Exfoliation 101: To Scrub or not to Scrub...?

Hey Cinderella, quit scrubbing your face like a filthy floor - easy does it when it comes to exfoliation! 

Do you know that exfoliation is one of the most misunderstood skincare steps and when done too aggressively- or too often- can do the most long-term damage?!?

We are here help you determine what type of exfoliation is right for YOUR skin right now- we will demystify the misinformation surrounding one of the most crucial steps in your skincare practice. 

So, how do you know what exfoliation method is right for you?  Below, we have made a simple list of “DO’s” and “Dont's”; categorized by skin type and current condition- think of it as your quick reference guide anytime that your skin is freaking out or looks and feels “blah”.


First, a few facts:

Do you know that your skin exfoliates on its own every single day?

Your body is a self-cleaning machine that is always replacing old, tired cells with new, fresh ones bursting with energy and ready to assist your body as it completes its daily tasks.

In fact, every bodily organ (except for your brain and eyes) has its own dedicated cycle and timeline for renewal; every seven years, you have an entirely new skeleton! The skin, which is the body’s largest organ, is on a 28-day cycle of regeneration, meaning, that every 28 days the uppermost layer of skin, the epidermis has fully shed and replenished itself with new cells. 

You may be wondering why we bother with the exfoliation step if our skin does it on its own…? It’s simple- as we age, the rate at which our cells “turn over” or replace themselves slows down leaving skin looking dull.  Luckily, with the help of a physical or chemical (we will explain the differnce) exfoliant, dead skin is removed, revealing newer, fresher looking skin below and the BIG BONUS is that treatment products like essences, serums with active ingredients like Vitamin C and Peptides can penetrate much more easily and deeply into new cells where they can work better which maximizes benefits like brightening, lightening and tightening of the epidermis.

What is the difference between a physical and a chemical exfoliant? 

A physical exfoliant is any product that requires a rubbing or scrubbing action, hence the term 'manual exfoliation'. This could be a scrub that you apply with your hands. Or it could be a tool that does the scrubbing action for you, such as a battery-powered facial brush.

A chemical exfoliant is any product that contains acids or enzymes; when these ingredients are applied to skin, they gently dissolve the 'glue' that cements dead skin cells together.

The “DO’s” and “OMG, Pleeeaaassseeee Don’ts!” of Exfoliation by Skin Type or Condition 

Inflamed, Cystic Acne


-Look for soothing and gentle anti-inflammatory ingredients like Aloe Vera and Centella Asiatica in cooling gel and hydrogel bases. Keep your skincare in the refrigerator for an extra cooling sensation.

-Minimize friction and cross contamination on your skin.  Silk pillowcases are naturally more resistant to bacteria and don’t “pull” on your skin when you move your face on your pillow.

-Clean sweep- wash all face towels and pillowcases regularly. There are companies that make towels and pillowcases woven with antimicrobial silver which keeps towels and pillowcases clean longer and helps to kill bacteria.

-Carry an anti-inflammatory spot treatment with you throughout the day to calm angry breakouts; look for alcohol free formulas with ingredients like Aloe, Willow Bark and Sugar Ferment.

 OMG, Don’t!:

-Even think about coming near active, inflamed cystic bumps with ANY type of scrub or cleansing brush - the friction caused will literally infuriate the infection deep within in the pore and the surrounding inflamed areas making it soooooo much worse; because the skin is stretched so taunt over a bulging infection, the uppermost layers of the epidermis are weakened and you can literally tear your face open with a harsh scrub or brush. Guess what happens then....... more bacteria can enter the open skin and you can SCAR!

-Ever pick or attempt at-home “extractions”. Pretty please, leave this to the professionals. The chances are WAY too high that you may reintroduce MORE bacteria and cause a scar.

-EVER let the sun hit your face without SPF protection- preferably physical block which will protect you from acne scars that will turn into dark marks for the rest of your life.

-Over treat or over mask. We know, it's almost impossible to ignore a cyst from the moment you feel the tingle of a “seed” developing deep beneath the skin. It becomes a 24 hour a day distraction and over treating or manipulating can further irritate and cause the pocket to burst internally into surrounding pores.

Sensitive, Rashy Skin


-Patch test as a rule. We know, this is super annoying, especially when you are excited to try something new and fancy or that promises to relieve your reactive conditions.  Beat best is to try behind your ear overnight.

-Know what causes your reactions and avoid contact with anything that contains that product or related ingredients. For example, do you know that the skin of the mango can irritate people that are super sensitive to poison ivy because the two are distant relatives?

-Chill out. Keep water temperatures between cool and lukewarm. Avoid ice and hot water on delicate areas.

OMG, Don’t!:

-Rush with new products.  If you are truly sensitive like some of us here, you've rushed home SO excited to try THE MIRACLE ingredient /  product that promises to finally relieve your skin... only to hit the ceiling as soon as you slather whatever it is on your face that stings to high heaven. (Rework this last bit)

-Pick at or peel your skin- you will expose inflamed, vulnerable baby-like new skin and you will SCAR!

-Step foot outside without SPF protection. If your skin is scaly, rashy or has a crust from eczema or psoriasis the sun will cause deep Hyperpigmentation and can even cause blistering if you are taking certain medications.

-Share products with friends or allow any type of cross- contamination.  Use Q-Tips or wands to scoop product out of jars and be aware of how funky products can become if you are dipping your fingers in to get to the product.

Normal Skin


-Have a blast- literally! Try it all-never too aggressively- and alternate between physical and chemical exfoliants every few days.

-Change up your skincare for the seasons and climate change like beach vacations or ski getaways.

OMG, Don’t!:

-Get overconfident because you have never had a real reaction to products or had real skin conditions.  We have seen people with gorgeous skin get aggressive and use products meant for less delicate parts of the body on the face or, take the “more is better approach” with skincare and end up with  a contact dermatitis or a rosacea diagnosis.

-Everything in moderation for a normal skin.  


Combo Skin


-You know who you are, you have moody, sometimes confused skin. Some days it’s perfect and others its just plain freaking OUT. If you feel like your skin has a split personality, you are not alone, you have combo skin- for sure.  Trust us, we have all been there- we have a plan of attack that you can rely on no matter what is going on with your skin to make it manageable. because your skin has different zones or sometimes acts confused in certain areas, you will map your face and choose your exfoliant to match each area. If that sounds

-Face Mapping- if your T zone is a little oily and congested cleanse or exfoliate that area with a gentle scrub like bamboo or lava powder- both are full of minerals to balance and absorb oil without stripping. On normal to dry areas, apply a gentle chemical exfoliant loaded with AHA’s and BHA’s to digest dead skin, cleanse pores and reveal fresh, bright skin.


OMG, Don’t!:

-Strip your oily areas. Compared to the Normal-to-Dry areas on your face, the Oily-ish (shiney) areas may seem like your pores are gushing oil!  It’s just contrast and stripping your skin with harsh ingredients will only confuse your sebaceous glands more and make them think that they are dry kicking oil production into overdrive. Not good.

-Remember, managing combo skin is a BALANCING ACT. 

-Don't confuse your skin further by jumping around from product to product and brand to brand

Dry Skin


-Sleep in a mask. Many brands offer a hydrating sleep mask that will work hard for your skin during this time of cellular regeneration.  A sleep mask assists deep hydration and penetration.

-Pay attention to your neck and décolleté- consider this an extension of your face and treat it with the same care. 

-Spritz throughout the day with a revitalizing antioxidant mist and re- apply your SPF.

-Read labels and stick with nourishing and bioavailable, organic emollients like shea, olive, almond and coconut oils and butters.


OMG, Don’t!:

-hot is a NOT! Hot water will further dehydrate and disrupt the lipid barrier stripping and throwing skin into a sensitive reactive state.

-Use Petrochemicals- they may feel good going on- rich and hydrating to the touch but they are actually creating a wax like mask that smothers the skin and blocks the absorption of the good active and hydrating ingredients. (Example of petros here with a link to something scary)



Nope. Nope. Nope.

Never, ever, ever, ever experiment with an at home microdermabrasion device. If you own one, chances are that you are like us and may lean a little toward the skincare junkie / OCD side...and the likelihood of overdoing it is HIGH. It is so easy to get carried away with microderm machines but it’s nearly impossible to see in the magnification and from the angle necessary to give yourself a good treatment- not to suck to hard, go too deep and break blood vessels. That story does not end well. Please, put the device down and back away....





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