Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Shreya Singh (Pharmacist)  on 25th Sep 2020

How To Exfoliate Safely According To Your Skin Type

How To Exfoliate Safely

The natural glow that reflects on your face speaks volumes about your skin’s health, your lifestyle and skincare regimen. 

What is Exfoliation?

Through exfoliation, you can get rid of dead skin cells and debris from the outer layers of the skin by using a suitable exfoliant.

Our skin is a self-repairing and renewing organ, and it produces new skin continuously from the basal layers to reach the top layer every 30 to 35 days. Sometimes this regular shedding of dead skin cells can be hampered or irregular. This can result in clogged pores, flaky patches and lackluster skin.

When your skin is riddled with layers of dead skin cells, your pores expand, acne gets worse, pigmentation doesn’t fade away and fine lines look more prominent. Exfoliation can help prevent all this and reveal brighter, healthier skin beneath. 

Some Benefits of Exfoliating:

  • Removes all the dead skin cells 
  • Clears out clogged pores which can lead to breakouts 
  • Brightens complexion by revealing new, radiant skin
  • Smoothes out fine lines and wrinkles 
  • Enhances the absorption of other products and actives into the skin
  • Boosts up cell turnover
  • Helps in fading dark spots and pigmentation 

Why Should You Exfoliate?

Why Should You Exfoliate?

Merely following a CTM (cleansing, toning, and moisturizing) cycle is not enough, and you need to add regular exfoliation as a crucial step in your routine. Exfoliation ensures the sloughing away of dead skin cells and gunk from your pores to reveal the youthful and radiant skin underneath. 

Your Skin's Biological Clock is Ticking

The aging clock slows down your skin’s natural process of shedding dead skin cells, and especially after the age of 25, the skin's renewal process becomes sluggish.
Hence, it is when the process of exfoliation comes in handy to expedite the pace of cell renewal and pave the way for new skin cells.

Since a good skincare routine isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation, therefore, not all scrubs or exfoliation methods are suitable for your skin, and you should figure out the right one according to your skin type.  


A wrong exfoliation method can do more harm than good to your skin and wreck your skin to extreme directions, making oily skin oilier and dry skin even drier.

In this article, we'll take you through the world of different exfoliation methods, discover the benefits of exfoliation, and determine the best method for your skin type.  

What are the Different Methods of Exfoliation According to Skin Type?

Typically there are 3 different kinds of exfoliation methods: 

1). Physical/Mechanical exfoliation

This one method most people are familiar with. It includes physical exfoliants such as scrubs or abrasive ingredients that require manual rubbing across your skin to get rid of dead skin cells.

When it comes to physical exfoliation, the size of the individual grainy particles in the exfoliant matters a lot. 

Having king-sized grains can only damage your skin, causing irritation and micro-tears. Whereas, grains that are too small cannot work efficiently enough for the skin. Therefore, always choose a gentle, not too abrasive exfoliant with really fine and uniform grains that can gently work away at the dead skin cells.

The Ideal Skin Type For Physical Exfoliation: 

Physical exfoliation tends to be the most irritating and potentially damaging type of exfoliation. It works by bulldozing your skin cells at such a rapid pace that people are often not able to realize when they’ve properly gotten rid of the dead skin cells and when they’re hurting new healthy skin. 

For Normal, Dry, Combination and Oily Skin (Only If Your Skin Is Tolerant)!  

Over exfoliation is usually common in the case of physical exfoliation, and it is therefore not recommended for people. Also, it is always advised to do a patch test before using any product.

Good to know.

Do not physically exfoliate if you have any acne or pimples that will further aggravate it. Avoid exfoliation on wounded or compromised skin. 

2). Chemical Exfoliation 

Chemical exfoliation proves to be a massive boon in providing dramatic results and that too from the very first use. Face acids, such as alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), fall under the category of chemical exfoliation.

Although putting acids on the face might sound intimidating to some people, in reality, chemical exfoliation works gently on the skin by dissolving the cell bonds and eating away all the dead skin cells without any visible redness or irritation.

Apart from sloughing off dead skin cells, they also assist in accelerating collagen production, boosting cellular turnover, unclogging pores, diminishing fine lines & wrinkles, and refining the skin tone. 

How Is This Different From Physical Exfoliation?

Unlike physical exfoliants that only help remove dead skin, chemical exfoliation also helps stimulate the production of your youthful chemicals within your skin—thereby killing two birds with one stone. This helps get rid of dead skin cells and retaining younger-looking skin. 

Ideal Skin Type for Chemical Exfoliation:

AHA Exfoliants

Chemical exfoliants consisting of AHAs such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid and citric acid work well for All Skin Types.  

Recommended For Dry Skin:

People with Dry to Combination skin can stick with this kind of mild exfoliation. Dry skin tends to become flaky and dull if there’s some lack of exfoliation.

You need to get rid of the layers of dead skin cells sitting on your skin to enhance your skincare products' absorption. 

AHAs work on the surface level by gently breaking through the topmost layers of the dead cells and making your moisturizers sink deeper within your skin, thereby enabling the effective moisturization and hydration of your skin.

Over exfoliation can irritate the dry skin. Therefore, avoid using harsh scrubs or aggressive products, which requires vigorous rubbing across your skin. 

Important Note for Those With Sensitive Skin:  

People with sensitive skin can go for a milder approach containing Lactic acid  or Mandelic acid as it has a lesser tendency to go deeper within the skin. But it is less irritating and can be the best bet for sensitive skin with very few dark spots and acne. 

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BHA Exfoliants 

BHAs are the chemical exfoliants, which include mainly salicylic acid.

Ideal for Combination And Oily Skin:

This exfoliant is excellent for people with combination and oily skin. It works its way deeper than any other form of acid.

It seeps into your pore lining and clears out all the dirt and gunk built up inside, and cleans the skin thoroughly from within.

These are remarkably effective for fading away dark spots and pigmentation. However, BHAs tend to be a little drying to the skin. Therefore, these help in drying out the excess sebum produced in case of oily skin. 

Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum
Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum
Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum
Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum

Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum

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When to use: PM

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3). Enzymatic Exfoliation

Enzyme exfoliators have been proven to be the most gentle type of exfoliators, which cause potentially less irritation than face acid treatments.

They have been formulated using fruit enzymes such as papain (papaya), and pineapple enzyme, which mildly and evenly eliminates the dead skin cells by digesting it.

How is this Different From Chemical Exfoliation? 

They work similarly to chemical exfoliators by breaking down the glue that holds dead cells & debris and gently removes them. However, unlike chemical exfoliators, they eat away at the dead skin cells at a much slower rate and hence provide visible results over a more extended period. 

The Ideal Skin Type For Enzymatic Exfoliation:

Usually, enzymatic exfoliators are recommended for people with extremely sensitive skin because of their ability to be gentler than any other skin type, as the skin's surface peels. However, always keep an eye on the ingredient list to look for any added preservatives or irritating compounds that the company can pair with. 

Key Takeaways

Exfoliation of the skin regularly, no doubt, is a crucial step towards maintaining healthier and brighter skin.

People should first analyze their skin type and do a patch test before choosing the best exfoliation method for themselves.

Post-exfoliation care is essential to maintain the freshly revealed skin and, hence, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 or above in the day after undergoing an exfoliation treatment. 

A Quick Summary: 

  • Normal, Dry, Combination and Oily skin(Only if your skin is tolerant): Physical exfoliation 
  • Combination to oily skin: BHA
  • Dry, normal, combination to oily skin: AHA 
  • Sensitive skin: Enzymatic exfoliation, Lactic Acid (Mild AHA), Mandelic Acid (Mild AHA).