Asking whether you need to exfoliate is not so much a question of ‘if’ but ‘how often’. Exfoliation – whether physical or chemical – should be part of every skin care regime, along with gentle cleansing and intensive hydration. But exfoliating isn’t as simple as sloughing off dead skin with the nearest, most intensely abrasive solution or product. Here’s why.
The simple reason is that gentle buffing of the skin removes dead skin cells and allows for younger, fresher, firmer ones to come through. But who needs to exfoliate?
If you train, you need to exfoliate, as sweat can clog the pores in a major way. If you live anywhere the summers are humid – say Singapore, Shanghai or Sydney – you need to exfoliate to get rid of the pollutants and grime which can cause skin issues. If you have a beard, exfoliation is ideal for loosening up painful ingrown hairs. If you've got sensitive skin, a gentle scrub will do your skin good.
If arguably every skin type can benefit from some form of exfoliation - the issue then becomes one of how often. The answer? No more than twice weekly. Any more can be counterproductive and cause further damage to the skin and compound any existing or underlying issues.
As with the remainder of your skin care routine, technique is key. Gentle, circular motions will suffice for the particles in an exfoliant to do their work - if you’re scratching the skin with anything more than the lightest pressure, you run the risk of damaging your skin. Apply as gently as possible to a dampened face and neck for no more than a minute and rinse thoroughly.
No matter your skin type, there will invariably be an exfoliating product best suited to the needs of your skin. There is, however, one common factor that you should be wary of: tiny, plastic beads. Not only are they unduly harsh on the skin, these microplastic particles are also devastating on our marine environments, so much so that they’ve been banned in many nations around the world. Look instead for formulations that include gentle buffing agents, like bamboo particles or chemical exfoliants, like AHAs.