed. In the 1960s, the Baker-Gordon phenol peel peaked in popularity, but by the 1990s, it was falling out of favor with practitioners because of complications and serious systemic renal, cardiac, and hepatic toxicity to melanocytes causing hypopigmentation. After this issue was discovered, only fair-skinned clients were allowed to use phenol peels and had to go through the process slowly and cautiously.

The origin of the word "exfoliate" comes from the Latin word “exfoliare” (to strip off leaves).

7 Effective Ways to Exfoliate Your Skin

Exfoliating brush. This is usually a bristle brush used on the face or body to remove layers of dead skin cells. Some are designed for dry brushing. Others can be used with your facial cleanser or body wash.

Exfoliation sponge. These are a gentler way to exfoliate skin. You can lather an exfoliating sponge with warm water, soap, or body wash in the shower. I personally use a sponge that has a scratchy surface (Buff Puff) to help keep my skin smooth and exfoliated.

Exfoliating glove. If you find brushes or sponges difficult to grip, you can use a glove. Lather it with your favorite facial cleanser. If you’re using it on your body, then feel free to use your favorite body wash.

Exfoliating scrub. This can be applied directly to the skin using a gentle, circular motion. You can wash or rinse your skin with warm water after applying the scrub.

Microdermabrasion appliance. These appliance tools are readily available on eBay or Amazon. I would look for one that has a good rating and falls within your price range.

Chemically. There are a wide variety of chemical exfoliants that help be applied to the skin and then within a few minutes, rinse off or leave on depending on the formulation. You can choose from a variety of alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) – which include glycolic, lactic, tartaric, malic, and citric acids. Trichloroacetic acid, another effective kind of acid, is also used to help exfoliate the skin. It can reach deeper layers, and it is considered a slightly stronger acid. All of these work by breaking apart bonds holding dull and dead skin cells on your skin’s surface. This will cause your skin to naturally shed dead particles. Beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) include beta hydroxyl and salicylic acid. These may be better for acne-prone skin.

Fruit Enzyme Masks and Peels. Fruit enzymes are a great way for everyone to exfoliate, regardless of your skin type. If you’re a beginner to exfoliation, starting with an enzyme mask or peel is the perfect choice. It’s safe, affordable, and easy to do from home. You can naturally clean the pores, rid excess oils, and slough off dry and dead skin for a healthy cell turnover. Fruit enzymes, such as papaya enzyme, gently remove the oils and will expose a refreshed looking complexion.

Our Papaya Enzyme Mask with Fruit Acid is a great choice for face exfoliation.

How To Exfoliate Depending on Your Skin Type

When mechanically exfoliating, it’s important to be gentle on your skin. You can make small, circular motions using your fingers to apply a scrub or use your exfoliating tool of choice.

If you use a brush, make short, light strokes. Exfoliate for about 30 seconds and then rinse off with lukewarm — not hot — water. Avoid exfoliating if your skin has cuts, open wounds, or is sunburned. Apply moisturizer with SPF after exfoliating.

Dry skin. Exfoliation is important for dry or flaky skin. Avoid mechanical exfoliation on dry skin, because the process is drying and it can lead to microtears. AHAs are effective for dry skin.

Glycolic acid will help remove dead cells sitting on the surface of the skin and encourage healthy skin turnover. Follow up with an SPF and moisturizer after using glycolic acid. It can make the skin more prone to sun damage.

Sensitive skin. Avoid scrubbing or using mechanical methods of exfoliation. These will irritate your skin further and can lead to redness.

Use a mild chemical exfoliator and apply with a gentle washcloth. For acne, you can also try a salicylic acid peel at your dermatologist’s office.

Oily skin. Oily or thicker skin can benefit from manual exfoliation and brushing. Oily skin may have an extra layer of buildup on the surface that manual exfoliation can remove. Gently use an exfoliator or scrub in circular motions for best results.

Normal skin. If your skin doesn’t have any complications, you can choose any method of exfoliation. Manual and chemical exfoliation are both safe for this skin type. You may need to experiment to find out which method works best for your skin.

Combination skin. Combination skin may require a mix of mechanical and chemical exfoliation. Never use both on the same day as it can irritate skin. If your skin feels dry after exfoliation, use a moisturizer immediately after.

Our Papaya Enzyme Mask with Fruit Acid is a great choice for face exfoliation.


You don’t want to miss out on the amazing benefits of exfoliation for your skin. Even if it’s something you do simply to help you maintain your current skin situation, it’s highly beneficial. Everyone can benefit from smoother, brighter, clearer, more evenly toned skin, and that’s what you’ll get when you exfoliate regularly.

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Jeanette @

I'm a formulator and skin care expert, wife, parent, and fur baby mom. I specialize in active ingredient research and studies, and share that information with you via our blog and products. Please reach out anytime you have questions!