Why You Should Exfoliate Every Day

Like always removing your makeup before bed and slathering on sunscreen even on the cloudiest of days, there’s a golden rule for exfoliation, too: Don’t do it every day or you can irritate your skin. And sure, while there’s some truth to that — assaulting your skin with powerful acids ups your risk of irritation — it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. Depending on what exactly you use to exfoliate, you can actually do so as often as you want.

Regular exfoliation is essential for healthy, glowing skin, especially with age. “The skin’s usual turnaround cycle is 28 days, but it grows longer due to aging, pollution, and environmental aggressors wreaking havoc on the skin,” says Sarah Lee, Glow Recipe’sco-CEO and co-founder. “This means dead skin cells can build up on skin causing dullness, roughness, congestion, and even breakouts.” Exfoliation buffs away those dead skin cells, clearing the way for more radiant skin underneath, smoothing skin texture, and keeping pores clear of debris. And if you do it daily, these perks could add up to all around clear, brighter skin.


So long as you do it properly, it’s worth trying. “Exfoliate the skin daily, especially if you are using mostly gentle ingredients,” says Rita Linkner, MD, a dermatologist at Spring Street Dermatology in New York City. “That’s the best way to keep your complexion fresh while also minimizing sun damage and fine lines and wrinkles.”

Polyhydroxy acids may be your safest bet — literally. “PHA, or polyhydroxy acids, are acids with a larger-sized molecule that are effective yet gentle on skin,” says Christine Chang, Glow Recipe’s other co-CEO and co-founder. They’re too big to penetrate the skin deeply, which limits their potential for irritation. And they’re so gentle that even those with sensitive skin (and certain conditions, like rosacea and eczema) can use them.

But they still offer the benefits of your usual chemical exfoliator. Plus, they provide antioxidant protection and hydration. There’s little to no drawback, which is why it’s a star in Avocado Melt Sleeping Mask. Make it your new night cream and behold: Your skin will be brighter, smoother, and plumper.


If you’re not quite as sensitive or you have oily skin, Dr. Linkner even recommends pairing an alpha-hydroxy acid with beta-hydroxy acid, which will “help control oil production and brighten skin,” she explains. Alpha-hydroxy acids, such as glycolic, lactic, malic, and mandelic acids, exfoliate the skin by breaking down the glue that holds dead skin cells together. That essentially removes the dull top layer of skin, revealing fresh, brighter skin underneath.

The most powerful AHA is glycolic acid, which can reach the deeper layers of skin thanks to its relatively small molecular size. As a result, there’s slightly more risk of irritation, but the benefits it offers, like boosting collagen and elastin production and drawing moisture into the air, outweigh it. That’s why you can find it in the Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser and the Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask. Both products were formulated to have the exact right amount of glycolic to be used daily without irritating the skin. Another stellar AHA, lactic acid is similarly potent, but slower to sink in, making it a smart option for those with sensitive skin. It stars in the Pineapple-C Brightening Serum, where soothing aloe and chamomile keep skin calm.


While PHA is fair game for everyday exfoliation, start off more slowly with AHAs, particularly glycolic acid. “They can work well for daily exfoliation in the right amounts,” says Chang, “but you need to test on your skin to be 100 percent sure it won’t trigger sensitivity and redness.” She suggests starting out by using an AHA product once or twice a week for the first two weeks, then working up to every other day. Once you are positive your skin can handle it, go ahead and make it a daily thing.

Finally, pair your exfoliators strategically. As in the Pineapple-C Brightening Serum, “calming and soothing ingredients such as cica, aloe, and chamomile are all great options to soothe the skin,” says Lee. “A hydrating skin-care routine such as bouncy toners, serums, and emollient moisturizers are key after exfoliation.” And, as always, don’t forget to use SPF — exfoliated skin is more susceptible to UV exposure. Follow these tips and you’ll have your glowiest summer yet. Dull skin, who?

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