Your Ultimate Guide to Exfoliation: FAQ's

Posted by Otis Skincare

Exfoliation is one of the best things you can do for your skin. It removes dead skin cells, brightens your skin, and makes your face feel smooth and really, really clean.

But it does raise some questions.

Get it right and you’ll have fresh, glowing, healthy looking skin. But get it wrong and your exfoliated face will look like you’ve attacked it with sandpaper!

And for men, exfoliation gets even more complicated because you have to factor shaving into the equation as well! Is it best to exfoliate before or after you shave? How do you exfoliate when you have a beard?

Below we answer ALL your questions.

Because we want to make sure you get exfoliation right!


Handsome young man washing his face with an exfoliating face wash at a white sink with chrome tap

Exfoliating away dead skin cells reveals a fresh, smooth complexion


Scroll down to find out why you need to exfoliate, and which exfoliant is the best one to use. We also look at how to exfoliate every skin type.

Then we answer questions about shaving - whether it’s better to exfoliate before or after you shave. And finally, we show you the best way to exfoliate your face when you have a beard, and how it can encourage beard growth.

But lets start with... 

What does exfoliation do?

Exfoliation is the one step in your skincare routine that will really make your complexion glow, and help to keep your skin looking younger.

It dissolves dead skin cells, accelerates cell renewal and stimulates your skin’s natural repair mechanism – instantly improving the look (and feel) of your skin.

  • the texture of your face looks smoother
  • your skin tone is nice and even
  • your pores appear smaller
  • it helps get rid of blackheads
  • there’s less chance of ingrown hairs


  • it allows your moisturizer to absorb easily, keeping your skin well hydrated

It also increases blood circulation to your face, bringing nutrients to the skin’s surface. This gives you a healthy, vibrant and glowing complexion.


Why is exfoliating so important for men?

It’s the build-up of dead skin cells that block your hair follicles and cause razor bumps and ingrown hairs when you shave. 

So exfoliating the dead cells away keeps your follicles clear - and stops ingrown hairs from forming.

As well as improving the overall texture of your face.

Exfoliation is especially good for black men as it gets rid of the dry skin cells that can make dark skin look ashy and clog your pores.

And if you have a beard, exfoliation will keep beard dandruff at bay, improve the texture of your skin and keep your hair follicles clear and healthy, encouraging strong beard growth.  


What can I use to exfoliate my face?

Exfoliation isn’t only limited to the grainy facial scrubs of the past (which are way too harsh for your face, especially if you have sensitive skin).

Essentially there are two different types of exfoliant you can use – physical and chemical.

Physical exfoliants:
  • Facial Scrubs
  • Facial brushes and electronic cleaning devices
  • Sponges or wash cloths
Chemical exfoliants:
  • Natural substances such as Alpha Hydroxy Acids, either included in a face wash - like our Daily Face Wash - or as a separate exfoliating lotion
  • Professional chemical peel 

    OTIS SKINCARE exfoliating Daily face Wash for men - sunlight highlighting tube on wood
    Our gently exfoliating Daily Face Wash cleans and exfoliates in one simple step


      What is the best way to exfoliate my face?

      A lot depends on personal preference and your skin type, but we always recommend a gentle, natural chemical exfoliant as the best way to go.

      And here’s why…

      Exfoliating Scrubs - the mechanical action of the exfoliating particles against your skin causes micro-tears. This makes your face and body more susceptible to irritation (and leaves your skin looking red and angry of course!)

      But if you prefer the satisfying process of manually sloughing off dead skin cells try to choose a scrub that is cream-based and suitable for sensitive skins too. Avoid fruit pits and nut shell in scrubs. The jagged particles will damage your skin’s natural barrier. 

      Facial brushes and electronic cleaning devices, sponges, wash cloths – whilst these tools can be quite effective, there’s always the risk of spreading bacteria unless you keep them scrupulously clean.

      Professional chemical peel – not for the faint hearted! Whilst a professional peel is undoubtedly the most effective exfoliator, it is also the harshest. Always go to a trusted and certified practitioner and take extra care of your face in the sun afterwards. The risk of developing sun spots and sun damage are greatly increased after a chemical peel.


      Natural chemical exfoliants - (less scary than they sound!)

      A natural chemical exfoliant, and a policy of ‘little and often’ is a much kinder way to go.


      Why are chemical exfoliants the best?

      Gently exfoliating everyday using a mild chemical exfoliant like an Alpha-Hydroxy Acid (AHA), such as Glycolic Acid or Lactic Acid, is by far the best option for your face. These AHA's can be found incorporated in a face wash, or as a separate exfoliating lotion.

      Natural AHA’s exfoliate in a much more uniform way – leaving your skin looking smooth and glowing all over (not red and angry!).

      They gently ‘unglue’ and dissolve the dead skin cells.

      On top of that, AHA’s are also powerful antioxidants – which stimulate your skin’s natural collagen production and repair any environmental damage to your skin.

      So we advocate gently exfoliating every day using our Daily Face Wash which contains a mild AHA, Lactic Acid.

      Giving you fresh, clean, glowing skin in one easy step!


      The Exfoliating Face Wash every man needs



      Customer tip: Apply a pea-sized amount of Daily Face Wash to your dry face just before stepping into the shower. Leave it to work for a few minutes, then lather and rinse.

      And what works best for your face applies in the same way to the rest of your body. Whether you're exfoliating your chest, your legs or your back it’s always best to use a gentle natural AHA


      How often should I exfoliate my face?

      This depends on the method you are using and also the sensitivity of your face.

      As a general rule the following timings are best:

      Facial Scrub, or Exfoliating Face Brush – 1-3 times per week, less for sensitive skins
      Exfoliating Lotion – every night for most skins, but 1-3 times a week for sensitive skins
      Exfoliating Face Wash – like our gently exfoliating Daily Face Wash – twice a day for all skin types.


      Is it better to exfoliate in the morning or in the evening?

      There isn’t an exact answer to this question. Again it depends on the exfoliant you’re using and how your skin normally behaves.

      If you’re using our Daily Face Wash, then it’s perfectly safe to use both am and pm.

      In the morning it will clear away any excess oil that has appeared during the night and brighten and refresh your face to start your day.

      At night, as well as washing away the debris and sweat of the day, it will eliminate any dead skin cells that have built up.

      However, if you’re using a facial scrub exfoliator in the morning then it’s important not to be too rough or you’ll walk around with bright red skin all day! So night time use is safer.

      If you’re planning on using a stronger chemical exfoliating lotion, a night time application is better as they will irritate your face in sunlight. Erring on the side of caution is the best way to go.


      Should I exfoliate or wash my face first?

      If you’re using an exfoliating facial scrub it’s better to use that first, and then when you wash your face afterwards you can get rid of any annoying particles that remain on your skin.

      But our recommendation is to use an exfoliating face wash so that you can do both at the same time.

      For more on how exfoliation fits into your daily skincare routine see: "The BEST SKINCARE ROUTINE for MEN: why less is more".


      Is it possible to exfoliate too much?


      If you're using an exfoliating scrub it should only be used once or twice a week maximum. Over-exfoliating will dry out and irritate the surface of your face, ultimately causing it to produce more oil to compensate. 

      But if you are using a more gentle exfoliator then it’s safe to use twice a day.


      Exfoliation and your skin type

      I have sensitive skin. How often should I exfoliate, and what should I use?

      You may need to experiment to see what your skin will tolerate without it becoming too dry. But it’s best to steer clear of any rough grainy scrubs, or strong chemical exfoliants.

      Our Daily Face Wash can be used every day and is perfect for exfoliating sensitive skin – we’ve got more on that here – “How to exfoliate sensitive skin: Gently does it!”.

      Because it includes hydrating Glycerin and soothing Aloe Vera it won’t leave your face feeling tight and dry.

      If you'd like more advice on taking care of sensitive skin check out "A Skincare Routine to Calm your Sensitive Skin".


      What about other skin types?

      Dry skin  - Getting rid of the dry, flaky skin that can really ruin your look is going to make a huge difference to dry skin types.

      But you need to avoid any strong exfoliants that will irritate your face and cause it to dry out even more.

      So, as with sensitive skin, a gentle exfoliating face wash is your best option.

      Oily skin - Exfoliating every day can really help an oily skin, especially if you're prone to acne and breakouts. It will effectively unclog pores, reduce blackheads and decrease the chance of breakouts.

      However, one of the most common errors when you have oily skin is over-exfoliation! If you use harsh facial scrubs they’ll dry out and irritate the surface of your skin, ultimately causing it to produce more oil to compensate.  And a vicious circle will be created!

      Again, this can be avoided by using a gentle exfoliating face wash

      Our Daily Face Wash includes purifying Tea Tree Oil which helps to regulate sebum production, keeping oily skin under control.


      How often should I exfoliate if I have oily skin?

      Try to adopt a policy of ‘little and often’, exfoliating very gently every day using an exfoliating face wash. Your face will get all of the immediate benefits of exfoliation, but without prompting any irritation or unwanted increase in oiliness.


      Can I exfoliate if I have acne?

      If you have acne you may think that exfoliation is a bad idea. And it's true that scrubbing away at skin that’s already red and inflamed is not wise.

      However, exfoliating away dead skin cells is extremely important in the treatment of acne.

      Acne appears when the pores of your skin become blocked with oil, dead skin cells or bacteria.

      You get breakouts when:

      • too much oil is produced by your sebaceous glands 
      • dead skin cells accumulate and clog your pores
      • bacteria build up in your pores

      Exfoliation gets rid of the dead skin cells on your face removing a key factor in the cause of acne.

      But if you have acne-prone skin, you should avoid grainy scrubs at all costs! The scrubbing action will inflame your skin too much. And irritating already inflamed skin is the last thing you want!

      Avoid facial brushes and sponges too. They can be a breeding ground for more bacteria.

      Acne-prone skin types should stick to gentle AHA's, which dissolve the glue that holds dead skin cells together – without any irritating scrub action.

      The best solution: find a non-drying face wash which cleans and gently exfoliates in one step – like our Daily Face Wash.

      The anti-bacterial Tea Tree Oil in our Daily Face Wash keeps oily skin under control; while the Alpha Hydroxy Acid, Lactic Acid, exfoliates away dead skin cells and stops them from blocking pores and causing acne

      So our Daily Face Wash fights acne on three fronts:

      1. Regulating excess oil production
      2. Dissolving away dead skin cells
      3. Keeping your pores free of bacteria


      How often should I exfoliate my face if I have acne?

      As with other skin types, we recommend exfoliating very gently every day.

      However, you know your skin better than anybody. Start using an exfoliating lotion, or gentle face wash (containing an AHA), twice a week, and if you have no adverse reactions you can build up the number of days from there.


      Exfoliation and shaving

      Is it best to exfoliate before or after shaving? 

      You should definitely exfoliate before you shave. Removing the dead skin cells beforehand means you can shave with less pressure, and so there's less chance of irritation – and you can avoid ingrown hairs. But again, gentleness is the key!

      We've got 9 tips on how you can achieve a perfect, pain-free shave in our article here - and gentle exfoliation is definitely one of them!


      What’s the best way to exfoliate my face if I shave? 

      Shaving already provides quite a rigorous mechanical exfoliation of your face in the area of your beard, so using a rough, harsh scrub before you shave will cause more irritation than is necessary.

      The best option is to use a gentle exfoliating face wash all over your face. This will give your entire face the benefit of exfoliation but without over-sensitising the beard area prior to shaving - and it’ll help prevent ingrown hairs and razor bumps too.

      Our Daily Face Wash will do an excellent job of removing the dead skin cells, but without making the area dry or sensitised.


      Exfoliation and your beard

      How do I exfoliate my face when I have a beard?

      Beard dandruff can ruin even the sharpest look! It appears because the facial hair creates a barrier to any skincare that you use. 

      So while the rest of your face is smooth, nourished and hydrated by your skincare, the skin under your beard becomes dry and flaky - and extremely itchy!

      So bearded guys need to make some adjustments.

      The following two steps, done daily, will banish any existing dandruff, while strengthening your skin to prevent further flaking.

      First, exfoliate with a beard exfoliator brush. The brush will lift all the ready-to-flake skin from your face.

      Second, clean with an exfoliating facial wash – like our Daily Face Wash - which will naturally dissolve the dead skin that the brush has lifted up.

      The combination of the two is the best way to exfoliate under a beard.

      Try to avoid using exfoliating facial scrubs as the particles can become trapped in your beard, and are very difficult to remove!


      How do I exfoliate my face for beard growth?

      Regular exfoliation will not only make the skin under your beard feel more comfortable and less itchy it also encourages the hair to grow.

      Getting rid of dead skin cells keeps your hair follicles clear and healthy. And healthy hair follicles encourage strong beard growth.  

      If you already have a beard then simply follow the two steps above every day to invigorate your existing facial hair.

      And check out our guide "How To Trim Your Beard Like A Pro" so that you always look sharp whatever stage of growth you're at.

      If you’re just starting out, then exfoliate daily with our Daily Face Wash to stimulate the hair follicles and encourage a full and healthy beard to grow.


      The Takeaway on Exfoliation 

      Gently does it!

      Exfoliating away dead skin cells is one of the best things you can do for your skin - you just need to take a gentle approach. 'Little and often' is the best way to go!

      And when you get it right, you'll be left with healthy, glowing, younger-looking skin.


      All that you need to keep looking handsome. 





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