What Does Exfoliating Do for Your Skin?

If you are living in a dry climate like Utah, where I live, you will know that dry skin is an ongoing issue. You may specifically be concerned about the dull appearance of your face or the dry, cracked skin on your heels, but either way you are dealing with dead layers of skin that your body is trying to eliminate.

The reality is that when we are younger our bodies are more efficient at eliminating this dry, dead skin, but as we get older our skin may need a bit of extra help.

That's where exfoliating comes in.

There are a few basic things we can do to take care of our skin, like drinking plenty of water, cleansing, and moisturizing. But if you are not exfoliating, you are missing a very helpful step that your skin will love.


Layers of the Skin

What we can see of our skin is really the surface of several layers.

The deepest layers of our skin are always busy producing more skin cells. As these new skin cells begin moving toward the surface, they already begin to die. The very top surface of our skin is called the stratum corneum and is made up of dead, scale-like cells, which slough off daily.

This process, from the new cell until it sloughs off, takes about 30 days in a young adult, while the same process occurs about every 50 days for an older adult.



What does exfoliating do for your skin?

The scientific answer is that exfoliating helps your skin in this process of eliminating dead skin.

But I know we are more interested in the everyday benefits of how it is going to help our skin look bright and beautiful, so let’s talk about the many ways exfoliating can help create that clear complexion.


  1. Exfoliation promotes smooth skin.

Exfoliating with a dry brush or a facial scrub helps remove those dead skin layers. These dead layers can cause flaking or just a rough skin texture. We want to smooth things out by cleaning up those dead skin layers. Not too often, because we disrupt the slight acidic layer of our skin when we exfoliate. And not too aggressively, because we don’t want to cause damage. But just enough to let us see that smooth glowing skin that was under those dead cells.



  1. Exfoliation can address an itching problem.

Think about what happens when you have too much dead skin hanging out. It definitely makes the skin feel more dry and can cause your skin to feel itchy. Perhaps you try applying moisturizers to help. And maybe they do, but they will be even more beneficial if you exfoliate first and help the skin in its natural process.



  1. Exfoliation may help prevent acne breakouts.

Dry, dead skin cells can block pores. If you have oily skin, this can be a disaster. Let your skin breathe by exfoliating a couple times a week. If you have pimples, you want to be gentle with them when you are exfoliating and not cause further problems in a troubled area.



  1. Exfoliation may increase natural collagen production.

By disrupting the skin a bit, it can help with another very necessary part of keeping that skin looking healthy and supple. Collagen production is an important part of healthy skin. It is a building block for any of our connective tissue, including our skin. Collagen keeps the skin looking plump and youthful, which helps the fight against sagging or wrinkled skin.



  1. Exfoliation may soften the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Every time I exfoliate, I feel like I’ve given myself a mini face lift. Getting rid of those dead skin cells softens the fine lines and wrinkles. This also increases the rate those cells are turning over which can help to prevent wrinkles, especially if you are following exfoliation with some good nourishing moisture, like a facial serum.



  1. Exfoliation can help your skin absorb moisturizers more effectively.

It makes sense that when these moisturizers don’t have to push through an extra layer of dead skin cells it is easier for them to get into the layers of the skin where they can nourish and moisturize to really make a difference.



  1. Exfoliation can give you a close shave.

Removing the dead skin cells also makes it so the razor can get right in there and give you the close shave that gives you that smooth complexion. Whether we are talking about a face shave or a leg shave, it is one more step toward smooth, soft skin.





Scott, A.S. and Fong, E. Body Structures and Functions. (2021). Cengage.