How to Exfoliate Skin Safely by Skin Type

Mother Dirt

Exfoliation is an important part of any skin care routine, no matter what kind of skin type you have. Exfoliation involves the removal of dead skin and dirt from the surface of your skin to reveal smoother, newer skin. 

Knowing that your skin functions quite well on its own, you might wonder if exfoliating is even really necessary. If you’re familiar with your skin’s microbiome, you might also wonder if exfoliating will harm the microbiome. 

Before you pick up the apricot seed scrub, let’s talk about exfoliation; what it is, if you need it, how it affects the skin microbiome, and how you can exfoliate skin safely by skin type. 

But first, let’s find out why exfoliation even exists: It all starts with the life cycle of your skin. 

The Life Cycle of Skin?

Your skin is constantly at work making new skin. From the minute you are born, your skin cells begin a continuous cycle of birth, life, death, and regeneration. When we are young, the cycle happens rapidly, as quickly as two weeks. 

As we age, the rate at which our cells turnover begins to decline, taking up to a month for individuals between their 30’s to 40’s, and up to two months for the 50+ crowd. 

When skin cell turnover slows, we begin to notice signs of aging on our skin. These external signs like fine lines, wrinkles, loss of elasticity, reduction in skin firmness and plumpness, and dullness, are clues that our skin isn’t making new skin as quickly as needed.

As your skin cells turnover, dead skin cells get pushed from the deepest layers of your skin up to the surface. Once they reach the surface, they should slough off automatically, but that doesn’t happen as effectively in skin that is aging. 

The result is a layer of dead skin cells that clings to the stratum corneum -- the uppermost layer of your skin -- causing your complexion to look dull and potentially clogging your pores.

This layer of dead skin cells can also further slow the process of skin regeneration, making it even more difficult for your skin cell turnover to happen at a faster rate. The solution is exfoliation.

What is Exfoliation?

Exfoliation removes the top layer of dead skin cells from your skin, along with dirt, excess oil and any other impurities that might be living there rent-free. 

Exfoliation is incredibly beneficial to your skin. Aside from simply removing dead skin, here’s what it can do.

  • Helps keep pores clean. Pores get clogged on every skin type. Keeping them clean is more challenging for some than others. Exfoliating can help keep your pores cleaner by ensuring that your favorite cleansers are actually able to reach the pores and do their jobs. 
  • Helps eliminate blemishes. Dead skin cells mix with oil and c. acnes bacteria on your skin resulting in whiteheads and blackheads. Removing the dead skin cells and excess oil helps prevent blemishes from forming. 
  • Allows other products to work better. When your other products are able to penetrate your skin, they work more effectively. Removing the layer of dirt and debris hanging out on your skin lets your other skin care products penetrate your pores, delivering their ingredients to deeper layers of your skin.
  • Supports cellular turnover. Exfoliating your skin regularly helps your skin cells turnover more quickly. Think of it this way: once the layer of dead skin cells on the surface of your skin is gone, your skin receives the message that it can make new cells. 
  • Helps improve skin tone. If you feel your skin tone is uneven, exfoliation can help. Exfoliation helps reveal skin that isn’t damaged by the sun and is more even toned. 

Exfoliating your skin sets the stage for it to be healthy and look youthful. It’s a vital part of taking care of your skin. 

Is Exfoliating Necessary?

Short answer, yes; if you want healthy, glowing skin. 

Exfoliating your skin is a healthy part of your skin care routine, but it’s important you do it correctly. There are three basic ways to exfoliate your skin:

Physical Exfoliation

Physical exfoliation involves the use of a granular scrub or cloth to remove dead skin cells. When you use a scrub, you will gently massage the granules onto your skin, buffing away dead skin cells. 

Using an exfoliating sponge or cloth works the same way. Rubbing the cloth gently across your face lifts dead skin cells, dirt, and oil to remove them from the surface of your skin. 

Physical exfoliation is a great way to exfoliate your skin on your own in the comfort of your own home. All types of skin can benefit from physical exfoliation, but the amount of exfoliation you use and frequency should be gauged on your skin type. 

  • For sensitive and acne-prone skin: Plan to exfoliate no more than once a week. Ingredients in scrubs and the use of abrasive cloths can make irritated, sensitive skin ]worse. Any more exfoliation can create irritation to your delicate skin. 
  • For dry skin: One or two sessions of exfoliation per week is enough to keep dead skin cells at bay without exacerbating your dryness.
  • For oily skin: You can exfoliate between 2-4 times per week if you use a scrub that is gentle and find that you actually need it. 

Mechanical Exfoliation

Mechanical exfoliation refers to exfoliation using a mechanical tool. Microdermabrasion, for instance, is a form of mechanical exfoliation. It is possible to perform mechanical exfoliation at home with specialized tools, but most frequently these procedures will be done in an office by a professional. 

Mechanical exfoliation is more invasive than physical exfoliation, and usually done to remove more than just the upper layer of dead skin. Mechanical exfoliation can also involve laser treatment, and as such can create a longer time for recovery. 

Who should use mechanical exfoliation: Anyone can use mechanical exfoliation, but it is most beneficial for normal to oily skin. Dry skin can become irritated by mechanical exfoliation tools and sensitive skin can become excessively irritated from this level of abrasion. 

Chemical Exfoliation

Chemical peels are often used to exfoliate skin and reveal new skin underneath. Chemical peels work by loosening the bonds between dead skin cells and living skin cells, making the dead skin cells easier to slough off. 

Chemical peels range from mild to invasive, and your skin type will help you determine which is best for you. 

Who should use chemical exfoliation: Oily skin will benefit most from chemical exfoliation, which can help remove dead skin cells without scrubbing, which can trigger your skin to produce more oil. 

Exfoliating and the Skin’s Microbiome

Even though exfoliating is an important part of your skin care routine, it’s important to understand how it affects your skin’s microbiome

Your skin’s microbiome consists of trillions of healthy bacteria that keeps your skin functioning properly and looking radiant. When your skin’s microbiome becomes unbalanced, bad bacteria can overpopulate your skin, causing everything from dryness, oiliness to blemishes. 

Unfortunately, many of the skin conditions we suffer with today are the result of unbalanced microbiomes in need of restoration. 

Traditional skin care (including many exfoliating products) have stripped our skin of healthy bacteria levels, leaving our skin compromised and lackluster. While regular exfoliation is important, it does have an impact on the skin microbiome, and it's important to address that impact to ensure your skin stays healthy. 

Exfoliating removes dead skin, but can also carry healthy bacteria along with it. The solution is to make sure we restore the skin’s healthy bacteria levels quickly and efficiently so it can continue to radiate health and wellness. 

The Mother Dirt Difference

We make it easy for you to exfoliate your skin without risking imbalance to your microbiome. Our groundbreaking discovery of Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacteria (AOB) helped us create products that keep your skin’s microbiome balanced and healthy. 

Using our AO+ Restorative Mist post-exfoliation can restore healthy levels of bacteria that may have been swept away with the dead skin cells. Incorporating live, active probiotic skin care can ensure that no matter how much you exfoliate your skin, your microbiome is healthy, balanced and nourished. 

Bottom Line

Exfoliation is necessary for all skin types, and has a plethora of benefits for your skin. 

Exfoliation works best when your skin’s microbiome is healthy and happy. Using biotic-infused products can ensure your skin’s microbiome is always balanced.

Mother Dirt offers products that approach skin care from the wellness aspect of your skin’s microbiome. Restoring and renewing the microbiome is key to having the healthiest and most radiant skin possible. 


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Skincare Bootcamp: The Evolving Role of Skincare | NCBI 

How to Safely Exfoliate at Home | AAD 

Does the Human Body Really Replace Itself Every 7 Years? | Live Science 

Ichthyosis Care | Bathing & Exfoliation | Foundation for Ichthyosis & Related Skin Types(FIRST) | First Skin Foundation 

Skin anti-aging strategies | NIH 

Skin Resurfacing Chemical Peels | NCBI 

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