Exfoliate or cleanse first? The traditional approach, of course, is to cleanse first…
The first step in most routines (including professional facials) is cleanse to remove impurities and surface oils, then exfoliate to remove dead skin cells and “polish” skin.
But what if you flip this around and exfoliate first? What if you turn the boring “conventional wisdom” on its head, and try something different? You might be surprised at the results!
Jump ahead to:
The Benefits of Exfoliating Before Cleansing
If you relegate your cleanser to nothing more than a pre-cleanse for the “real job” of exfoliation, you are missing out on some true cleanser benefits…that can be skin-changing.
What Cleansing Does (or should do)
A cleanser can, and should, do more than simply remove surface grime or makeup.
You can think of cleansing before exfoliating as the “dust-removing” clean you give a wooden surface before sanding it. That’s all it does, remove dust, but it doesn’t do anything for the actual wood.
A good cleanser will remove impurities deep from your skin–rather than just the surface.
This means that instead of just following with moisturizer on half-clean skin, you apply it on properly cleansed skin that is ready to gain the benefits of the moisturizer.
What Exfoliation Does (or should do)
Proper exfoliation will break up dead skin cells, get deep into pores to release blockages, and help reduce the appearance of fine lines and dullness.
Okay, so why on earth would you sand wood before removing dust??
Well, because an exfoliators job is to break up, dissolve, and remove stuff.
So if you do it before your cleanse, you can bet your cleanser will deeply cleanse and nourish your skin–good cleansers have skin-loving ingredients that do work even if washed off quickly.
You might be surprised at how this simple step can change your skin. Don’t believe us? Try it!
Step by Step: How to Exfoliate First and Power-Cleanse Your Skin
Wait… what about makeup removal?
Whether to remove makeup before exfoliating depends on your exfoliation product. If you choose to use a manual, grainy exfoliator, it is best to do a quick makeup removing cleanse or use a remover first.
But if you use a chemical exfoliator, these have the power to thoroughly break up and remove makeup… from the surface of skin and your pores.
This can significantly improve breakouts, blackheads and clogged skin.
- If you’re using a grainy exfoliator, remove any makeup first with a makeup remover or quick cleanse
- If you’re using a chemical exfoliator, apply it to dry skin with a cotton ball and gently buff in circles (like a applying a toner)
- Keep buffing until the cotton ball or pad comes away clean. Don’t be surprised if this takes a while!
- Now, your skin is prepped and ready to be cleansed
- Apply your cleanser as per directions. The key is to really massage it into your skin–especially clogged areas like the nose or chin
- Take your time and enjoy the cleanse, you can do it for a good minute
- Keep massaging, and apply more warm water with your fingertips if needed
- Thoroughly rinse off the cleanser and pat dry
- You will feel the difference, promise! Your skin will be clean, buffed, soft, and happy!
- Apply further treatments and moisturizer
This is best done in the evening, but you can take these steps in your morning routine. Just skip the makeup removal.
Alternative: use a wash cloth first
An alternative to the above (also a good morning option) is to use a wash cloth to gently exfoliate your skin before cleansing.
Not only does this feel great because you can gently exfoliate around your eyes and your hairline with the cloth, but it provides an ideal base for your cleanser.
Of course, you can then follow with an exfoliation product if you wish and if your skin is okay with this.
Exfoliate or Cleanse First? Go against the crowd and exfoliate first!
Just because we’ve always been “told” to cleanse first, doesn’t mean it is the best thing to do! You can do anything you want with your skin care.
Try it, you might be surprised at the results: thoroughly cleansed, smooth, happy skin!
See our Glycolic Acid Exfoliator 7.5% here for the perfect exfoliation product.