A Beginner’s Guide to Exfoliating

Exfoliating with The Healer Snarky Bar exfoliating soap bar

We all know the importance of cleansing and moisturizing, but did you know that exfoliating is an essential part of a healthy skincare routine, head to toe? There’s an easy way to find out if your skin could use a little scrub: take a quick look in the mirror (we’ll wait).

Ok, now check all that apply:

  • Dullness

  • Wrinkles

  • Fine lines

  • Dry skin

  • Flaky skin

  • Calluses

  • Breakouts

  • Clogged pores

  • Uneven skin tone

  • Rough patches

  • Dry cuticles

  • Flaky lips

If you checked any of these boxes, exfoliating can help! (If you didn’t check any boxes, you’re some sort of magical unicorn and you can stop reading to go do more important things like save the world.)

Exfoliating helps skin look smooth, radiant, glowing—even younger—by removing dead skin cells from the surface, which make skin, lips, and cuticles look dull, dry, flaky, rough, and uneven. What’s worse is that when dead skin cells build up, they make wrinkles and fine lines look way more obvi, they form calluses (especially on your feet), and they can clog pores, leading to breakouts and ingrown hair—ouch!

So, here’s what you need to know. For starters, there are 2 ways to exfoliate:

Physical: Physical exfoliation is achieved by scrubbing, using a granular substance like sugar or sea salt, to name a few.

Chemical: Chemical exfoliation isn’t as scary as it sounds (in fact, it’s often gentler than physical exfoliators). All it means is that, rather than scrubbing your skin, enzymes and natural acids, like glycolic and lactic (also known as AHAs), help to loosen dead skin cells so they can be whisked away.

Now here’s how to work exfoliating into your skincare routine:

 

Face

The easiest way to add exfoliating into your face routine is by swapping out your regular cleanser for an exfoliating one, like BFF: Best Face Forever™.

Most skin types benefit from using an exfoliating cleanser once per day, either AM or PM. This blogger likes using her BFF: Best Face Forever™ in the morning because it has an invigorating peppermint and grapefruit essential oil blend. If you wear a lot of makeup, you might prefer to exfoliate at night to help take everything off.

1–2 times a week, your complexion will benefit from deeper exfoliation. If you like to scrub, try Whole Lava Love™ with volcanic ash, charcoal powder, and eco-beads. For chemical exfoliation, Pineapple-Pick-Me-Up™ uses enzymes from pineapple and papaya to target and gently remove dead skin while leaving healthy skin alone.

Rule #1:

If you use anti-aging products including peptides and retinol, or treatment products containing ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or glycolic acid, use them the OPPOSITE of when you exfoliate (exfoliate AM and use treatment products PM, or vice versa). Exfoliating can leave skin temporarily more sensitive, increasing the risk that your treatment products can burn or sting.

Speaking of treatment products, if you experience breakouts, scrubbing can spread bacteria and irritate skin further. Soothe on the spot with an imperfection crème like Too Hot to Spot™, which helps chemically exfoliate the dead skin that can block pores with glycolic acid, witch hazel, and tamarind extract.

Lips

While the idea of scrubbing your lips might sound a bit harsh, it actually feels amazing when you use the right ingredients, like sugar. Exfoliating with Good for Yuzu™ Lip Scrub helps gently remove flaky skin for smoother lips; you can even apply right from the tube, rub your lips together, and lick off the excess (it’s edible!). Bonus: smooth lips make the perfect foundation for flawless lip color.

Rule #2:

Lips are some of the most sensitive skin on your body and need extra TLC. Always follow your lip scrub with a moisturizing balm—preferably one with beeswax to help lock in hydration—to keep lips smoother longer.

 

Hair

We’re not talking about the hair on your head here, rather, the hair that you shave or wax. Exfoliating before AND after hair removal not only helps you get a closer shave/smoother wax, it also helps prevent painful ingrown hair.

Step 1:

Start with a scrub or body polish in the shower or bath. Our faves are You Apricaught Me!™ and PJs All Day. Scrubs and body polishes help lift hair away from the skin so it’s easier to shave or wax. Plus, they help remove dead skin buildup so you can get closer to the base of the hair.

 

Step 2:

After you shave or wax, using an after-shave serum, like Grow Away™ with lactic acid and willow bark, can help keep pores looking clear by discouraging the buildup of more dead skin.

Guys, this note is especially for you. It’s equally as important to exfoliate before man-scaping as it is before you shave your face, but you don’t want to use the same scrubs/body polishes on your face as you do on your body. Instead, use a face exfoliator like Whole Lava Love™ or BFF™ on damp skin in a circular motion, rinse, then shave. For dudes, an after-shave serum, like Grow Away, is essential. Coarse beard hair combined with male skin (which tends to be oilier) makes you particularly prone to ingrown hair. Shaving with the grain, not against, and exfoliating both before and after shaving are the best ways to keep skin calm and happy.

Rule #3:

If you’re waxing, exfoliate the day before so your skin isn’t overly sensitive.

 

Body

When it comes to dull, dry, rough skin on your body, there are lots of options to get your skin glowing. It all depends on the level of dryness you’re dealing with:

For light exfoliation, a simple Chunk™ Big Bath Bar, like Where You Bean All My Life™ with AHAs from sugar and milk, can do the trick on the daily.

For medium exfoliation, stick with a body polish or scrub (like the one you use before you shave).

For heavy exfoliation, opt for a seriously scrubby Snarky™ Bar like The Healer™. They contain scrubby beads made from sugarcane, plus moisturizing shea butter.

Rule #4:

Exfoliating not only helps remove dead skin, it also helps sunless tanner look smooth and even. If you plan to safe-bake (there’s nothing fake about it! It’s smart!) exfoliating beforehand is a MUST. 

 

Feet

Feet deserve their own special category because they tend to get the biggest buildup of dead skin in the form of calluses and dry cuticles. They need a targeted scrub like Grit With It™ Pumice Foot Scrub with exfoliating pumice and quartz. Take it a step further to give feet the 1-2, physical-chemical exfoliation punch with Toes Before Bros™ Hot Wrap Foot Mask. It helps soften calluses and cuticles with enzymes from pineapple and papaya, plus oat amino acids.

Rule #5:

To keep freshly exfoliated feet feeling smooth, you need a different moisturizer than the one you use on the rest of your body. Schwanky & Soft™ contains exfoliating glycolic acid to help prevent rough patches from coming back.

Remember that list you checked earlier? Using this guide and adding exfoliating into your routine will soon have you unchecking those boxes (hello, looking like a unicorn!) and leave you with glowing, radiant skin.