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How often should you exfoliate your skin?

Exfoliating is one of those age old beauty rituals that has remained a mainstay FOR skincare gurus across the decades (possibly the centuries). Today there are so many sophisticated products on the market that it can be hard to know what to choose, let alone understand when and how often you should use them. Whether you’re a homemade coffee scrub type or exfoliating spa treatments all the way, how do you exfoliate and how often?

“I start every day by exfoliating my face. That’s something I’ve done for the past 40 years. I feel like it’s really contributed to my skin feeling fresh and smooth.”

- Christie Brinkley


What is exfoliating?

To make sure we’re all on the same page, exfoliating is where you remove the old, dead skin cells from the skin’s surface, usually using a scrub or a tool like a brush. There are also chemical options at some specialist clinics, such as microdermabrasion or chemical peels. Some exfoliation is involved in most facials.

Historically, the rule of thumb used to be that you only exfoliate once or twice a week, and keep it gentle. Today, lots of people have different opinions. For example, Dr. Harold Lancer, dermatologist to the stars (including Beyoncé), has been quoted as recommending daily exfoliation (in the evening) as part of a three step process. In an interview with The Cut, he said:

“The outer layer of skin in both men and women is called the epidermal stratum corneum. You need to exfoliate that before it can even tolerate proper cleansing.”

– Dr. Harold Lancer

For our part, we mostly hear therapists advising that you exfoliate a couple of times a week. There’s definitely feed good factor that goes with a good scrub, but remember to be gentle with your skin, especially if you have sensitive skin.

Benefits of exfoliating include:

  • Removing dead skin cells and dry layers
  • Supporting the absorption of moisturiser and serums
  • Helps unclog pores and support the work of your cleanser
  • Creates an instant glow
  • Prepares skin for make-up or tanning products

Types of exfoliation

Physical exfoliating

Just as it sounds, this is exfoliating the good old fashioned way. It means using a scrub or maybe a brush to buff the skin’s surface. There are options ranging from face scrubs to body brushes, which lots of people swear by as part of a daily routine. They might be used by a therapist as part of a spa treatment or at home as part of your self-care regimen.

Mechanical exfoliating

This means using a ‘tool’ as part of the exfoliating process, and can mean anything from cleansing brushes at home to specialist administered microdermabrasion or laser treatments.

Chemical exfoliation

Chemical exfoliation uses acid-based products to get rid of dead skin cells such as glycolic, lactic, and mandelic acid. There are products that can be used at home for this, and there are also specialist spa experiences as well for more intense treatments.

“I exfoliate every night, and it really doesn’t matter what I use. You can kind of use anything grainy, so I change it up.”

- Jennifer Lawrence

How do you exfoliate?

Small, gentle circular motions using your fingers to apply a scrub or use an exfoliating tool of choice (for example a body or facial brush). Once you’ve finished with the scrub, rinse with warm water and move onto your cleanser, toner and moisturiser routine.

How to exfoliate at home

The number of options available for exfoliating at home or at a spa really are enormously varied, which means you can have fun experimenting and finding the right option for you. You might choose to mix it up a bit a la Jennifer Lawrence, or you might find something that you swear by and stick to. The good news is, there’s something for just about every skin type and budget - you might even choose to make your own! However, you should use different products for face and body.

The best facial exfoliators

For some, exfoliating at home is as simple as using a good natural sponge. Others prefer a scrub, and some have embraced the trend for facial cleansing brushes like the LUNA. The latter can be quite expensive, but once you’ve bought it, it will last just about forever. It’s really a matter of preference, but if in doubt, a spa therapist will always be able to make excellent tried and tested recommendations.

The best body scrubs

For your body you can usually use something a little more abrasive. Again, there are options. Perhaps the most popular include the following:

  • Exfoliating gloves: they are exactly what they sound like. They are gloves made from roughly textured yarn, which you can use in conjunction with your regular cleansing products.
  • Exfoliating scrubs: Much like face scrubs, these are a great way to experiment and try different products, usually with lots of lovely smells and many containing nourishing oils to moisturise skin at the same time.
  • Body brushing: This is a good old fashioned and highly popular way to exfoliate and support the skin. It’s simple, effective, and cost effective - use the body brush in rhythmic motions from the feet upwards before you hop in the shower.

Follow exfoliating with nourishing skincare products like serums and creams to give your skin a boost.

Exfoliating spa treatments

Of course, for the ultimate in luxury experiences, a spa treatment to really give skin that extra glow is always something to look forward to. Body scrubs are an excellent way to feel really rejuvenated, and are particularly popular before going on holiday or getting a fake tan. Most facials include an element of exfoliation, the intensity of which will depend on the individual treatment. There are really too many to choose from to recommend the best exfoliating facial or the best body scrub, but here are a couple of our favourites:

Exfoliating facials

ESPA Age Defying Enzyme Peel Facial

This 90-minute treatment offers immediate results. Part of its magic is down to a peel that contains pumpkin enzyme that helps to exfoliate better than standard products and also helps to plump the skin, while the lactic acid smoothes and softens it. 


Body scrubs

Elemis Lime and Ginger Salt Glow

Elemis is a superstar of the spa world, and we love their Lime and Ginger Salt Glow. It’s a 30-minute full body treatment that’s great for detox, cleansing and removing dead skin cells; it smooths the skin and moisturises it as well so you don’t need to add extra creams and oils afterwards.


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