What does exfoliation mean and why is it important

Here’s all you need to know about exfoliation in your skincare routine and why exfoliation is important?

What does exfoliation mean?

Exfoliation is an essential step in the ABCs of skincare! However, most people are unaware of the right way to go about it. While it is a beneficial practice, many interpret it as merciless scrubbing, which can do more harm than good.


Fortunately, you are in the right place as this article will guide you through the ABCs of exfoliation and help you understand what works for you!


Exfoliation is an effective practice to shed dead skin cells, improve circulation, and cleanse the pores of our skin. Although every person needs this, the method and frequency vary across different skin types. Exfoliation can be physical or chemical. Regardless, avoid using two ways of exfoliation at the same time. Overdoing things can damage the skin.

Chemical vs physical exfoliation-

Types of physical exfoliation:


Physical exfoliation refers to manually scrubbing the skin with a tool. The tool and pressure must vary depending on the body part.

what does exfoliation mean
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  • Bristle Brush: An exfoliating bristle brush tool looks like an enlarged toothbrush. Many people mistakenly use it to scrub their body in the shower, which can be too harsh on the skin. A bristle brush is ideal to gently dry brush the skin. However, for the face, battery-run exfoliator brushes are to be used on dampened skin.
What does exfoliation mean
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  • Bath sponge: Sponges are a great way to gently remove dead skin cells with warm water and soap/shower gel. Sponges are a better alternative to harsh plastic/fiber loofahs that can bruise the skin.
What does exfoliation mean
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  • Gloves: For sensitive skin, if a sponge feels harsh, it is best to use an exfoliator glove. A glove brings the same results as a bath sponge and is more convenient to use.
What does exfoliation mean
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  • Towel: A soft cotton towel dampened in warm water can be gently run through the body as a post-shower exfoliator. Ensure that the fabric is soft and toxin-free, as it can prove harmful to the skin otherwise.


Types of chemical exfoliation:


The word “chemical” is likely to trigger caution. Nevertheless, you may be surprised to know that chemical exfoliation is the safest form of exfoliation. And yet, the most effective one! Of course, this statement remains a fact only depending on the chemical and the skin type.

What does exfoliation mean
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Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs): AHAs work on the surface layer of the skin and break the chemical bonds forming dead skin cells. AHAs include glycolic, lactic, tartaric, and citric acids. These chemicals, however, expose the skin to UV rays. Hence, it is essential to follow up with SPF and a moisturizer.


Skin types: AHAs have a mild effect and work excellently for sensitive skin. These chemicals enable the skin surface to shed dead skin cells naturally. Hence, they work very well for dry and flaky skin.

What does exfoliation mean
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Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs): BHAs are ideal for deep cleansing the skin as they penetrate under the epidermis. They work strongly compared to AHAs. BHAs include salicylic acid and beta hydroxyl.


Skin types: BHAs clean out the oil, dirt, and bacteria inside the skin’s pores, making them perfect for acne-prone skin. They work excellently for oily skin, blackheads, and whiteheads. Salicylic acid works very well for sensitive skin.


Enzymes: Enzyme exfoliation is a gentler way to break down the chemical bonds of dead skin cells compared to AHAs.


Skin types: While acid exfoliants are very safe for the skin, enzyme peels are ideal for extra-sensitive skin types.

Exfoliation of skin , ways to exfoliate by body part:

What does exfoliation mean
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  • Face:

The skin of the face is very delicate compared to the rest of the body. Hence, before choosing the type of exfoliant, you must know your skin type. For physical exfoliation, use a gentle battery-run/silicone exfoliator in circular motions with your fingertips. DIY or homemade scrubs are a great way to remove dead skin cells while nourishing the skin.


For chemicals, use a cotton pad or washcloth to apply the product onto the skin.


  • Hands and Feet:


Bath sponges and gloves are great ways to work with wet skin. For dry exfoliation, use a brush with gentle bristles once the skin is dry. A pumice stone can also be an effective exfoliant.


  • Arms and Legs:


Bath sponges and gloves work just as well for arms and legs. If you have issues with ingrown hair, apply salicylic acid with a washcloth/cotton pad.


  • Lips:


Though the skin of the face is quite sensitive compared to the body, the lips are a step ahead. Luckily, not much goes into the maintenance of the lips. There are several lip scrubs available.


Nonetheless, a gentle scrub with a toothbrush can do the job as well. Just make sure that you apply coconut oil/petroleum jelly before this step, and follow up with a lip balm.


How often should do exfoliation of skin?


The answer depends on your skin type. Regardless, 1 to 2 times per week is an ideal schedule.


Avoid exfoliation if you have:


  • Rosacea
  • Wounds or cuts
  • Active break-outs on face and body
  • Irritation or inflammation


Exfoliation is an effective practice to achieve healthier skin and improve its appearance. Make sure you know what does exfoliation mean and  you do not overdo it. Remember to moisturize every time you exfoliate. Consult a dermatologist to understand what works best for your skin, if necessary.

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