The Proper Way to Exfoliate

Below is an article I wrote and designed for Slice on Wednesday February 19th. Scroll down to read the article, and check out the original on


The frigid temperatures and gusty winds of February do more than give us runny noses, watery eyes and inescapable chills. Our complexions become dull, washed out and totally meh. The good news? It’s not something a little exfoliation and TLC can’t fix.

Removing dead skin cells improves the tone and texture of your skin, cleans pores, brightens pigmentation and helps skin look younger longer, but the truth is that it’s not always a great idea. Whether you’re scrubbing too often or too hard, exfoliating can lead to dryness, redness, sensitivity, and possibly more breakouts. The goal is to remove keratin-laden cells from the surface, while still leaving some to protect skin from the environment.

Because natural exfoliation occurs any time you wash your face simply by rubbing skin with hands or a washcloth, it might not be necessary to add another product to your skincare regimen. Furthermore, if you’re already using products that contain acids like salicylic or glycolic, there’s no need for an additional exfoliator.

To help you decide the best option for your skin, we’re giving you the lowdown on four of most popular, nonabrasive and inexpensive ways to exfoliate your skin today.

Face Cloth
The most efficient approach, a face cloth allows you to remove makeup, clean and slough simultaneously. Dampen it, add a squirt of cleanser, and work in small, circular motions around your face using light pressure. Rinse with lukewarm water, and pat dry. Avoid bacteria build-up on the wash cloth by washing it with mild soap after every use.
Try: West Elm’s Organic Pleated Edge face cloth ($7) and La Roche Posey’s Toleraine Dermo-Cleanser ($25)

Face Brush
Loosen pore-clogging makeup, dirt, oils, and dead skin cells with a Clarisonic Cleansing System. The soft oscillating bristles ensure it’s gentle yet thorough, and the rechargeable tool that shuts off after the advised one minute ensures you won’t over-exfoliate. Use just one or two times per week for normal or sensitive skin, and every other day for oily skin.
Shop: Clarisonic Cleansing System ($180-265)

Face Scrub
Some of us love the feeling of rubbing off dead skin cells with a more hands-on approach, like with a gentle facial scrub. Wet skin and apply a thin, even layer. Use light pressure and small circles to massage around the entire face, avoiding the delicate eye area, and rinse off. Again, use just 1-2 times a week for normal or sensitive skin, and every other day for oily skin.
Try: Kate Somerville’s Hollywood’s 2 Minute Facial Kit ($102)

Konjac Sponge
Made from the root of the Japanese konjac plant, this option is more thorough than a face cloth and less abrasive than a brush or scrub. Soak the konjac sponge in warm water, then use the flat side to massage your face using a small, circular motion. After each use, rinse and squeeze out excess water and discard after one month. The konjac sponge is a great option for sensitive or acne-prone skin.
Try: Boscia’s Konjac Cleansing Sponge ($22)

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