The Ultimate Guide to Skin, Body and Face Exfoliation

The Ultimate Guide to Skin, Body and Face Exfoliation


  1. Introduction
  2. Exfoliation explained
  3. Brief History of Skin Exfoliation
  4. Different Types of Skin Exfoliators
  5. Facial Exfoliation
  6. Face Scrubs
  7. Liquid face Exfoliation
  8. Body Exfoliation
  9. Natural Skin Exfoliation
    1. Coffee Skin Exfoliator
    2. Sugar & Salt Skin Exfoliator
    3. Porridge Oats Skin Exfoliators
    4. Milk for Skin Exfoliation
    5. Rice for Skin Exfoliation
  10. Professional Skin Exfoliation Treatments
  11. Skin, Body & Face Exfoliation with Chemical Peels
  12. Microdermabrasion
  13. Dermablading
  14. Waxing
  15. Tools for Skin, Body & Face Exfoliation
  16. The Dos & Don’ts of Exfoliation
  17. At Home Exfoliating Scrub Recipes
  18. Conclusion
  19. Skin Exfoliation FAQ
  20. Bibliography


Welcome to the complete guide to exfoliating, a guide to anything and everything you’ve ever wanted to know about exfoliating. We will answer questions such as how often it should happen, what to use depending on your skin type, how you should exfoliate and so on. We will explore the various types of exfoliation from scrubs, liquid exfoliators and even professional procedures such as Dermablading, Chemical Peels, and all that good stuff! We will also take a trip into the history of exfoliation, don’t worry, it’ll be brief so no drifting off, we will even share with you our favourite at home recipes! So let’s dive right into it.

Skin Exfoliation Explained

Now here comes the science bit, skin naturally exfoliates by shedding dead skin cells, revealing new skin through a 30-day cycle. While it does a great job on its own, there are times it does need some help. Depending on your skin type or even as we age, our skin’s natural cycle of shedding these dead skin cells change. Throughout the year, mainly due to the weather and climate, this cycle will also change, which is probably why many find their skin to become very lacklustre and dull during the winter months.

Your skin type will also play a factor into your body’s natural exfoliation, drier skin types will find they have a tight and uncomfortable skin that needs a lot of moisture. They may also notice patches of flaking skin. This is the sign their skin is in need of some extra help in ridding the skin of stubborn dead skin cells that don’t leave the body naturally. As for oily and blemish prone skin, build-up of dead skin cells clog the pores and create spots and breakouts. To help your skin to restore its glowing radiance it’s a good idea to exfoliate at least once a week, the time you decide to do it, however, is a little up for debate. Many suggest a morning scrub is the best way to prep the skin for wearing foundation throughout the day, compared to others who feel the addition to the evening is the best to remove the day’s dirt, pollution and any remaining makeup from the day. Much like any type of skincare product, if it works for you and your skin, as well as in your budget and time you have then use it.

There are a number of ways exfoliation can be performed on the body and skin. Scrubs are the most popular for over the counter options, there are also liquid forms of exfoliation that have been formulated gentle enough to use every day. There are a number of professional choices you also have, such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion, dermablading and even waxing is considered an exfoliator. Throughout this guide, we will explore in further detail the variety of treatments and products available.

Brief History of Skin Exfoliation

The history of exfoliation dates right the way back to Ancient civilisation with many different groups of people using many different methods. For example, Polynesian people would crush seashells and mix them with sand to make their own scrubs, whilst the Native American Indians used dried corncobs as an at home loafer.

The Ancient Egyptians were great fans of exfoliating, with various tools, such as pumice stones for tough skin and mixtures of aloe vera plant and sand used by many as the best way to exfoliate. They were also well known for using the first known liquid exfoliation, such as sour milk, which contained powerful levels of lactic acid. Cleopatra was famously known to bathe in the milk for hours and to this day many beauty secrets revealed from supermodels have confessed to taking a leaf out of the Egyptian Queen’s book and pat milk onto their skin before runway shows! Throughout the Middle Ages, old wine, with its high amounts of tartaric acid in it would be the best homemade exfoliator that can be likened to the modern day chemical peel.

Speaking of which, the introduction of the chemical peel came about in the 1800s from the German dermatologist Paul Gersen Unna, who’s worked pioneered the development of AHA chemical peels. AHA or Alpha Hydroxy Acid, is the acid found in a lot of fruit, such as apples, and with the studies from Unna have been formulated into high performing acid chemical peels that are available to this day.

It is clear that exfoliation has been something of great importance to the human race, with its popularity continuing into the modern age.

Different Types of Skin Exfoliators

There are two different types of skin exfoliation. The first is mechanical, which can involve either a scrub or tool to physically remove the dead skin cells. The second is a chemical exfoliator, which comes in more of a liquid form that is applied and dissolves the cells.

Both work tremendously well and do a great job, it’s a case of finding the best one to work for you depending on skin type, climate or weather and time of day. So now you are aware of the two different types, we will now explain a little bit more about the various methods of exfoliation.

Facial Exfoliation

Facial exfoliation has been around for centuries, and while the recipes and formulas are constantly changing, with new products reaching the market, the true basics and idea behind it remains the same. You are lucky enough nowadays to be spoilt for choice with countless products available on the market and even homemade recipe ideas to dabble in also! (more on those later!)

Face Scrubs

Last January in the UK, microbeads were completely banned from being used by cosmetics companies, which was greeted with enormous support as it was apparent these plastic beads were making their way into the oceans and into fish stomachs. Seeing as microbeads were actually useless in providing exfoliation, in a way, we now have a selection of products that do actually work using more natural ingredients. Some popular ones are apricot, walnuts, activated charcoal, pumice and cherry stones crushed to provide high performing products that no longer end up filling up the oceans.

Face scrubs also come in a variety of textures, some creamier and smoother, perfect for skin more on the sensitive side. Then there are others which are a lot more coarse and ideal for skins that are more on the oily side.

No matter which one you decide to use, the job of a scrub is to buff the dead skin cells off of the skin completely as well as cleaning out pores and restoring some glow. As effective as face scrubs are to use, there is the downside of over scrubbing, causing redness and leaving the skin feeling tight and uncomfortable. This may not necessarily be a result of the product, but perhaps a case of being too heavy-handed. It’s advisable to pay attention to how you exfoliate your face to prevent any unwanted skin discomfort.

Your skin should feel clean and look bright after a facial scrub, not too flush and red. Applying a light amount of pressure and letting the ingredients of the product do the work is the best way to exfoliate. Using a face scrub 2-3 times a week is the best way of getting the optimal results!

Liquid Face Exfoliation

The idea of a liquid face exfoliator may be confusing, very understandable in all honesty as there are shelves full of so many choices, ranging in all shapes, sizes and prices. Some have thought that facial toners are the same as liquid exfoliators, this isn’t true. Compared to toner, which is floral water, very gentle and some experts even believe them to be a bit of a pointless stage throughout your skincare routine. A liquid face exfoliator contains acid found in various fruits, such as apples etc. The acid, known as Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA), is then extracted and made into the exfoliators to then aid the removal of dead skin cells, causing the skin to appear dull and lack a healthy glow!

By now you no doubt will be thinking “how should I exfoliate my face?” This exfoliation world can be a tricky place to handle at times, it is mainly a case of experimenting with different products to find the best one for your skin.

Body Exfoliation

For a lot of us, the body is almost always forgotten about when it comes to skincare. The importance of using body exfoliators are quite a critical part to maintaining healthy skin, from head to toe.

Body exfoliation is found in a scrub format and can afford to be slightly more coarse than facial scrubs to help tackle tough areas such as your knees, elbows and feet. The skin below your neck can also appear dull or grey with the occasional break out here and there, regular exfoliating will benefit the overall appearance of the skin and help with blood circulation which will reduce the visible signs of any pesky cellulite. You will also find that once you have given the body a good scrub, using a moisturiser after will absorb a lot quicker into the skin due to it not battling against a layer of dead skin cells. It won’t take very long at all until you notice a real difference in the overall look of your skin.

Natural Skin Exfoliation

We have already stressed the importance of exfoliation in having healthy, clear skin. It is also important to remember that as we age, the natural process of the skin cells shedding and then replenishing themselves begins to slow down. Mature skin truly benefits from regular exfoliation and using natural ingredients are another alternative to the others that have already featured in this guide. Here is a run-down of some of the best natural ingredients that can contribute to the best homemade exfoliating techniques. 

Coffee Skin Exfoliators

Coffee is a popular ingredient to use when exfoliating the body. Ground coffee can be a fantastic treatment for cellulite and stretch marks! It can also be used as a homemade foot scrub.

Sugar & Salt Skin Exfoliators

There is no part of the body you can’t use salt and sugar scrubs on! With salt being slightly more abrasive than sugar, salt can help banish rough and hard skin on various areas of the body, such as feet, elbows and knees. Sugar has finer granules and can be used on the face without any worry of over-scrubbing! You can also use sugar for dry lips, the granules will buff away flaking skin with ease until it has melted away.

Porridge Oats for Skin Exfoliation

If you find your skin is a bit more on the sensitive side, oats may be the most effective way for you to achieve physical exfoliation! You can add oats to a gentle body and face scrub.

Milk for Skin Exfoliation

Cleopatra knew what she was doing all those years ago, milk contains high levels of lactic acid which in fact removes dead skin cells. You can use milk for exfoliation in many ways, simply pat it onto the skin neat and allow to dry completely before washing it off, you can also add it to a homemade face mask, there’s also the option of the head to toe benefits by adding a pint-sized amount to your bath.

Rice for Skin Exfoliation

Believe it or not, the texture of ground rice is gentle enough to be used on the face and body, great to use before any fake tan application!

These are a selection of the highest performing natural ingredients used for exfoliation, however, there are many more available with an abundance of recipes and techniques, we will include two of our favourite natural, at home exfoliator recipes later on in this guide for you to try for yourselves.

Professional Skin Exfoliation Treatments

Finding the perfect over the counter product is great at introducing exfoliation into your day to day skincare routine. For those of you who are now a dab hand at handling your scrubs and liquid exfoliators, turning your focus to a professional treatment could be the next step on your exfoliation journey.

There are a number of various treatments available, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, dermablading, even waxing. Throughout this part of our guide, we will explain in more detail what you should expect from these professional treatments.

Skin, Body and Face Exfoliation with Chemical Peels

There are a number of misconceptions of chemical peels, a face full of sore looking, bright red rashes is a reaction from old-school methods of the treatment. You can find a number of different peels available for any skin concern and skin type. So what exactly is a chemical peel and would it work for you and your skin? Well, its main aim is to remove the dead skin cells from the epidermis layer of the skin (this is the outermost part of the skin) This will help to correct imperfections to the skin and is also known for speeding up the collagen production giving the skin a more smooth, bright appearance.

How long it will take for the skin to recover fully depends on the strength of the peel, however the normal time it takes to recoup is roughly two weeks. There are a number of reasons people decide to get chemical peels, such as:

  • Wrinkles and fine lines
  • Sun damage
  • Acne scars
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Scars
  • Melasma
  • Uneven Skin Tone
  • Redness

Depending on the specific skin concern stated above, a set type of peel will be best suited for your concerns. There are three different types of chemical peels that you can get, these include:

Superficial peels, use mild acids, such as alpha hydroxy acids which only penetrate the outer layer of the skin and provide gentle exfoliation.

Medium peels, these use glycolic acid and trichloroacetic to reach the middle layers of the skin, it is seen as the most effective for removing damaged skin cells.

Deep peels, these fully penetrate down the middle layer of the skin removing dead skin cells completely, these are the strongest peels and often use phenol acid.

The peels can be applied in different ways, some with a brush, others in a masking formula, while the downtime and recovery are dependent on the strength of the peel. A beautician or professional can advise you on the best aftercare needed for post-treatment skincare.

Chemical peels are available at a number of price ranges, it is advisable to discuss with a professional with the correct amount of training to find which chemical peel treatment would help you achieve the best results and in your budget.

Skin, Body and Face Exfoliation with Microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion is a minimally invasive procedure that you can have done in professional salons and spas. It helps with the overall appearance of the tone and texture of the skin resulting in various skin concerns to be reduced in visibility. These are as follows:

  • Acne scarring
  • Fine lines
  • Wrinkles
  • Age spots
  • Uneven skin tone
  • Uneven skin texture
  • Enlarged pores

There are different ways it is performed. The first is by using a specially designed applicator which has an abrasive surface attached that then gently sands away the outermost, thick layer of skin, revealing new skin that is bright and rejuvenated. The other technique is to spray very fine particles, or crystals, twinned with a vacuum which gives you the same impressive results as previously mentioned. The techniques of microdermabrasion are updated all of the time and so you are in a way, constantly spoilt for choice.

Skin, Body and Face Exfoliation with Dermablading

Demablading is a highly effective form of exfoliation treatment. The procedure involves using a blade, the same medical grade as a surgeon’s scalpel, and ‘shaving’ the face. This technique helps to remove dead skin cells and the fine hairs, also known as ‘peach fuzz’ from the outer layer of the skin. The removal of these will give the skin a new fresh, glowing look which is a fantastic base for makeup. The concerns that Dermablading, or Dermaplaning, help are these:

  • Uneven skin texture
  • Scarring
  • Fine lines
  • Villus hairs (peach fuzz)

This procedure may sound a little scary, however, when performed by a professional, Dermablading is completely safe. It is completed by free hand and so the technician has constant control of how much pressure is applied in the areas of the face.

Out of all the exfoliation treatments available on the market, Dermablading is the most suitable for all skin types and can even be performed on pregnant and breastfeeding clients, a great alternative to the chemical peels as mentioned before.

Recovery is also the quickest out of the exfoliation treatments with the skin feeling back to normal and comfortable a short 24 hours later.

Skin, Body and Face Exfoliation with Waxing

Admittedly not the most obvious of exfoliation treatments, however, waxing does have slight exfoliation benefits to it.

When hair is removed by using wax, the outer layer of dead skin cells that cause a barrier for other products to be absorbed, is also removed simultaneously, leaving behind a new layer of skin. For this reason, it is advised to not apply any moisturiser or creams to the area until it has had some time to recover from waxing.

Tools for Skin, Body and Face Exfoliation

Before the introduction of so many tools and products developed to help with exfoliation, using an exfoliator with your hands was the original technique that had been used for decades, one that is still very much a favourite for many.

For others who find themselves a bit too heavy-handed can in actual fact cause more harm than help their skin with the wrong levels of pressure and overuse. If you find yourself to be one, you are not alone and there are other choices for you to give a go.

Exfoliation gloves or mitts are great for all over the body scrubbing and gently buff away all signs of dead skin cells, they also help with reducing the appearance of cellulite. For the face, there are an enormous collection of choices available, such as hand-held devices in either brush form or textured pad, many of which have timers that perform exfoliation in the most relaxing, gentle way.

Of course, there is also the classic loafer that is a great addition to use in the shower or bath for everyday exfoliation helping the blood to circulate and rid the pores of any dirt or bacteria that can result in them becoming clogged.

The Dos and Don’ts of Skin, Body and Face Exfoliation

It’s a minefield out there in the land of exfoliation, so with this in mind we wanted to simplify everything with a list of Do’s and Don’ts.

The Dos

  1. Start by exfoliating up to twice a week in the evenings.
  2. Be gentle with the application, being too heavy-handed can cause more damage
  3. Understand your skin type, for dry skin, be gentle, as for oily skin, no need to be more aggressive, but exfoliate more often.
  4. Simple routines work best, so keep things simple.
  5. Stop using products that give you a reaction or skin irritation.
  6. Don’t forget to use moisturiser and sun protection (during the day) after exfoliating.

The Don’ts

  1. Don’t overdo it! There’s no need to exfoliate every day.
  2. If you are using a mechanical method of exfoliating, don’t apply too much pressure.
  3. Do not exfoliate irritated skin, you will cause more damage.
  4. Don’t forget that waxing is also a form of exfoliating.
  5. Avoid sun exposure very quickly after exfoliation.
  6. Do not exfoliate skin that has recently undergone laser treatment.

At Home Exfoliating Scrub Recipes

If you are tempted to try out some at home scrubs and learn how to make body scrubs, here are a couple of recipes we really love!

Coffee facial scrub

What you’ll need:

  • ½ cup coffee grounds
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. milk or buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. honey

What to do:

  1. Add all ingredients to an airtight container and stir well.
  2. Gently splash your face with water or wet your face using a spray mist.
  3. Spread scrub over your face and neck, avoiding your eyes.
  4. Wet your hands and begin gently rubbing the mixture into your skin in a circular motion. Continue for 3-4 minutes.
  5. Rinse off using lukewarm water and pat dry.
  6. Store any remaining scrub in the fridge.

Brown sugar body scrub

What you’ll need:

  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp. ground oatmeal

What to do:

  1. Stir together coconut oil and honey.
  2. Add brown sugar and oatmeal. Stir until you’re left with a thick paste.
  3. After wetting your skin, gently rub the mixture on your body.
  4. Rinse and pat dry.


Exfoliation has a hugely rich history behind it, with some techniques and even recipes dating back to Ancient Roman times, it is of no surprise that exfoliating is still a very popular step to everyone’s skincare routine, no matter your gender, skin type or ethnicity.

With the multiple treatments practised and constant updates in the machinery and tools used, there’s no excuse to not give skin exfoliation a try at least once. With the dedicated sections in this guide explaining in more detail everything you need to know about the different forms of exfoliation, the professional treatments, the natural ingredients, recipes even the dos and don’ts you are all set with a strong background of all things exfoliation!

As stated prior in this guide however, technology is consistently updated and your skin will determine which form of exfoliation will give you the best results you are looking for. With this in mind, research for yourself, or asking the advice of a technician with the proper training, who will be able to examine your skin up close will give you peace of mind.

Skin, Body and Face Exfoliation FAQ

Do I exfoliate before or after cleansing?

This is a question with no correct answer. By this, I mean that it is completely dependent on the individual using the exfoliator. Some people say that after fully cleansing and removing their makeup in the evenings, it is the best time to exfoliate, due to the build-up of daily aggressors and pollution is removed before bed. Others have a completely different thought on the matter. With the idea of exfoliating during your morning routine is the best way of awakening the skin, removing any dead skin cells that can hinder your makeup application from being smooth and flawless. Whichever you decide to do, remember that it is not advisable to exfoliate more than three times a week, especially if your skin is on the more sensitive side.

Is exfoliating necessary?

Your skin naturally sheds dead skin cells throughout a 30-day cycle, however, a build-up of these cells can occur due to the skin type, your age, even the climate you are in. It’s a great idea to introduce exfoliating into your skincare routine to give your skin a helping hand in rejuvenating and getting your glow back!

Why should I exfoliate?

Exfoliating allows you to remove the barrier of dead skin cells that can stop other products you apply, such as moisturisers and serums from absorbing into the skin and being less effective. Exfoliating will help with remove dirt that clogs the pores and can result in blemishes and from pores becoming enlarged and more visible.

Is it bad to exfoliate every day?

In a word, yes. Exfoliating is super for the skin, but you can have too much of a good thing! For dry skin types, over exfoliating will cause redness and uncomfortably tight skin, as for oily, believe it or not, it will make your skin more oily. Over exfoliation will strip the skin of its much-needed sebum, the natural oil in our skin, therefore leading the skin to overproduce the oil. Your best bet is to stick to 1-3 times a week for optimal results.

Should I exfoliate my body?

Much like your skin on your face, your body has a barrier of dead skin cells that it needs to rid itself of it too. Unlike the face, however, there are some areas that can become very dry and have a lot of tough skin to remove so body scrubs are a little more coarse than face scrubs. It’s best not to use a body scrub on your face as it’ll be too tough.

Should I use liquid exfoliation or scrubs?

This comes down to personal preference, what works for one person won’t work for another for example. The best idea is to try out a variety to find a product that gives you the best results.

Can I exfoliate my face daily? 

It's best not to exfoliate the face on a daily basis as this can be too abrasive for the skin. If you are using a physical exfoliant try it for 3 times a week in the evenings after you have completely cleansed the skin from any makeup and daily bacteria.

Should I use a toner after exfoliating?

This all depends on the type of toner you are using, if it is a chemical exfoliant then this should be avoided as can strip the skin of all the oils and water needed to keep the skin balanced and healthy. Other toners that are more floral waters won't cause any problems and are personal preference. 

Is exfoliating good for the skin?

Yes! Our skin has a 30-day cycle of removing dead skin cells from the body and face. However, sometimes this process doesn't work correctly and needs a helping hand, hence why using an exfoliant will help keep your skin looking healthy and glowing with dead skin cells sloughed off the skin and prevent any problems such as dry areas or breakouts. 

What happens if you exfoliate your skin every day? 

If you exfoliate every day you will end up stripping the skin of all the natural oil, called sebum, and cause an imbalance in the water levels resulting in a number of skin concerns occurring, such as spots, blemishes and other types of breakouts. 

How can I remove dead skin from my face? 

Using a chemical or physical exfoliant will help remove dead skin cells from the face and body. Face and body scrubs will slough away the layer of skin that needs to be removed from the skin by manually working them into the skin. Chemical exfoliants do not need you to work the product and can dissolve the glue holding dead skin cells together making them easier to remove. 


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