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Advantages and Disadvantages of Exfoliation

Updated on August 5, 2016

What are the advantages and disadvantages of exfoliation?

Exfoliation is a practice that involves removing dead cells from the top layer of the skin (or epidermis) in order to make it radiant and smooth. The average person’s skin renews itself with new cells once roughly every 30 days. If the old skin cells are not removed through exfoliation, they remain there preventing the new, good-looking, and healthy cells from reaching the surface. As the old dead skin cells keep building up they make your skin rough and dull, and can even cause you to develop blemishes. This is the reason why exfoliation is important for the health and beauty of the skin.

But while exfoliation is very important, it comes with some disadvantages. In this article, we shall take a quick look at the advantages and disadvantages of exfoliating the skin. But first, let’s first take a moment to see how exfoliation is done. There are two methods—the mechanical or chemical way.

Mechanical and Chemical Exfoliation

Mechanical Exfoliation

Mechanical exfoliation is a method of exfoliation where during the exfoliation process, the skin is physically scrubbed with an abrasive such as oatmeal, almond shells, rice bran, pumice, salt crystals, sugar crystals, etc. Abrasive materials such as a simple brush, washcloth, sponge, etc can also be used during mechanical exfoliation. Here, the one doing the exfoliation uses the abrasive to physically scrub the dead skin from his or her skin.

Chemical Exfoliation

Chemical exfoliation is the second method that can be used to exfoliate the skin. With chemical exfoliation, an acid-based chemical or substance is applied to the skin in order to dissolve dead skin cells from the skin. Some of the chemicals or substances used in chemical exfoliation include hydroxyl acids (Lactic acid, Glycolic acid, and Salicylic acid), retinol, and biological enzymes.

Depending on the type of skin you have or depending on the skin problem you are facing, a skin therapist can recommend either of the two methods of exfoliation to you or both of the methods. Exfoliation can be done at home or at the office of a professional skin therapist or esthetician.

Advantages of Exfoliation

  • One of the biggest advantages of exfoliation is that it makes the skin appear more youthful and beautiful. This is possible because when dead skin cells are removed from the top layer of the skin, fresh new skin cells take over and leave the skin smooth, youthful and beautiful.
  • Regular exfoliation are very important in preventing breakouts, which occur when acne-causing bacteria start to feed on stagnant oil caused by a massive build-up of old skin cells that don’t get sloughed. The more these old and dead skin cells get sloughed, the lower the likelihood of oil to be trapped and fed on by acne-causing bacteria thus preventing breakouts.
  • Exfoliation is one of the best things you can do to get rid of blemishes on the skin and transform your blemished skin into a healthy and glowing skin. If you suffer from skin blemishes such as acne scars, you can easily get rid of them or fade them by increasing the number of times that you exfoliate. The more you exfoliate, the more you get rid of the old surface and blemished skin and form new and healthy skin with less of the blemish visible on it.
  • An increased exfoliation of the skin helps massively in regenerating the skin thereby fighting wrinkles and fine lines and making the skin to become smoother and healthier.
  • Exfoliation can play a very instrumental role in battling dry skin problem – especially during the winter season. Applying a good moisturizer on a dry skin is one of the best ways to keep your skin hydrated for a long period of time and avoid dry skin problem. But combining exfoliation and moisturizing together is the best way to banish dry skin. When you exfoliate, you remove old dry skin cells and form fresh new skin cells, which when moisturized with your moisturizer give better results.
  • Exfoliation helps in unclogging your clogged pores. The average human being’s pores easily get clogged with dirt and oil as a result of a build-up of dead skin cells. Clogged pores can easily lead to the development of blemishes and acne. This can be avoided by frequent exfoliation. When you exfoliate and remove the surface dead skin cells, you save your pores from getting clogged.
  • Exfoliation helps in making other skincare products such as moisturizers to work more effectively on your skin since they can now penetrate deeper into the skin.

Disadvantages of Exfoliation

  • One of the biggest disadvantages of exfoliation is that it can end up causing skin irritation if proper care isn’t taken. When using certain harsh abrasives for exfoliation such as shells can easily cause the skin to become irritated. In addition to this, scrubbing the skin too hard during exfoliation can end up removing more skin than is necessary leading to injury or skin irritation. Also, if you have a very sensitive skin, you can easily suffer a skin irritation when you apply the chemical meant for exfoliation on your skin. Others also suffer skin irritation because their skin is allergic to the exfoliating agents used.
  • Too much or over-exfoliation can be harmful to the skin since it can easily leave your skin dry and irritated. This is the reason why skin experts normally advise us to exfoliate not more than twice a week. This even gets worse if you have a very sensitive skin. People with reactive or very sensitive skin can easily suffer from irritation, dryness, inflammation when they exfoliate their skin – especially when exfoliation is done too much and not followed with moisturizing.
  • Exfoliation tends to cost a lot of money. Some of the exfoliation products can be really expensive to purchase. This is partly the reason why many people don’t exfoliate as often as they are supposed to. The exfoliation costs simply scare them away from the process. For example, going to a dermatologist’s office for exfoliation can put a major strain on your budget.
  • Another disadvantage of exfoliation is the fact that some exfoliants are not biodegradable and therefore harm the environment and certain aquatic animals when they end up in rivers and oceans. For example, the microbeads that were initially used a lot by many cosmetic companies in manufacturing exfoliation products are so damaging to aquatic wildlife since these particles can easily find their way into rivers and oceans. If you want to save the environment and aquatic wildlife, make sure to purchase and use exfoliation products that contain ingredients that are biodegradable.


All in all, it’s obvious that the advantages of exfoliation far outweigh the disadvantages. Regular exfoliation (once or twice a week) is very important if you are above twenty years of age and want to keep your skin smooth and beautiful. Imagine this – if you don’t frequently get rid of the old, dead skin, how is the new, fresh, good-looking skin underneath the old one going to be seen? That’s why exfoliation is very essential. The older you grow, the more important it becomes for you to engage in regular skin exfoliation since your skin’s natural ability to exfoliate itself significantly reduces.

NOTE: It is important to always moisturize the skin after exfoliation because after exfoliation, the skin becomes very prone to becoming dry.


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    • profile image

      Raji papa 

      6 months ago

      Very informative

    • profile image

      Wendy Garcia 

      3 years ago

      I love it. Everything was very self explanatory. Over all, was very easy to understand.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing the informative details.

    • myvenn profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Ghana

      I am glad that you found this article highly informative.

    • Jasmeetk profile image

      Jasmeet Kaur 

      4 years ago from India

      very informative.. thanks for sharing. I prefer natural exfoliation for my skin..


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