Exfoliants, Exfoliators and Scrubs in Skin Care

Exfoliating the skin smoothes it, allowing it to reflect light in one direction and increase radiance and glow.

Exfoliating Skin

Do you really need to exfoliate? It depends upon your Baumann Skin Type. Some skin types should not exfoliate and others should exfoliate 2 times a day.

Exfoliators take off the top dead layer of the skin, leaving it smooth and radiant with an increased ability to reflect light.

Many skin care ingredients exfoliate skin- but which is best for you depends on your skin type and other products in your skin care routine.

Exfoliating is the fastest way to get glowing skin.

Some people call smooth, exfoliated skin “glass skin” because of the ability of the skin to reflect light and glow.

But over-exfoliating skin is not good for skin. 

This blog is a guide to How To Safely Exfoliate At Home

What happens if you over exfoliate?

Your skin naturally exfoliates in a process called desquamation.

Many skin care ingredients have ingredients that exfoliate skin. This is why it is very easy to over exfoliate.

Over exfoliating can damage your skin by:

How do you know if you are over exfoliating?

Exfoliating can dry out your skin- so exfoliate less in the winter when the climate is dry and cold.


What happens if you don't exfoliate?

When the skin’s surface is not smooth, dead skin cells heap upon the top layer of the skin.

This decreases light reflection.

Your skin will look dull, not glow and feel rough.

If you have black skin, you may get a grey ashy skin in dry areas that need exfoliation.

Signs you need to exfoliate your skin:

  • Skin feels rough
  • Skin is dull
  • Skin does not reflect light
  • Skin is not radiant
  • Your skin looks old
  • Creapy skin with a rough texture

How To Exfoliate Skin At Home

It is easy to exfoliate your skin at home.  Many skin care products will do this.  The hard part is knowing which exfoliators are best for your Baumann Skin Type.

Sensitive skin types, dry types, resistant types and oily types all need different types of exfoliation.

It is best to choose how you exfoliate y your skin type.

Know your Baumann Skin Type before buying any skin care products to exfoliate so you do not waste time and money.


How Often To Exfoliate

How many times a day or week you should exfoliate depends upon your Baumann Skin Type. If you have a Resistant Baumann Skin Type, you can exfoliate every day.

How often should you exfoliate sensitive skin?

Sensitive Baumann Skin Types should be careful and only exfoliate 2-3 times a week. Some subtypes of sensitive skin such as rosacea prone skin, may not be able to exfoliate at all.  Never exfoliate if your skin if it hurts, or is red or stinging.  

How often should you exfoliate dry skin?

Exfoliate dry skin one to two times a week.  Only exfoliate if your skin is dull or is flaking. 

Is it good to exfoliate dry skin?

It is not good to exfoliate dry skin unless you need a quick fix to look more radiant or allow makeup to go on smoother. Exfoliating can injure your skin barrier and make dry skin worse.

Can exfoliating too much cause dry skin?

Yes!  Exfoliating skin injures the skin barrier.  If you want to exfoliate your dry skin, use a barrier repair moisturizer afterwards.


Barrier repair moisturizers to use after exfoliating dry skin:

How to Exfoliate the Skin

There are two main types of skincare products that exfoliate skin: 

  1. Mechanical exfoliators 
  2. Chemical Exfoliators

Skincare products to exfoliate the skin may contain mechanical exfoliators, chemical exfoliators, or both.

Choose exfoliators by your Baumann skin type for best results.

Mechanical Exfoliators

Mechanical exfoliators use a rough substance s to scratch the surface of the skin removing dead skin cells.

Types of mechanical exfoliators are:

  • sugar
  • apricot seeds
  • jojoba beads
  • aluminum crystals
  • face brush
  • face scrub
  • loofa
  • microdermabrasion 
  • dermaplaning

Chemical Exfoliators

Chemical exfoliators that use low pH ingredients such as acids or enzymes help dissolve the attachments between cells.

Types of chemicals exfoliators are:

  • AHAs
  • Azelaic acid
  • Gluconolactone,
  • Glycolic acid
  • Hydroxy acids
  •  Lactic acid
  • Papaya enzymes
  • Pumpkin enzymes
  • Salicylic acid 

Why Exfoliating Is so Important

The skin naturally exfoliates itself in a process called desquamation.

In some instances, the face needs help exfoliating because it is not desquamating enough, resulting in retained skin cells on the surface of the skin.

These dead skin cells on the surface of skin make the skin feel rough.

When the surface of the skin is not smooth, the skin looks dull because light is not reflected well.

To renew skin and return it to a radiant and  glowing state, choose an exfoliation method right for your Baumann Skin Type.


How Many Exfoliators To Use In Your Skin Care Routine

You probably do not realize how many exfoliators are in your skin care routine. Many ingredients such as Vitamin C exfoliate but you do not realize it.

When starting a new skin care routine, most Baumann Skin Types should only use 1 type of exfoliation per day.  However, some skin types can use 2-3 types per day.

The key is to not over-exfoliate.  When you begin a new skincare routine,  do not use more than 1 or 2 types of exfoliators at once or you can over-exfoliate the skin.  The amount of exfoliators you use, the frequency that you exfoliate every day, and which exfoliator is best depends upon your Baumann Skin Type®.  

What skin treatments exfoliate?

  • Body Scrubs
  • Dermaplaning
  • Exfoliating Masks
  • Face brushes
  • Facial scrubs
  • HydraFacial
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Peels


What skin care ingredients exfoliate?

List of exfoliating ingredients found in skincare products:

  • AHAs
  • BHA
  • Ascorbic acid
  • Azelaic acid
  • Defensins
  • Hydroxyacids such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, and phytic acid
  • Jojoba beads
  • Retinoids
  • Salicylic acid

Natural Exfoliating Ingredients:

  • Apricot Pits- finely ground
  • Almonds- finely ground
  • Oatmeal- ground
  • Papaya enzymes
  • Pumpkin enzymes
  • Sugar

Sea salt is very rough on the skin so if you choose to exfoliate with kosher salt or sea salt- be very gentle.  Sugar is a better natural option to exfoliate skin.

Do not use baking soda to exfoliate your face. Balking soda has a pH of 8 and is very alkaline and irritating to your skin.  You can cause a chemical burn.

Is Vitamin C an Exfoliant?

Yes ascorbic acid is an exfoliant. Vitamin C is an acid called ascorbic acid. 

Most vitamin C serums are at a low acidic pH.  The Vitamin C serums that are pH 3 or lower are exfoliants.  For example, SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic is an exfoliant.

Vitamin C creams are not a low pH in most cases- so Vitamin C creams do not exfoliate skin.

However, Vitamin C serums are not strong exfoliants.  They are also antioxidants and tyrosinase inhibitors

Is Hyaluronic acid an exfoliant?

No. Hyaluronic acid is a humectant.  It helps skin hold onto water but HA does not exfoliate skin.

Is Niacinamide an exfoliant?

No. Niacinamide is an anti inflammatory ingredient.

Is retinol an exfoliant?

Yes retinol and other retinoids are one of the best exfoliants which is why you peel when you first begin a retinoid.

Best Scrubs and Exfoliants

Dermatologist recommended exfoliators, facial scrubs and hydroxyacids to exfoliate skin

Here is some general advice from dermatologists to help you decide which exfoliators are best for the face.

Our top recommendation is to take the quiz and shop by your Baumann Skin Type.

Best Exfoliator for Sensitive Skin

Sensitive skin is more prone to inflammation.  Too much inflammation can lead to uneven skin pigmentation and skin aging.

Exfoliators can increase inflammation in sensitive skin types and hurt your skin!

If you have sensitive skin, you should only use exfoliating ingredients that are right for your Baumann Skin Type®.  This is important because every day in our dermatology practices we see patients who have made their acne, rosacea, or irritated skin worse by using the wrong exfoliating ingredients.

Salicylic acid cleansers might be right for you if you have oily sensitive skin and hydroxyacid cleansers might be right for you if you have dry sensitive skin, but please take the quiz and get our recommendations before using any type of exfoliation. 

Misuse of exfoliators is one of the biggest mistake that I see my sensitive skin patients make!


Best Exfoliators for Dry Skin: 

The best exfoliators for dry skin are hydroxyacid cleansers or creams that contain hydroxyacids.

Here are some low strength hydroxyacid creams that can be used to exfoliate dry skin:

Best Exfoliators for Normal, and Combination Skin

We like these facial scrubs for normal and combination skin:

Best Exfoliators for Oily Skin

For oily skin, we prefer salicylic acid cleansers or toners.

Here are some exfoliating salicylic acid toners for oily skin. Toners should be applied after cleansing the face.

Best Face Wash to Exfoliate the Face

Our dermatologists recommend exfoliating the face with a low pH cleanser. 

If you are dry, chose a hydoxyacid cleanser.  I

f you are oily, choose a salicylic acid cleanser.

The best face wash to exfoliate the face daily will have chemical exfoliators.  These can be natural skin exfoliators like papaya or pumpkin enzymes, but exfoliating ingredients that are hydroxy acids, like glycolic acid, lactic acid, and phytic acid, are stronger exfoliators. The best face washes to exfoliate oily skin types are salicylic acid face washes.

The best face washes to exfoliate dry types are hydroxyacid face washes.

Best Essence or Toner to Exfoliate the Face

Essences, which are another name for facial toners, may contain exfoliating ingredients such as hydroxy acids and enzymes. T

he best exfoliating face toners for oily skin or combination skin have salicylic acid to clear pores.

The best essences and face toners for dry skin should have hydroxy acids like glycolic acid.

Best Face Scrub to Exfoliate the Face

There are many face scrubs to exfoliate the face, however, many have come under scrutiny because they can hurt the environment. In fact, plastic microbeads have been banned from beauty products in the US because of plastic buildup in the waterways. 

Environmentally friendly, eco-friendly, sustainable face scrub ingredients include:

  • Coffee grounds- Can have sharp edges that are too rough for sensitive skin
  • Jojoba beads - Do not have rough edges that can damage the skin. Come in different sizes that can determine mild, moderate, or deep exfoliation.
  • Oatmeal- Best exfoliating ingredient for sensitive skin but not very exfoliating
  • Sugar- A very common DIY at home exfoliator, but very harsh and irritating due to small size and large surface area, causing increased amounts of friction.

Best Face Brush to Exfoliate the Face

There are many good face brushes to exfoliate the face. Face brushes should be used with the best cleanser for your Baumann Skin Type.

Face brushes are not advised for dry skin types because increased friction can impair the skin barrier

Sensitive skin types should not use a face brush. (See discussion of exfoliation for sensitive skin above).

If you choose to use a face brush, you should only use one other type of exfoliation in your skincare routine, and this includes the type of cleanser that you are using with the face brush.

So- if you are using a retinoid and a face brush, do not use a hydroxy acid cleanser, toner, or face cream to exfoliate the skin.

Exfoliating Masks-

More recommendations are coming soon.  Our doctors are still in process of evaluating all the masks.

For now- we like these mask to exfoliate the skin:


Exfoliate Face DIY - Do it Yourself Face Exfoliation at Home

Don’t want to spend a lot of money on a face exfoliator? You can exfoliate the face naturally at home.  Most people use sugar mixed with a lotion of milk or honey on the face, however, sugar is too rough on the skin and leads to over-exfoliation. Sugar is a good exfoliator for the lips when mixed with a little honey or oil, but it is too irritating to the face.  The best natural way to exfoliate the face at home is with a washcloth. Use the cloth in circular movements gently around the face to loosen the attachments between cells using mechanical exfoliation.

Best Dermatologist Treatments to Exfoliate the Face

If you want to have a professional exfoliation treatment with a dermatologist or aesthetician, consider the following exfoliation treatments:

How to Exfoliate Skin Naturally

  • Wash your face twice a day
  • Use warm water to wash face and body
  • Stay in bath or shower for at least 7 minutes once a day
  • Wipe skin gently with a cloth or loofa in a circular motion
  • Drink more water
  • Use a sugar or oatmeal scrub

Body Exfoliators

Exfoliators can be used to exfoliate the body, arms, shoulders, legs and feet. 

The same skin exfoliating products discussed above can be used on the body. 

Lip exfoliators often contain sugar because sugar makes the lip smoothing product taste great.  Sugar can be used to exfoliate the body and lips, but sugar is too harsh to use as a face exfoliator.

Scrub Versus Exfoliator- What is the Difference?

A scrub is a type of exfoliator.  Other examples of exfoliators are hydroxy acids, microdermabrasion, retinoids, chemical peels, and face brushes. 

Which exfoliator is best?  Well- it depends on where you want to use the exfoliator. 

There are face exfoliators, feet exfoliators, hand exfoliators, leg exfoliators and even lip exfoliators.  These all use similar technologies to exfoliate which are discussed below.

The best exfoliator depends on what your skin type is, if you want a natural exfoliator, if you want a DIY exfoliator to use at home, or if you want to go to your aesthetician or dermatologist and have a chemical peel or microdermabrasion treatment. 

All of these exfoliating treatments do the same thing- they remove dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, helping the skin to reflect light and increase glow.  The nice thing about exfoliators is that they work fast.

To find the scrub or exfoliant right for you, shop by your Baumann Skin Type.

Does Exfoliating Help Acne?

Although many people believe that exfoliating is good for acne, exfoliating the skin can make acne worse.

If you have acne, you should avoid mechanical exfoliation such as scrubs which tend to cause breakouts and make it more likely that you will become irritated from your acne medications 

If you have acne, exfoliate with hydroxy acids and salicylic acids instead of facial brushes and scrubs.

Over-exfoliated skin in acne patients is very common because patients often feel that acne is caused by unclean skin and they think exfoliating will help acne. 

Over exfoliating disturbs the skin's natural desquamation process and can lead to clogged pores and acne.

The best exfoliator for acne is salicylic acid.

Salicylic acid is the preferred exfoliator for acne because:

  • Has anti-inflammatory soothing capabilities
  • Helps treat acne
  • Can unclog pores
  • Lowers skin pH so acne bacteria can't thrive

Be careful when using salicylic acid with acne medications such as retinoids and benzoyl peroxides.  This can lead to too much exfoliation.

These are the best salicylic acid skin care products to exfoliate when you have acne:

Does Exfoliating Make Psoriasis Worse?

There are some instances when exfoliators should not be used.  For example, exfoliation can worsen psoriasis and eczema

Patients are often tempted to use exfoliators to remove psoriasis scales and improve skin roughness from eczema.  However, friction and injury can lead to the Koebner phenomenon (skin injury) which worsens psoriasis.

Eczema gets worse with friction, which is why it is often found in areas of the skin that rub against clothing.

For this reason, if you have psoriasis or eczema, avoid scrubs and exfoliators and instead use an eczema cream or a psoriasis cream.

Best Exfoliator for Black Skin?

If you have black skin, you may notice that the skin gets an ashy tone when dry.  The best way to exfoliate black skin is by using one of the exfoliators discussed above, followed by a moisturizer.  Using the best skincare routine for black skin that considers your Baumann Skin Type® will help prevent ashy skin. Before you buy any skincare products for black skin, make sure you know your Baumann Skin Type.  Using the wrong skincare products and too many skin exfoliators can dry the skin and lead to ashy skin- or worse- an uneven skin tone caused by inflammation.

There is a lot to consider when choosing an exfoliator. Instead of guessing which exfoliator is best, let us guide you towards the best exfoliants for your skin type.

What ingredients can you use after exfoliating skin?

Can you exfoliate and use Vitamin C?

You can exfoliate before using Vitamin C.  It is best to use a low pH cleanser like a AHA or BHA to lower the pH before applying Vitamin C serum.  This helps the Vitamin C penetrate better. 

Vitamin C serums are expensive so you want as much absorption as possible because ascorbic acid does not absorb very well.

Can you exfoliate and use retinol?

Retinoids are strong exfoliating ingredients.  It is best not to use another exfoliant while using retinol until you are using the retinol every night with no side effects.

Is Over exfoliating Bad for the Skin? Can you Exfoliate Too Much?

Too much exfoliation leaves the skin weaker and unprotected because too many of the cell attachments have been loosened resulting in an excessive loss of skin cells at the skin's surface.  This thins the outer protective layer of the skin.

Too much exfoliation decreases the skin’s natural protection and can lead to acne, skin bumps, dryness, tenderness, stinging and skin sensitivity. You will also be more susceptible to sunburn.

When you over-exfoliate skin, the skin is injured due to increased entry of allergen, microbes and irritants that can slide between skin cells into the skin.

Too much exfoliation leads to inflammation and interruption of keratinization. This is why acne can occur after too much exfoliation. Inflammation caused by over exfoliation can speed aging and cause an uneven skin tone and should be avoided.

IMPORTANT SKIN TIP: Too much exfoliation can lead to acne, sensitive skin, uneven skin tone and increased aging.

Signs of Over-Exfoliation of the Skin 

You can tell that skin is over-exfoliated if you are using an exfoliator and you experience:

  • pink areas of skin with scales
  • stinging
  • skin sensitivity to touch
  • unexplained acne break out after exfoliating.

What happens when you exfoliate too much?

Your skin can become dry and sensitive and develop an acne breakout.

What do I do if I over exfoliated my skin?

Stop all exfoliants including AHA, BHA, retinol, Vitamin C, and azelaic acid.

Apply a soothing moisturizer

How long does it take for skin to heal after over exfoliating?

If you stop all exfoliants, the skin should begin to feel better in 2 days.  It may take an entire week to heal. Give your skin 2 weeks before restarting any exfoliating skin care products.

Exfoliating too much or incorrectly can damage your skin.  This why you need to shop for skin care products using your Baumann Skin Type® .

This will keep you from wasting time and money on the wrong skin care products

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