What Is the Meaning of Exfoliate?

by Jonathan Croswell ; Updated July 18, 2017

Loofah next to a bath

Design Pics/Tomas del Amo/Design Pics/Getty Images

You may not realize it, but all throughout the day you are shedding dead skin cells. These come off in such small bits that you rarely notice them. When the body does not shed skin quickly enough, it can trap oils on the surface of your skin or cause other problems. To facilitate this natural process, you may want to exfoliate your skin. Simply put, this is using abrasion or a related treatment to physically remove dead skin from your body.

Why It's Good for Your Skin

Skin cells have a shelf life of just a few days, and this can vary depending on sun exposure, the temperature and humidity of the air; and the nutrients you are eating. By clearing off dead skin cells, you reduce the risk of irritating the skin and developing whiteheads, blackheads or pimples. Exfoliating also leaves your skin looking more radiant and healthy, and it enables moisturizers and other skin treatments to penetrate and affect the skin.

What You Should Use

Exfoliants come in many different forms. You may use a loofah -- a scrubbing brush designed to clear off skin cells, or an exfoliating lotion or cream containing tiny sand-like pellets to agitate the skin. Microdermabrasion is a more intense method of physically removing dead skin cells from the body and often requires a dermatologist visit. Some topical medications can increase your skin's sloughing rate.

How You Do It

Exfoliating the skin works best when the skin is wet. This is why loofahs and body scrubs are popular options. They are used in the shower, when skin is soft and easily removed. However, some body scrub instructions say to start with a dry scrub and then enter the shower after the treatment has been applied. Be sure to follow the instructions of whatever product you purchase.

Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

Exfoliating is good for the skin, but it can also dry out your skin cells, particularly if you are someone with sensitive skin. To combat this, apply a layer of moisturizer after exfoliating. The scrub treatment makes the moisturizer more effective in locking in your skin's moisture and enhances the radiance and health of your skin.

What to Watch Out For

Don't use a body scrub on the face. Body scrubs are named as such because the abrasives used to exfoliate the skin are much tougher than what you would find in a facial scrub. Get a separate exfoliants for the face to prevent damage to your face that could cause redness. You should also limit your exfoliating to two or three times a week. If you do this more often, you will be wearing away young skin cells that aren't ready to be removed.

Photo Credits

  • Design Pics/Tomas del Amo/Design Pics/Getty Images

About the Author

Jonathan Croswell has spent more than five years writing and editing for a number of newspapers and online publications, including the "Omaha World-Herald" and "New York Newsday." Croswell received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Nebraska and is currently pursuing a Master's of Health and Exercise Science at Portland State University.