How often should you exfoliate your face?

The experts give us the low down on how often you should be grabbing that exfoliator...

Woman doing face scrub

by Cigdem Tanrioglu |
Updated on

Finding the perfect skincare routine for you can feel like an absolute minefield. From deciding on the best face serums for your skin type to getting into the habit of wearing a SPF on a regular basis, there are many factors to consider when trying to get clear skin.

Enter exfoliation – the trick to getting your smoothest skin texture ever.

If you’re anything like us, you’re probably wondering how often you should be exfoliating your face. Over-exfoliating will strip your skin of its natural oils and cause irritation, while not exfoliating enough can result in clogged pores. Let’s just say it can be tricky to find the balance, which is why we’ve asked the experts for everything we need to know about how often you should be exfoliating your face.

Let’s get straight to it - how often should you exfoliate your face?

Exfoliation is great to include in your skincare routine but the key is to make sure you don’t overdo it.

“It is best to exfoliate your face 2-3 times per week.” Explains Dr. Marisa Garshick, Skin Proud Consultant and Certified Dermatologist.

Faye Purcell, Head of Research and Development at Q+A agrees, “How often you exfoliate depends on your skin type but as a rule of thumb, you should exfoliate your skin no more than 2-3 times per week. If your skin is dry, you may need to exfoliate just once a week but if oilier you could benefit from exfoliating up to three times a week.”

Is it okay to exfoliate your skin every day?

You may think that exfoliating more often would result in clearer skin, right? Well no, actually, it could do more damage than good.

Yep, we’re just as surprised, but Dr Marissa fills us in, “It is best to avoid exfoliating the skin every day, as this can be too irritating on the skin and cause disruption of the skin barrier which may lead to dryness, sensitivity, and irritation.”

Faye adds, “However if exfoliating your skin daily is a habit you don’t want to break, look for a cleanser with exfoliating properties like the Q+A Niacinamide Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser, containing jojoba esters that will delicately exfoliate the top layer of your skin.”

What happens if you over-exfoliate your face?

Have you accidentally gone a bit too hard with that face scrub? Yeah, we’ve all been there but what does over-exfoliating actually do to your skin? Founder of Skincycles, Alice Henshaw tells us all, “You don’t want to over-exfoliate and strip the skin as this will cause excess sebum secretion, so pay close attention to how your skin is reacting and, as tempting as it may be if you’re experiencing oiliness, never skip moisturiser!”

Should you exfoliate your skin at night or in the morning?

Ever wondered if you should be grabbing the face scrub first thing in the morning or if you should be exfoliating during your night-time routine? Well, it is totally up to you!

“It really depends on your personal preference” explains Alice, “but exfoliating at night does allow your skin to rest and recover whilst reducing the risk of sun exposure while your skin is more sensitive. Exfoliating in the morning can be a refreshing start to your day and it means that your makeup will glide onto your skin as you’ve created a fresh base, so either work.”

Should you use chemical exfoliators at night or in the morning?

While the time you exfoliate your face is totally up to you, there are some exfoliants that you should take more care with.
Incorporating exfoliation into your bedtime routine may be the one you’re a fan of a toner or exfoliating serum.

Faye explains, “A chemical exfoliator, like an AHA, should be used at night, as they can make skin more sensitive to UV rays. The same goes with Retinol.”

So exfoliate your face at night and make sure you load on the SPF in the morning - nobody wants to end up with sun damage after spending so much time on that skincare routine!

What are the benefits of exfoliating your face in the morning?

Whilst chemical exfoliants should only be used in the evening, a face scrub can be used at any time of the day and may help with creating a flawless base for the day.

“If you do exfoliate in the morning and move the freshening and brightening effect” explains Ada Ooi, TCM Wellness Expert and Founder of 001 Skincare.

Alice agrees, “Exfoliating in the morning can be a refreshing start to your day and it means that your makeup will glide onto your skin as you’ve created a fresh base.”

How should you use a chemical exfoliant on your face?

When using a chemical exfoliant, like an AHA or retinol, is important to use it at the right stage of your skincare routine.

Faye explains, “Start with a thorough face cleanse to decongest your pores and create a clean canvas, then move on to your chemical exfoliator. Chemical exfoliators come in lots of different product types, so always take care to follow the usage instructions! If it’s a toner or a serum, usually, there’s no need to wash it off. Follow with a barrier protecting moisturiser.”

Skin Proud Detox Daily AHA Exfoliating Tonic

Skin Proud Detox Daily Aha Exfoliating Tonic, 14.95beauty bay
Price: $14.95
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A quick swipe of this gentle exfoliating toner is perfect for anyone starting out on chemical exfoliants. Formulated with AHAs Niacinamide and hyaluronic acid, it will unclog pores and remove dead cells without drying your skin out.

Q+A Glycolic Acid Daily Toner

Q+A Glycolic Acid Daily Toneramazon

Rrp: $11.00

Price: $5.50

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Packed with glycolic acid, an exfoliating hero, this toner will leave you with brighter and clearer skin in an instant. Plus it costs less than a tenner, making it a total skincare bargain – we’re obsessed!

e.l.f. Cosmetics Superbrighten Peel Pads

e.l.f. Cosmetics Superbrighten Peel Padsbeauty bay
Price: 10

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If you’re never too sure about how much product to use, then these exfoliating pads will become your go-to. Simply wipe one pad over your face every 2-3 days (after cleansing of course) and get ready to see the results.

How should you use a face scrub or physical exfoliator on your face?

We were all fans of a particular face scrubs during the noughties, but as you may have guessed we were probably overdoing it.

It turns out, a small amount can go a long way as Faye gives us her top tip, “Use a small 10p size amount and work into skin gently in circular motions, so as not to drag or tear the skin. Rinse with warm water and pat the skin dry with a towel. Follow with a daily moisturiser, and always apply your SPF.”

Nip + Fab Vitamin C Fix Scrub for Face

Nip + Fab Vitamin C Fix Scrub for Faceamazon
Price: $9.79
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Alternative retailers
JCPenney$8.95View offer

If you’re aiming to get super bright, fresh-looking skin then this Vitamin C scrub is the one for you. Not only is this affordable face scrub loaded with Vitamin C, but it also contains coffee seeds to energize skin and coconut skin to keep your face feeling soft and hydrated.

L'Oreal Paris Pure Clay Red Algae Glow Face Scrub

L'Oreal Paris Pure Clay Red Algae Glow Face Scrubamazon
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Formulated with super cleansing Pure Clays and Red Algae, this non-drying scrub is gentle enough for daily use (for those of you who simply cannot get down to 2-3 days!). Simply rub a small amount of on the wet skin and wash it off for your clearest skin ever.

Avène Gentle Exfoliating Gel

Avène Gentle Exfoliating Gelbeauty bay
Price: $16.25
View offer
Alternative retailers
SkinStore$26.00View offer

If you’re worried about aggravating sensitive skin then this is the scrub for you. Made with cellulose micro-beads and jojoba wax, this scrub will gently remove dead cells, while the infamous Avène Thermal Spring Water will soothe skin – perfect for anyone with sensitive skin!

What happens if you don’t exfoliate your face on a regular basis?

Can’t get into the habit of exfoliating your face on a regular basis? Well, to put it simply, your skin is going to suffer. “If you don’t exfoliate regularly, you can end up with dull skin that lacks lustre, as dead skin cells accumulate on the surface.” Advises Alice, “A lack of exfoliation can also lead to uneven skin tone, as pigmentation irregularities and dark spots may become more noticeable.”

So there you have it, everything you need to know about how often you should exfoliate your face! Now please excuse us while we get to work on getting our best skin ever.

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