The Ultimate Guide on How to Exfoliate

Penny and Pine The Ultimate Guide on How to Exfoliate

You may have gotten your cleanse-moisturize-sunscreen routine down pat, but if you aren’t exfoliating, you’re missing out!  We’ve all been taught to think that the key to healthy-looking skin is proper cleansing. What we don’t know is that for radiant skin to happen, exfoliation must be part of the formula. 

Skin exfoliation can make a world of a difference because not only does it cleanse your skin, it prevents acne and allows skin care products to be absorbed more efficiently as well.

How to exfoliate? You’ve asked and we’ve heard you. Here’s the skinny on how to properly exfoliate your skin!

Here’s How to Exfoliate Your Face

person looking away from camera | how to exfoliate your face

Skin exfoliation seems like such a complicated process for most of us. With the proliferation of exfoliants on the market, one product seems just as good as the next one. But since you asked, we’ve gathered all your questions and answered them here. 

Guys and gals, without further ado…the ultimate guide on how to exfoliate!

Check out our table of contents to jump right where you need to go:

  1. What is exfoliating?
  2. When should I exfoliate?
  3. How do you exfoliate?
  4. Can I exfoliate every day?
  5. How do I exfoliate naturally?
  6. How do I exfoliate sensitive skin?
  7. How do I exfoliate super dry skin?

The Basics

We're going to cover some basic information about exfoliating your skin first before we dive into anything else so we can avoid overwhelming anyone! 

What is exfoliating?

cute baby laying on pink blanket | The Ultimate Guide on How to Exfoliate

A baby’s skin is silky soft because their skin cells are naturally replaced every few days. As we grow older, cell turnover rate slows down. Dead skin cells linger and tend to emphasize fine lines. Unfortunately, they also make your complexion look dull.

To smoothen skin and even out skin tone, you have to remove dead skin cells by exfoliating your skin. You may do so physically (scrubs) or chemically (enzymes or acids). The latter also helps slow down the skin renewing cycle.

How does exfoliation improve complexion?

  • It makes wrinkles and fine lines less visible
  • It minimizes superficial scars
  • It unclogs and minimizes pores while allowing the release of natural oils from the skin
  • It allows thorough absorption of skin care products such as moisturizers and serums

When should I exfoliate?

Do I exfoliate at night or in the morning?

Your skin renews itself overnight. Exfoliating in the morning allows for thorough sloughing away of dead skin cells.

Should I cleanse before or after I exfoliate? 

hands full of soap and water

Out of all the tips we're going to give you on how to exfoliate, this is one of the most important ones: cleanse before you exfoliate. By removing dirt, debris, make-up, and sweat, you are providing a clean base to exfoliate dead skin cells. 

We highly recommend double-cleansing. 

A double cleanse is a method that uses two types of cleansers – an oil-based cleanser and a water-based cleanser. The former removes oil-based debris such as sebum and makeup. The latter removes water-based impurities such as sweat and dirt. In case you’re new to the double-cleansing game, it’s the secret of every K-pop and beauty guru’s skincare routine!

How do you exfoliate?

Here's one of the biggest topics people get confused on when it comes to how to exfoliate: what type of exfoliation they should use. There are two ways to exfoliate your skin: physical exfoliation and chemical exfoliation. 

Physical exfoliation has you manually removing dead skin cells with the use of a hard, ground substance.  Chemical exfoliation, on the other hand, uses enzymes and acids to do the same job.

Highly sensitive skin responds best to chemical exfoliation.  But anyone can most certainly use a combination of both (though not on the same day).

 Ways to Exfoliate


Manual exfoliation involves the use of scrubs, cleansers, tools, and machines. Store-bought scrubs are certainly more reasonably priced than their chemical counterparts.  Microdermabrasion treatments in your doctor’s clinic, on the other hand, can run up to a few hundred dollars a pop. Almost all kinds of particles can be used to physically exfoliate. 

two papaya | The Ultimate Guide on How to Exfoliate

Large granules, such as pumice or magnesium oxide crystals, are used for those with oily skin and large sebaceous glands.

Smaller granules, such as jojoba beads and ruby crystals, are perfect for dry or sensitive skin.

     Chemical exfoliants

The conventional types of chemical exfoliants are AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) and BHAs (beta-hydroxy acid). Both AHAs and BHAs dissolve the structural lipids of the outermost layer of your skin (called the stratum corneum) so that the dead skin cells can easily break away.

AHAs are light peels that work great for oily skin types. The acids here are derived from natural sources (sugar, fruit, milk). Most products in the market contain lactic acid (from milk) and glycolic acid (from sugar).  

BHAs (also known as salicylic acid) is also a light chemical peel. It’s used for the treatment of acne-prone skin types. Unlike AHA, BHA is a synthetic derivative from the same source as aspirin.

Penny and Pine Exfoliating Toner | The Ultimate Guide on How to Exfoliate

Enzymes come from a natural source (such as fruits). Unlike AHAs and BHAs, it works at a slower pace to allow for gentle and safe exfoliation. Enzymes are highly recommended for sensitive skin types.

Can I exfoliate every day?

Absolutely not. Once a week is ok. Twice is ideal. Thrice should be the maximum.  You still want to give your skin a chance to grow and renew.  

It's easy to go crazy with exfoliating simply because you see results right away. But using it every day won’t make your skin more radiant. In fact, it can have the opposite effect. Over-exfoliating can cause inflammation and chronic skin irritation – which could lead to premature skin aging!

How do I exfoliate naturally?

Some people shun chemicals in their skincare routine and that’s ok! Chemical exfoliation isn’t for everyone. And it sure isn’t for every skin type. There are alternatives that are just as effective and yet naturally safe. 

Penny and Pine’s fragrant Peppermint Exfoliating Cleanser works overtime when it comes to removing dirt, makeup, and excess oil. It’s particularly efficient with sloughing off dead skin cells as well.  Simply apply to damp skin with mild pressure and rinse.

Penny and Pine Peppermint Exfoliating Cleanser | The Ultimate Guide on How to Exfoliate

If you’re into DIY, we’ve got you covered!  Everything you need is in the kitchen cupboard. Check out some suggested recipes here (brown sugar & olive scrub, sugar & honey mask).

How do I exfoliate sensitive skin?

A lot of people out there that have sensitive skin wonder how to exfoliate their skin. Is it necessary to exfoliate sensitive skin? The quick answer is yes. Sensitive skin needs a little more TLC.  And for it to absorb products that could quell acne and flare-ups, you need a clean base.

close-up of face | The Ultimate Guide on How to Exfoliate

If your skin is sensitive or if you have rosacea, you want to steer clear from physical exfoliants. The manual scrubbing (no matter how gentle you think you are), can make the inflammation worse. This goes for DIY scrubs too! Sugar particles, apricot kernels, and ground walnut shells often have jagged edges.  They’re excellent at sloughing away dead skin but they could also tear and scratch! If you must use a physical scrub, select products with fine beads.

How do I exfoliate super dry skin?

If you have dry skin and you're wondering how to exfoliate your skin, we've got some tips for you!

If your skin is dry, avoid over-exfoliating. You may use both physical and chemical exfoliants but be mindful of frequency and manner of application. Experiment with the method and balance that works best. Whether your skin is chronically dry or simply temporarily dehydrated, we recommend exfoliating products with cream-based physical exfoliants or chemical exfoliants that contain glycolic acid, or lactic acid, or even both.

desert sand | The Ultimate Guide on How to Exfoliate

We do have a soft spot for chemical exfoliants because its easy to apply and unlike its manual counterpart, you aren’t prone to go overboard.


There is absolutely no doubt that exfoliation is essential in everyone’s skincare routine. Two products that we could bet our little pinky on are Penny and Pine’s Exfoliating Toner as well as Penny & Pine’s Peppermint Exfoliating Cleanser.   

We’d love to hear what works for you! 

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