How to Exfoliate Skin

Exfoliation Methods

Your skin sheds 30,000 to 40,000 dead cells per minute, but sometimes this natural shedding isn't enough. If you don't remove dead skin cells, dirt and debris can become trapped in your pores, causing acne [source: WebMD]. Dead cells that have been on the surface of your skin are also duller and dryer than the newer cells underneath.

Whether you're using an exfoliating soap or a tool, to get the most out physical exfoliation, you should follow a few basic steps:

  1. Use warm water -- not hot -- to dampen your skin. Hot water can be irritating and overdrying.
  2. Apply your cleanser or scrub, and use your fingers or your exfoliating tool to rub gently in a circular motion. This circular motion will cause the soap to lather and will work the particles or acids in exfoliating soaps deeper into your skin.
  3. When you're done scrubbing, rinse your skin thoroughly and apply a moisturizer.

Don't scrub on a daily basis unless you have extremely oily skin. People with normal or dry skin need to exfoliate only once or twice a week [source: Bruno]. Also, take care to not exfoliate too hard or too often. Skin can become irritated if you choose products with ingredients that are too harsh for your skin type or if you scrub too hard when you're exfoliating [source: Wyar].

For more information on exfoliating, visit the Web sites below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Almasi, Mary Rose. "Look Younger, Longer." Natural Health. (Accessed 9/3/09)
  • Bruno, Karen. "Women's Skin Care for Your Face." (Accessed 10/1/09).
  • Geria, Navin M. "Exfoliants Play Key Role in Achieving Healthy Skin." Household & Personal
  • Products Industry. February 2008. (Accessed 9/2/09)
  • The Skin Sciences Institute. "Skin Care: A Practical Guide to Skin Care Products and Ingredients." 1999. (Accessed 9/3/09)
  • WebMD. "Acne Causes." (Accessed 10/1/09)
  • Wyar, Leah. "Do You Have Type E Skin?" (Accessed 9/3/09)