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How to Incorporate Exfoliation Into Your Skincare Routine

Exfoliation: it’s an important, and often overlooked, part of any effective skincare routine. But without proper knowledge on what works for your face, it can lead to irritated skin. How do you encourage proper cell turnover without sloughing off too many layers of skin?

We walk through it below.

So, what is exfoliation?

Exfoliation removes dead skin cells from the outermost layer of the skin. There are two forms of exfoliation: physical and chemical. Physical exfoliation requires a physical exfoliant, such as a scrub, facial brush or towel, to physically remove the dead skin cells, leading to smoother, refined skin.

Chemical exfoliation involves using an acid or enzyme to break down the substance that keeps dead skin together, allowing for easy removal. 

Regardless of what method you choose, exfoliation is a necessary part of the skin’s life cycle. Exfoliation removes leftover dead skin cells, revealing brighter, healthier skin. Additionally, skincare products can penetrate the skin better with excess dead skin removed.

Exfoliation, when performed correctly, can also help acne-prone skin by clearing out clogged pores that lead to breakouts. It can also lighten and fade acne scars by promoting collagen production and cell turnover.

Getting started with exfoliation

Choosing your exfoliation method, whether physical or chemical, should be based around your skin type and concerns. Facial skin is generally more sensitive than skin on other body parts, so if you elect to use a physical exfoliant, ensure you’re following directions and taking extra precaution to be gentle in its application. Additionally, if you suffer from rosacea, inflammatory acne or hypersensitive skin, consult with your dermatologist to determine what exfoliant is best for your needs.

For most physical exfoliants, gently massage the product onto the skin for 30 seconds to a minute (or however long the product recommends), and then rinse off with warm water. Pat dry with a clean towel. Follow up with your moisturizer.

Before using a chemical exfoliant, wash your face with a cleanser. Apply the exfoliant to your face, following product recommendations. Allow the product to fully absorb into the skin before applying your moisturizer; this should take a few minutes.


Exfoliation should only be performed one to three times a week. You run the risk of damaging skin if you exfoliate more than three times a week. Those suffering from mild to severe skin concerns should limit their exfoliation and should consult with their doctor on the necessary frequency.

Exfoliating the body and feet

The easiest way to exfoliate your body is in the shower using a washcloth, sponge or loofah. Some people may find additional success in using a body scrub in the shower, applying the product in circular motions to remove dead skin. Let the product sit and then shower off.

Feet, on the other hand, are the roughest parts of the body and require a stronger approach for effective exfoliation. Most pumice stones, scrubs or files will do the job in sloughing off dead skin. However, there are numerous brands today that offer chemical exfoliation for the feet. Regardless of your preferred method, you have many options for feet exfoliation.

Need help sorting it out? We can help!

Exfoliation is an important part of your at-home skincare routine, but it can be difficult to determine the right exfoliation method for your unique skin. Drop by our office! We’ll examine your skin and provide vetted, dermatologist-approved exfoliant recommendations. Of course, if you haven’t found success, we’ll also walk you through your product, its application and determine if a different method would be a better fit.

With effective exfoliation, you’re ensuring that you’re putting your best and brightest skin out there. Just make sure to wear sunscreen!

Cumberland Skin Surgery and Dermatology provides effective, compassionate general dermatology, skin cancer surgery and cosmetic dermatology solutions for our patients throughout the Southeast. With offices in Hermitage, Lebanon, Brentwood and Hendersonville, Tennessee, we’re your destination for high-caliber skincare. Visit our website at or give us a call today at 615-257-7128.

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