How Often to Exfoliate the Face- Hacks Needed to Not Over-Exfoliate

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Exfoliating the face is a great way of removing dirt and dead skin buildup on the surface of your skin. This will help you to achieve smooth, glowing healthy skin. However, it is important to learn how to exfoliate and how often to exfoliate your face. 

Removing dirt and dead skin cells from the surface of your can will help to improve the overall appearance of your skin. It may improve the efficiency of your skincare products by helping them absorb better into your skin. 

However, repeating the process too often can cause side effects such as redness, irritation, flaky skin, and so on. Excessive exfoliation can also cause infections such as eczema. 

Not exfoliating your skin enough will cause more dead skin cells buildup and may cause your skin to look dull and have a rough feel. This article provides you with a detailed guide on how often to exfoliate your face—to help you avoid over-or under-exfoliating your face. 

How Often Should You Exfoliate Your Face?

Generally, it is normal to lose millions of skin cells every day as the body experiences its epidermal turnover. This leaves dead skin cells buildup on the surface of the skin and the fastest way to get them off is by exfoliating them. 

As good as that seems, you shouldn’t over-exfoliate. If you have dry or sensitive skin, you should be careful with the exfoliant you choose to use. Using one that contains harsh ingredients can lead to irritation and dryness.

You should only exfoliate your dry skin 1 or 2 times weekly. Use an exfoliant that contains moisturizing properties. You may also look for ingredients like glycolic acid, rice powder, or bamboo. 

“Try as much as possible to avoid physical exfoliants,” says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a board-certified dermatologist. 

If your skin is oily or acne-prone, you can exfoliate as often as two to three times weekly if your skin is up for it. Dr. Zeichner suggests you look for ingredients like salicylic acid—to reduce and prevent breakout by unclogging your pores. You can also use physical exfoliants. 

For combination skin, you can use any type of exfoliant to remove dead skin cells from your skin. You can switch between using a scrub or acid. You should also stick to doing this only twice or three times weekly.

Dr. Zeichner suggests using an exfoliant that contains mandelic acid as it will help to remove excess oil from the skin and you can use it on dry areas of your skin as well.

For mature skin, you can use a gentle chemical exfoliant up to twice a week. However, you should reduce it to once a week if you experience any form of irritation.

How Often Should You Exfoliate With a Brush?

Exfoliating too much can cause dry skin that feels red, irritated, scratched, or tight. Regardless of your skin type, start slowly to see how your skin responds. You can then gradually move on to the quantities that are right for you. 

Exfoliate using a facial brush once or twice a week for dry and sensitive skin, while using it up to one time daily for oily skin.  Regardless of the brush, avoid delicate areas around the eyes while doing it. 

Cleansing brushes can help treat acne by helping to shed excess sebum (oil) that contributes to acne breakouts. You just need to choose the right and suitable cleanser. Anything too harsh can make acne worse, therefore choose gentle cleansers and brushes. 

For acne-prone skin, gently brush cleanser on your skin 2 to 4 times a week, paying attention to whether the acne worsens. Likewise, beware of cystic acne, which develops deep into the skin and is often painful. 

Gargling or brushing hard on your skin can irritate the cyst, which further stimulates the cyst and allows more bacteria to enter the pore. That doesn’t always happen but you do need to be careful. Use a cleanser you already know your skin can handle. 

For dry skin, only use the brush once or twice a week to exfoliate. Use light hands and don’t use them for too long on your face. Opt for small, fine bristles, such as silicone brushes—that are soft on the skin.

How Often Should You Exfoliate With AHAs/BHAs?

Chemical exfoliants are a double-edged sword. When you use them correctly, the skin brightens, wrinkles are smoothed, and your skin will be blessed with unclogged pores. However, excessive use of the exfoliant will cause dryness and irritation.

Using AHA/BHA too often can have serious consequences. The desire to remove dead skin cells that make your skin rough is understandable. However, not all dead cells can be removed. They protect new, healthy cells that are not yet ready to come to the surface of the skin. 

Exfoliating too often will break the skin’s barrier while exposing skin cells that are yet to develop fully. Your application frequency depends on your skin type and the type of acid you use.

You can use glycolic acid as often as every day on dry, tanned skin. Sensitive skin can only tolerate once or twice use of lactic acid, while other skin types can use it more often. It is safe to use Mandelic acid on oily, or combination skin once daily. 

You can also use salicylic acid on oily, acne-prone skin once daily. However, if you experience dryness, redness, or other forms of irritation while using any of these acids, reduce your application frequency. 

Can You Exfoliate While Using Retinol?

Retinol is an active ingredient that works as an exfoliant to slough off dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. It makes the skin more sensitive and can irritate the skin. 

You can use other exfoliants on your face while using retinol in your skincare routine. However, you have to be careful when using an exfoliant while using retinol. This will help you avoid over-exfoliating your skin. 

Retinol isn’t technically an exfoliator, so you use exfoliators such as scrubs. Don’t use chemical acids such as lactic acid, salicylic acid, and so on, in the same routine as retinol. Doing so may damage the protective barrier of your skin and may also irritate your skin. 

How Often Should You Exfoliate With Baking Soda?

As with other exfoliants, the everyday use of baking soda on the face may dry out or irritate your skin. Using it once or twice weekly to slough off dull skin cells is enough to leave your face feeling and looking fresh.

How Often Should You Exfoliate During Winter?

Exfoliating habits need to change from season to season. More effective exfoliation is needed, especially in the cold and harsh winters when the humidity and temperature are low as the skin is dry in winter. This leads to a scaly patch that allows you to sit longer on your skin. 

Cold temperatures also expel your skin cells faster and cause them to die faster. These dead skin cells not only make your skin look dull and tired but also interfere with the absorption of other skincare products. 

You should exfoliate to rejuvenate the skin and allow moisture from lotions and other creams to penetrate and moisturize the skin. Depending on your skin type, exfoliating 2 to 3 times a week is sufficient in winter. 

There are several ways to exfoliate your face during winter. Chemical peels such as glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and azelaic acid are effective and skin-friendly. You can also use physical skins that contain powders.

How Often Should You Exfoliate During Summer?

During summer, it’s best to exfoliate one to three times a week. Keeping up with this habit will make your skin brighter and brighter. 

As always, start low and slow. If your skin is without any inflammation, you can start exfoliating once every week and slowly work up to exfoliating up to 3 times a week. Your usage frequency should depend on your skin’s needs. 

However, ensure that you do not over-exfoliate. It is important to keep your skin balanced as too much exfoliation can dry, inflame and damage your skin.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you cleanse your face before exfoliating?

Yes, you should. Cleansing is the first step of every skincare routine and is a must. 

Exfoliating will only help to remove dead skin cells. Cleansing is what will help to remove dirt and makeup product buildup from the surface of your skin.

When should you exfoliate your face?

You can exfoliate in the morning or at night depending on your skin’s needs. If you have dry skin and would love to remove dullness from the surface of your skin, you can use your exfoliant in the morning. 

If you wear makeup often, you can exfoliate at night to deep cleanse your skin to remove makeup residue.

How many times a day should you exfoliate your face?

Exfoliate only one time a day. Exfoliating your face or any other part of your skin twice or more times in just one day can damage your skin badly. 

Over-exfoliating your skin is something you should try as much as possible to avoid. Doing so will only damage your skin’s barrier.


Layers of dead skin are not negative. They play an essential role in keeping the skin healthy. Dead skin cells serve as a layer of protection over developing skin cells. 

Even though removing some of it will give your skin a brighter look, over-exfoliating will leave your developing skin cells unprotected. As a newbie, exfoliating your skin once a week may be enough. 

However, your skin type and goal should determine the number of times you remove dead skin cells from it. The ideal exfoliation frequency is two to three times weekly.

Thanks for reading. 

Visit Serum101 for more useful tips to help you care for your skin properly.