There are a few skin care rules most of us have been programmed to follow since we were teenagers: Always wash your face before bed. Don’t forget sunscreen—and moisturizer. Pay attention to your freckles and moles, just in case they change color, shape or size. And of course: don’t keep your face like that, or it might stick forever! While the last one is questionable (thanks, mom!), there is another unspoken nugget of healthy pore wisdom that many overlook: exfoliation. As board-certified dermatologist Dr. Papri Sarkar explains, no matter your age or skin type, it’s important to exfoliate your skin regularly. “Exfoliating means you’re getting rid of surface skin cells. With most exfoliating products, that means you’re removing some of the surface skin cells that are already dead,” she explains. “If you don’t have enough turnover of these cells, skin can look duller, more blotchy and cause clogged pores leading to acne or cysts.”
However, much like you wouldn’t use an oil-based facial cleanser if you have zit-prone skin or a face mask that absorbs oil if you’re already dry, taking your unique chemical makeup into mind is essential for exfoliation. “You need to make sure that you’re not using an exfoliant that is too strong for you. If you have sensitive skin, are already on actives for acne or just don’t handle exfoliants well, you should pay attention to the ingredients you’re using on your face,” Dr. Sarkar explains. “Anyone can react poorly to exfoliants if used too often, too much or too frequently.”
For all skin types, Dr. Sarkar recommends starting with one exfoliating treatment every seven days for the first few weeks to see how your skin reacts. Then, you can add up to three times a week, depending on your needs. “Less is always better, especially with exfoliation. It’s very easy to tip skin into the red, irritated bucket, which can lead to lots of trouble,” she adds.