How Often Should You Exfoliate Your Face?

How often you exfoliate depends upon your facial scrub type.

Photo: Marili Forastieri/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Dead skin cells -- we all have them, and if you want your face to be smooth and glowing, you have to get rid of them. Regular exfoliation is a given, but what's often unclear is what "regular" means. Perhaps you've heard mixed messages: “Don’t exfoliate more than once per week” or “Exfoliating every day is the only way to go.” Follow a few ground rules to figure out a schedule for your skin.

Be Gentle

If you have oily skin, go ahead and exfoliate on a daily basis with something that’s gentle enough for daily use -- yet works to take off those dead skin cells. Oily skin tends to hold on to dead skin cells better than your normal- to dry-skinned counterparts, who may only need to exfoliate once or twice per week. Try a super-soft washcloth, buffing pad or a scrub that has rounded beads in a uniform shape; the label will probably read “for daily use” or “daily cleanser.” Shy away from exfoliating sponges because their little crevices love to catch bacteria. You also can use exfoliating gloves, but make sure they are specifically for your face, because many gloves are designed for scrubbing your bod.

It’s OK to Be Sensitive

Sometimes you can’t use scrubs or other manual exfoliating tools because your skin is simply too sensitive. If your skin irritates easily or you have a condition such as rosacea, find ways to care for your skin that involve less damage. Your physician may recommend a chemical exfoliator, like a mild lactic acid that does all the work for you -- no scrubbing required.

A Few Exceptions

How often you can exfoliate your face may depend on what you are using. Round beads and a gentle cleanser are OK for every day. Stronger chemical exfoliators, such as prescription glycolic acid or tretinoin creams, are not. A grainy scrub with large or more abrasive beads may also be a once-a-week method. Read and follow the instructions on the label. Whatever you choose, cut down on the exfoliating if your skin starts looking dry and red. As you get older, your skin tends to become thinner and less oily, which means that it requires less exfoliating. Also, living in cold weather tends to make your skin more sensitive and dry. Cut back on your exfoliating frequency during the winter, then go back to your regular routine in the summer when you tend to sweat and produce more oil.

Slow Down

If you are exfoliating on a regular basis, be on the lookout for signs that you may be overdoing it. Skin cells protect your face; when you take off too many of them, your skin will become irritated. Exfoliate less often if your skin looks red and flaky all of the time.

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