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Why exfoliating is important for men and how to find the right one

A lot of men still skip this important step in their skincare routine.

Written by
Teneal Zuvela
Medically reviewed by
Last updated
April 18, 2024
min read
Why exfoliating is important for men and how to find the right one
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From preventing acne to brightening dull skin, exfoliating can offer many benefits to your skin's health and appearance. Yet despite these benefits, a lot of men still skip this important step in their skincare routine.

If you haven't started exfoliating your skin on a regular basis, you're going to want to keep reading as we take you through what exfoliation means, how to do it and everything else you know to know about exfoliating for men.

What is an exfoliator?

An exfoliator removes dead skin cells from the outer layer of your skin [1]. This happens naturally every 30 days in a process called skin cell turnover, which is when your skin sheds its dead skin cells and replaces them with new ones.

However, sometimes the naturally occurring process of skin cell turnover doesn't complete the job as well as you might like, leaving you with acne and dry and flaky skin.

To prevent this from happening, many people reach for physical and chemical exfoliators, which essentially do the same job but with even more effective results.

Why should men exfoliate?

Everyone's skin can benefit from exfoliation. The process can remove dead skin cells, dirt and excess oils, leaving you with brighter, smoother and healthier-looking skin — and who wouldn't want that?

Yet, until recently, men have been a little left behind when it comes to skincare. But, the only real difference between male and female skin is that male skin is generally a little thicker [2].

So, what else can regular exfoliation offer? Well, if you deal with acne-prone skin, removing dead skin cells can help prevent blocked pores and assist your skin with absorbing any topical treatments more effectively.

It's also good for preventing ingrown hairs and even increasing collagen production, which is essential for maintaining younger-looking skin and minimising fine lines and wrinkles [3].

How do you exfoliate?

There are a number of ways to exfoliate your skin and you can choose between using an exfoliator tool, granular substance or chemical product. The method you choose will depend on your skin type and how it handles different products.

  • Physical exfoliants: this is when you use a brush, loofah, washcloth, sponge or other physical tools to scrub away dead skin cells.
  • Granular substance: removing dead cells with granular substances, including coffee grounds, sugar, salt or microbeads.
  • Chemical exfoliation: using chemicals, including alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) and enzymes, to dissolve dead skin cells.

Once you have your chosen exfoliator, it's time to exfoliate your skin. And, here is a handy evening skincare routine to follow on the nights you exfoliate — you only need to exfoliate your skin one to two times a week maximum [1].

  1. Wash your face with a gentle cleanser.
  2. Apply your chosen exfoliant to your skin and gently rub in small circular motions for around 30 seconds. If you're using a physical exfoliant then use short, light strokes.
  3. Rinse your skin with lukewarm water.
  4. Apply a hydrating moisturiser, oil or serum.

There are also a few different professional exfoliation treatments available, including chemical peels, derma-planing, microdermabrasion and full-body scrubs.

While the results are usually more dramatic, these treatments can be harsher on your skin and are usually unnecessary for people who are not after a very specific result.

Do facial scrubs damage your skin?

Anything that you put on your skin has the potential to cause damage. Usually, this damage is caused by harsh ingredients or just ingredients that don't suit your skin type.

While this can happen with any product, facial scrubs are notorious for causing these reactions because of the intensity of the ingredients and their tendency to dry out your skin.

However, you can avoid skin damage and irritation by using choosing the right facial scrub and using it correctly. While oily skin types can probably handle a stronger facial scrub or physical exfoliant, those with sensitive, acne-prone and dry skin will respond better to a gentle chemical exfoliant that contains an ingredient like salicylic acid.

It's also important to avoid exfoliating when using other medications or over-the-counter products that cause sensitive skin, including those containing retinoids and benzoyl peroxide, as the combination can cause irritation and skin damage [1].

After exfoliating, it's also essential to follow up with a hydrating moisturiser to prevent dryness and irritation.

How often should I use an exfoliator?

Everyone's skin is very different, which means that your skin might be able to handle more exfoliation than someone else's.

However, most experts agree that exfoliating once to twice a week is a good amount for most people.

What happens if you scrub your face every day?

For some people, especially those with oily skin types, exfoliating every day may actually benefit their skin.

But if you happen to have more sensitive, dry or acne-prone skin, it's better to steer clear from everyday use and stick to a once-a-week application.

How often should men exfoliate?

Men should follow the general rule of exfoliating once or twice a week. However, as men generally do have thicker skin than women, you may be able to get away with more regular exfoliation without suffering from skin irritation or damage.

You might also be able to exfoliate more if you're using gentle products. Generally, the more aggressive the method or product is, the less you need to use it.

If you haven't exfoliated before then it's best to start with a once-a-week routine and gradually increase this amount if your skin seems to be responding well and not showing any signs of irritation, redness or acne breakouts.

When should you exfoliate?

You can exfoliate in the morning or at night, depending on what time suits you best.

For morning birds, a morning exfoliation might give you brighter-looking skin for the day ahead but night owls will also benefit from the extra removal of the build of dirt and bacteria that may have accumulated during the day. Basically, it's up to you!

Something to keep in mind is to leave time between the application of any medicated skincare products and your exfoliation. If you apply a retinol-based product in the evening, you should exfoliate on another day that you don't use the retinol product.

While using exfoliating products in the morning is okay, it can make your skin more sensitive to the sun so be sure to wear sunscreen every single day — regardless of whether you've exfoliated or not.

Best exfoliator for men

Just like there's not one exfoliant that suits all women, there's also not just one right exfoliate for men. In fact, the best skincare products for you will always be the ones that suit your skin's condition, type and goals.

This is why Pilot's clinical strength skin treatments are personalised to suit your skin. Each treatment is designed by an Australian practitioner, who considers your unique skin condition and goals to create a customised formula with medical-grade skincare ingredients that you can't get on the shelf.

Wanting to treat acne, ageing or pigmentation? This is where we come in — our personalised formulas are created with your skin in mind and are designed to target your individual concerns. With ingredients like niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and retinoids, we'll help you put your best face forward.

So, with so many different exfoliants out there, how do you know which one to choose? Let's give you some tips for choosing the right exfoliator for your skin.

Know your skin type

Knowing your skin type is important when choosing any skin care product but particularly when it comes to exfoliants.

If you have oily or combination skin, your skin is probably quite resilient and will respond well to face scrubs that are made with granular substances and other physical exfoliants.

But, if you have drier, acne-prone or sensitive skin, a gentler chemical exfoliant is probably going to suit your skin better.

Look for the right ingredients

There are so many different exfoliation products available and it's essential that you know what's going on your skin. When it comes to face scrubs and exfoliants made with granular substances, it's always a good idea to stick with ones that contain natural ingredients, such as coffee grounds, salt and sugar.

Chemical exfoliants, on the other hand, are generally made with either alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) or poly hydroxy acids. The type of chemical exfoliation product that you choose really depends on your own skin type, but as a rule, most skin types will respond well to beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) like salicylic acid.

Software's Salicylic Acid Foaming Wash is a great option when it comes to a gentle chemical exfoliant. This product helps to exfoliate dead skin away from the skin's surface, unclog pores, clear away acne-causing bacteria and repair the skin's natural barrier. Plus, this exfoliating wash can be used all over your body to prevent breakouts on your back, chest, arms and legs as well.

Use 1-2 times per week and you'll be reaping the results in no time.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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