Skin exfoliation has long been a popular approach to improving the feel and tone of the skin. Convenience is one benefit of skin exfoliation, as one can do it at home. However, how you exfoliate is essential. 

Under-exfoliation can cause a build-up of dead skin, making future exfoliation more challenging. Over-exfoliation, on the other hand, can cause scars and skin irritation. Here is a quick guide on how to exfoliate your face effectively.

What is Exfoliation?

The skin has many layers that regenerate to replace dead skin cells. The cycle usually takes 30 days or so. Various variables might obstruct the shedding of dead cells from the skin. Dry skin with flaky patches and plugged pores may result from such conditions.

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Exfoliation refers to eliminating dead cells from the skin’s outer layer. The process is made possible by an exfoliant, which may be chemical or physical. They weaken the glue-like component that keeps dead skin cells together, allowing them to shed more readily. Chemical exfoliation will be the subject of this guide.

The Perks of Chemical Exfoliation

Exfoliation can brighten your skin and increase the efficiency of topical skincare products by boosting their permeability. 

Exfoliation may also minimize the chances of having blocked pores, which means fewer breakouts. 

Another perk is a boost in collagen production. Collagen is essential for healthy, bright skin. The molecule also improves skin elasticity, which helps to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

Benefits of Exfoliation

Types of Chemical Exfoliants

Acids are the principal chemical exfoliants. They come in a variety of concentrations and pH levels. They come in three major categories;

  1. Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)
  2. Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs)
  3. Polyhydroxy Acids (PHAs) 
Image on Chemical Exfoliation


AHAs constitute a family of acids readily soluble in water and usually obtained from fruits. Glycolic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, tartaric, and malic acid are the most commonly available AHAs. These acids help peel away the surface of your skin so that new, more evenly pigmented skin cells may regenerate and take their place.


BHAs are not soluble in water but readily go into oily solutions. A classic example of a BHA is salicylic acid. These acids have a high preference for the hair follicles of the skin, where they remove dead cells and excess oil clogging skin pores. Because of this, skin exfoliation products with BHAs as their primary component target acne- or sun-damaged skin. 


PHAs have a mechanism of action that resembles that of AHAs. The difference is that PHA has multiple hydroxy groups that make it larger and, therefore, cannot permeate to deep-seated skin tissues. For this reason, they cause minor skin irritation compared to other chemical exfoliants, particularly AHAs.

Despite them not penetrating the skin just as deep, they offer additional benefits such as hydration of the skin and preventing damage to the skin by oxidants. The commonly available PHAs are gluconolactone and lactobionic acid.

How to Exfoliate Your Face The Right Way

When using a chemical exfoliant, wash your face with a regular cleanser

Apply your chemical exfoliator liberally to your entire face, neck, and décolleté if it comes in a pre-moistened towel or pad.

Before moving on to the next stage in your routine, which may be a treatment serum or cream, give a chemical exfoliator a few minutes for complete absorption by the skin.

Do the same for exfoliants in the form of gels or serums. Some chemical exfoliants, often called “peels,” should be rinsed off after a few minutes.

Always check your product label to make sure you’re using it correctly. 

Remember that exfoliating your face should only be done about one to three times a week, as exfoliating too often or too hard may cause micro-tears on your skin’s surface and strip your skin’s protective layer. 

If you have inflammatory acne, rosacea, or hypersensitive skin, ask your dermatologist to determine what exfoliant to use and how often.

Exfoliation According To Skin Type Image

Key Takeaways

Chemical exfoliation can renew the skin if done appropriately. In contrast, if done poorly, there is a considerable probability of irritating the skin and failing to get the desired outcomes. Consult a dermatologist or other medical expert if you’re unclear about how to include a chemical exfoliant into your skincare routine.