5 Exfoliating Myths, Debunked


5 Exfoliating Myths, Debunked

Want softer, clearer, more radiant skin? Exfoliation is the answer! No matter your age or skin type, regular exfoliation is the key to removing dry, dull skin cells – and revealing the bright, fresh skin that’s hiding underneath. But before you go to town with the nearest face scrub, we need to debunk some common exfoliating myths.

From the belief that exfoliating’s off limits for sensitive skin, to some crazy ideas about chemical resurfacers, this article separates exfoliating facts from fiction. Read on to learn how you can enjoy all the benefits of exfoliation – with zero irritation.

Myth 1: You need to physically scrub your skin
Answer: Stop scrubbing your skin!

Does your skin feel congested, grimy and like it needs a vigorous scrub? Believe it or not, a grainy manual exfoliant isn’t the answer. Instead, 9 times out of 10, this feeling is simply a sign your skin needs a really thorough clean. And that means swapping your fingertips for a cleansing brush!

Start by choosing the right cleanser for your skin type, then cleanse once in the morning, with a double cleanse at night to remove all traces of the day. Using a soft, silicone cleansing brush like our Dermabrush will help create a rich lather – and intensify cleaning for that fresh-skin sensation.

Now you’ve perfected your cleansing routine, you’ll now notice you won’t need to exfoliate as often as prior assumed. However, it’s time to introduce an exfoliator. There are two choices, a granular exfoliant or a peel exfoliant. Our pick is a peel exfoliant – which leads us to our next myth. Acid exfoliants can have various names, chemical exfoliant, peel exfoliant, but we prefer the term “liquid exfoliant or liquid chemical exfoliation.

Myth 2: Exfoliating with acids is scary
Answer: At-home mini-peels are gentle & effective

If you’re relatively new to skincare, liquid chemical exfoliation might sound kind of scary. It’s not! In fact, it’s typically more gentle than manual exfoliation – making it a great option for sensitive, reactive, dry and acne-prone skin.

The chemicals in question are exfoliating acids – namely alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) – and fruit enzymes. While a physical exfoliant relies on a grainy texture and manual massaging or ‘scrubbing’ action to dislodge dead skin cells, acid exfoliants penetrate more deeply and can remove more dead skin cells without causing irritation.

Popular in anti-ageing and anti-acne products, AHAs such as glycolic, lactic and mandelic acids, as well as BHA salicylic acid, work by dissolving the intercellular ‘glue’ that binds dead skin cells to the skin’s surface. They encourage a gentle shedding and can also work on deeper layers to improve the skin’s natural exfoliation rate (which slows down as we age). Enzyme exfoliants work in a similar way and are much gentler again.

Myth 3: Sensitive skin doesn’t need exfoliation
Answer: It does, but choose a gentle (scrub-free) option

Enhancing skin cell turnover and increasing the penetration of your skincare products, exfoliation can be beneficial for ALL* skin types. So don’t assume that your sensitive skin means sloughing’s off the skincare menu!

You can – and should – exfoliate sensitive skin, but a little extra care does need to be taken. Skin Therapists will often recommend a gentle enzyme or acid exfoliant that contains a blend of lactic and mandelic acids. Derived from milk and almonds, these mild alpha-hydroxy acids are key ingredients in our exfoliating serums: Shed The Dead and LQD Exfoliant.

Myth 4: You should exfoliate every day
Answer: Exfoliate every second day at most

Exfoliating is a great way to increase radiance, improve skin tone, and minimise congestion and fine lines. However, more is not always more – and you can definitely overdo it.

Over-exfoliation can compromise the skin barrier and result in redness, peeling and tight or stinging sensations. So, how do you know how much is too much?

How often you should exfoliate will depend on the type of exfoliator you’re using and your skin type. While more robust skin types and those with acne may benefit from almost daily use of AHAs or salicylic acid, two to three times a week is the sweet spot for many people.

Our tip? Two weeks after implementing the use of our DermaBrush with your cleanser, you should notice your skin will feel softer, cleaner and fresher. Now, take things up a notch by introducing your peel exfoliant. Start slowly, using once a week and increasing frequency once tolerated. If you experience any dryness or irritation, exfoliate less often.

At least, use a chemical exfoliant once weekly (ideal for sensitive skins). At most, apply every second evening.

Myth 5: You should use a physical exfoliator on acne-prone skin
Answer: Swap it for salicylic acid to unblock pores

Problem skin needs a more aggressive exfoliation approach, right? Wrong. A harsh manual scrub can create micro-tears in the skin, and scrubbing at acne-prone skin will only cause further inflammation and spread bacteria. Which means? More breakouts, more redness and more scarring. Eeek!

Chemical exfoliation, on the other hand, is ideal for acne-prone skin. Particularly products that contain BHAs like salicylic acid. As well as removing dead skin cells from the skin’s surface, oil-soluble salicylic acid penetrates the skin to exfoliate pores from within. By unclogging pores and helping to reduce sebum production, it can help heal current blemishes, while also reducing the likelihood of future breakouts.

In the Dermaenergy range, salicylic acid is found in the exfoliating serum: Shed The Dead  as well as our A Mean Clean cleanser and Dissolve And Solve anti-acne toner.

What happens if you need a REALLY deep clean?

Professional exfoliation treatments like water microdermabrasion can be very beneficial for dull, congested skin. This treatment utilises a fine sandpaper attached to a facial vacuum cleaner. The fine sandpaper gently removes the dead skin, cell by cell, then the vacuum cleaner removes the debris. Completing the cleansing action, water is used to flush out dirt, oil and dead skin sitting deep within the pore.


*For skin conditions such as eczema or rosacea, please seek the advice of your dermatologist.