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Paragraph: Exfoliation is well known as an essential part of an effective skincare routine, with an impressive list of potential benefits for your complexion. However, the details of exactly how to exfoliate your face are less well known. Less is more, but how often should you exfoliate your face for optimal benefits?

Both physical and chemical exfoliation can help the skin in a multitude of ways, however using either of these ingredients too often can be too much. Over-exfoliation is a relatively common skincare mistake. Exfoliating too often or with products that are too potent for your skin can leave your complexion sensitised and compromise the skin barrier. Exfoliating too often can even lead to an increase in dry, flaky patches – a skin concern that appropriate exfoliation can help minimise.

This article will act as a guide to all things exfoliation, covering all the basics of how to achieve optimal benefits without falling into the pitfalls of over-exfoliation. Keep reading for facial exfoliation tips from the La Roche-Posay experts, accompanied by some targeted appropriate skincare recommendations from our Toleriane and Effaclar ranges.

exfoliating skin


Your body is constantly generating new skin cells, as older cells die and gradually shed from the skin’s surface. Using products with exfoliating ingredients helps slough away dead skin cells more quickly and efficiently, thereby revealing a fresh layer of skin underneath.

How exfoliating ingredients remove dead skin cells depends on whether you’re using a physical or chemical exfoliant.

Physical exfoliants 

Physical exfoliating ingredients are often seen in products labelled as ‘scrubs’ and include apricot kernels, microbeads and clay. These ingredients physically scrub away dead cells from the skin’s surface due to their abrasive texture. There are also battery powered physical exfoliation devices which vibrate against the skin to physically remove dead cells.

Chemical exfoliants

Chemical exfoliants include acid ingredients commonly seen in serums and peel solutions. These include the alpha and beta hydroxy acids such as lactic, glycolic and salicylic acid, each of which have their own distinct benefits. These ingredients work by dissolving the bonds between dead skin cells, allowing them to be easily washed away from the skin’s surface.



When executed correctly for your skin type and needs, facial exfoliation can have a host of impressive skin benefits.

Here are some of the most notable skin benefits of exfoliating your face:

Removing unneeded dead skin cells

Promoting cell turnover and renewal

Helping minimise dullness for a brighter looking complexion

Evening out skin tone and smoothing skin texture

Minimising clogged pores and blemishes by removing debris

Clearing the way for your other skincare ingredients to absorb properly

routine for dry skin types


Your skincare needs can vary a lot depending on whether you have dry skin, oily skin or another skin type. This variation is important when considering how to exfoliate your face. We recommend staying away from physical exfoliants for facial skin, because their roughness can create tiny wounds in this delicate area. Read on to learn the best exfoliating ingredients and techniques for each skin type.

using retinol and niacinamide


Although glycerin is most well-known for its moisturising properties, this ingredient is also a natural exfoliator. Glycerin has a keratolytic effect, meaning it softens keratin, a protein that helps form the skin as well as nails and hair. Glycerin’s moisturising and exfoliating properties position this ingredient as an ideal exfoliator for dry skin.

Our Toleriane Caring Wash Cleanser is a gentle face wash with a soft milky texture which gently exfoliates the skin without exacerbating dryness or redness.

combination skin


Exfoliating for oily skin and acne-prone complexions can be key to minimising these concerns. Exfoliating acids like salicylic acid, LHA and glycolic acid can simultaneously help clear away excess sebum and dead skin cells – two major causes of blemishes. Read our guide What is Salicylic Acid for Acne-Prone Skin to learn more about this impressive ingredient. 

Our Effaclar Salicylic Acid Serum is a daily use exfoliating facial serum for ageing and acne-prone skin. This face serum is formulated with anti-bacterial glycolic acid to exfoliate and help minimise new breakouts. Salicylic acid exfoliates and reduces sebum production, while LHA refines pores and exfoliates to reduce future blemishes.

skin type


If you have very sensitive skin, keratolytic glycerin is also well suited for your exfoliation needs. Many acid ingredients can be too much for sensitive skin to handle, so glycerin presents a gentler alternative.

Our Toleriane Dermo Cleanser is designed to comfort sensitive skin while removing makeup, dirt and dead skin cells. Massage this cleanser in a circular motion to help soften your skin and allow dead cells to slough away.

dermatologist and patient


Your ideal exfoliation routine is highly personal, but there are some basic guidelines to follow. Exfoliating can be done in the morning or at night, however many chemical exfoliants increase photosensitivity and can therefore be better used at night. 

The average person can exfoliate 2-3 times per week with acids, or less frequently with a physical exfoliant if you find that works for your skin. It should be noted that some serums containing exfoliating acids are formulated at a potency suitable for everyday use.

Exfoliating too often can create tiny gaps in your skin’s natural moisture barrier, leading to lost hydration and mitigating skin benefits. If you have very sensitive skin or are prone to redness, we recommend exfoliating only once per week.


Exfoliators should usually fit within the beginning steps of your skincare routine within a cleanser or serum, although they can also be applied on their own as a mask or peel solution.

Try to keep the number of exfoliating ingredients in your routine to a minimum to avoid overwhelming the skin, and skip your usual exfoliation routine if you’ve just had a peel, microdermabrasion or other exfoliation-based clinical procedure

Found this guide informative? Read our guide to Adult Acne 101 to learn more about this skin concern.

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