If you have sensitive skin, you probably stay away from scrubs because you don’t want your skin to be a red, raw-looking mess. And if you’re acne-prone, a peel definitely seems insane because breakouts, right? Wrong. Turns out exfoliation can benefit every skin type.

In addition to revealing fresh skin cells, exfoliating removes dead cells from pores, making them appear smaller. Makeup also looks better. Removing the buildup enhances your skin’s ability to absorb everything else, from acne medicine to anti-aging serum.

Find the routine that’s right for your type and get glowing.

1. My skin’s dry. Will exfoliating strip it?

Not necessarily. In fact, flakes can inhibit the full penetration of moisturizer. In addition, oil can get trapped and cause tiny, pimple-like bumps. Your best bet: gentle chemical exfoliators (an AHA-rich serum dissolves bonds between dead cells) or a light facial scrub. Try one, immediately followed by a gentle hydrating lotion, every two or three days.

2. But I’m oily and acne-prone! Will I break out?

Stay away from rough physical scrubs, which can contribute to breakouts. Chemical versions — such as a face wash made with hydroxy acids like glycolic or salicylic remove grime and penetrate oil to break down pore-clogging dead skin cells.

3. I’m way too sensitive … right?

Gritty scrubs are definitely off-limits but most people can benefit from a mild, short-contact exfoliating product. Consider a cleanser or toner rich in fruit or plant enzymes, twice a week, to deep clean gently.

4. What should I do for my normal skin?

“Normal” usually means “combo” — an oily T-zone and dry cheeks — which can benefit from the Goldilocks of exfoliators: baking soda. In a waterless, powder-cleanser form, it’s easy to adjust the strength: Add less water for a stronger scrub (perfect for the T-zone) and more for a gentler one (ideal for the cheeks). Do this two or three times a week.


5. Should I exfoliate in the morning or night?

Either is fine but if you use treatments at night like retinol, you may want to exfoliate before bed, as your skin will be more receptive once dead surface cells have been removed.

6. What if I have a bad reaction?

Use a 1 percent hydrocortisone cream on the area to reduce inflammation. And switch to a gentle cleanser and moisturizer, until skin calms down.

7. Can’t I just use my body scrub?

No. Body scrubs often have harsher, larger granules, made to even out the thicker, tougher skin below the neck.

8. Should I avoid my eye area?

Some exfoliators, are specifically made for the delicate eye tissue. Always check the label and never use a scrub.

9. Are microbeads bad for the planet?

The plastic pellets, often found in scrubs, go down the drain and can eventually pollute rivers, lakes, and oceans. Many major companies, such as Unilever, Procter and Gamble, Johnson and Johnson, and L’Oréal, have already eliminated or are in the process of phasing out the beads, opting for biodegradable, natural alternatives, such as rice, wax, and bamboo extracts.

10. Can I get a derm-grade peel at home?

The pros often use super-potent formulas, which require medical supervision. A close alternative: using a peel pad system. The cumulative effects can create a surface similar to a low-grade medical peel over time.