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How to exfoliate your skin

Kori Ellis is an editor and writer based in San Antonio, TX, where she lives with her husband and four children. At SheKnows, she writes about parenting, fashion, beauty and other lifestyle topics. Additionally, Kori has been published i...

The must-know rules to exfoliating for smooth, glowing skin

Exfoliation removes dead skin cells, leaving your skin radiant and smooth. Whether it's bikini season or you just want soft, clean skin, exfoliating your skin from head to toe will get you glowing.

Many women exfoliate their faces but forget about other body parts. As the weather heats up and you get bikini-ready, you should exfoliate all over. Exfoliation is also important before applying tanning products or when rejuvenating winter-weary skin.

Exfoliating tips
Image: Tiffany Egbert/SheKnows

How to exfoliate


  • Exfoliating cleanser
  • Loofah, body brush or exfoliating gloves
  • Pumice stone
  • Body lotion


  1. Before stepping into the shower, brush your dry skin with your loofah, body brush or exfoliating gloves. This will help remove the loose skin and prepare your skin for the exfoliating process. Begin with the soles of your feet, working your way up your body.
  2. Get into the shower and wet your body from head to toe. Don't exfoliate your skin if you are sunburned or have any open cuts or wounds.
  3. Use a pumice stone on your feet to eliminate rough spots and calluses. If your feet are extremely rough, soak them in a basin of warm water mixed with a cup of milk for 30 minutes before getting into the shower.
  4. Apply your exfoliating cleanser to your loofah or gloves. Begin scrubbing your body in a circular motion starting with the bottoms of your feet and working your way up. When you reach the bikini area, don't scrub too hard because the skin is very sensitive.
  5. Use a body brush to exfoliate your back and other hard-to-reach places.
  6. Be gentle on your face, particularly around your eyes and mouth. Use an exfoliating product especially formulated for the face, which is gentler than products designed to be used on the body.
  7. Don't forget about your hands. You want them to look and feel soft and smooth too!
  8. Rinse your body with lukewarm water, and follow with the coldest water you can stand. Apply a shower gel to soften your skin, if you'd like.
  9. After stepping out of the shower, apply a moisturizing body lotion all over. Body lotions and facial moisturizers containing alpha or beta hydroxy acids are ideal choices because these acids continue to remove dead skin cells.
  10. Use body moisturizer once a day. Exfoliation is drying to the skin, so you must keep your skin hydrated.

Exfoliating products

Select exfoliating cleansers that contain sea salt and/or sugar. They key is to select an exfoliator with regular, round grains because exfoliating with square or irregular grains can cause skin lacerations. These abrasions may not be visible to the human eye, but they can cause serious damage.

Karen Asquith, aesthetician and national director of education for G.M Collin Skin care, explains, "[When] they are damaging the skin, they activate the repair mechanisms. If the repair mechanisms are activated regularly for a long period of time, they are unable to keep up, they become exhausted."

She continues, "This 'burn-out' of the skin’s fundamental functioning causes pre-mature skin aging."

Exfoliating once or twice a week is usually enough to achieve silky skin; however, women with oily skin should exfoliate more often than those with dry skin. If your skin becomes excessively dry or irritated after exfoliation, don't scrub so hard. Cut back on how often you exfoliate, and explore the possibility that you may be allergic to the products you used.

"Over-exfoliating is also a concern," says Asquith. "The skin needs time to recuperate, therefore 2-3 times per week is sufficient. Following exfoliation, a body cream should be applied. Depending on the treatment, a slimming, firming, or hydrating cream will penetrate better following an exfoliation and the results will be increased."

So, it's not just about properly removing dead skin. It's about what the new skin gets to soak in. So, Asquith suggests exfoliants that contain other active ingredients. "[Look for] hydrating, anti-septic, soothing and nourishing components thereby addressing more skin concerns and achieving multi-functional actions."

Here are some of our favorite exfoliating products:

More: Find out how to find the best exfoliator for your skin

More skin care tips

12 Steps to smoother skin
Smooth operator: 20 Ways to exfoliate in 5 minutes
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