How Long Should You Exfoliate Your Face?

We all want flawless facial skin texture and tone. This can be achieved with proper care, including exfoliation. But if you exfoliate incorrectly, you will harm your skin. So in this article, I will address how to properly exfoliate your face, including how long you should exfoliate your face for.

How long should you exfoliate your face? You should exfoliate for 30 seconds to 1 minute for most over-the-counter exfoliants. Natural, homemade exfoliants could be used for longer, up to 20 minutes. How often should you exfoliate your face? You should exfoliate no more than 3 times a week.

Read on as you familiarize yourself with the exfoliation process and to learn more about how long you should exfoliate your face for. It depends mostly on two factors:

  • The type of exfoliating product you have; and
  • The type of skin that you have.

How Long Should You Exfoliate Your Face?

The face exfoliation process varies. If your friend exfoliates for 5 minutes, it doesn’t mean that you also have to exfoliate for 5 minutes. It all depends on the product you use. If your product is stronger than your friend’s, a 5-minute exfoliation might harm your skin. You have to carefully check the instructions to know how long you should exfoliate your face for.

For an over-the-counter product, you may find the instructions on its packaging. You may also look for a small piece of paper folded inside its box. It will most likely contain the instructions. The exfoliation process for this product usually takes 30 seconds to a full minute only.

For a homemade exfoliant, it’s usually safe to leave it on for 20 minutes. This is so because of its natural ingredients. Examples of these are honey, avocado, and lemon juice. This type of exfoliant doesn’t have any chemicals in it. Thus, it is mild and not harmful to the skin.

For physical exfoliation, like with a brush or sponge, the time to exfoliate depends on how strong the brush or sponge is. You should only use a physical exfoliant on your face for no more than about 2 gentle swipes or turns on each part of the face.

It is very important to use a soft brush or sponge also. Otherwise, you can make your pores larger. I suggest using a chemical exfoliant with your hands instead of using a physical exfoliant such as a brush or sponge as it can be too rough for the face.

For a prescriptive product, specific instructions will come from your dermatologist.

Whichever type of product you opt to use, it’s always best to first consult a dermatologist. That way, you can confirm the type of skin that you have. At the same time, you can confirm what’s the best exfoliant for you.

Why Is It Important to Know How Long and How Often to Exfoliate For?

It’s important to know how long you should exfoliate your face. Why? Because if you over-exfoliate, it may result in peeling facial skin or a red face.

If that happens, you might end up missing an important event. All because you wouldn’t want to be in public with such an unpleasant appearance. It’s even worse if you’re forced to attend the event with a flushed face. It can be your worst nightmare in this age of social media — where everyone posts everything online.

Some people say their skin does start to peel or turn red after exfoliating. When this happens, they think that their exfoliant is taking effect. This is actually a myth. If you have these symptoms, it means that you overdid it. It’s either your exfoliant is strong, or you left it on your skin for too long. You have to adjust your application process, or you might have to use a different exfoliant.

It’s best to conduct a patch test first before you decide to use a product. Try applying the exfoliant on a small area of your face first. Most of the time, a patch test is done under the chin. If, after a few minutes, you notice a burning sensation, wash it off your face immediately. This means the product is not for you. If your skin reacts, otherwise, it means you may use it.

See the below video by Dr. Dray for more insight and advice on how to properly exfoliate your face, including how long should you exfoliate your face:

How Often Should You Exfoliate?

Now that you know how long should you exfoliate your face, you’re most likely curious how often you should do it.

You don’t have to exfoliate every day unless your dermatologist instructs you to do so. In which case, you most likely have a serious case of oily skin.

This only goes to show that you must apply an exfoliant based on your skin type. To give you an idea, here’s my general recommendation on how often you should exfoliate:

1. Normal to Dry Skin

  • Exfoliate three times a week at the maximum.
  • To see how long to exfoliate, check the instructions indicated on the packaging. Most of the time, you should exfoliate for no longer than 30 seconds to a full minute.
  • A homemade exfoliant can be used for up to 20 minutes.
  • If you’re using a prescriptive product, follow the instructions of your dermatologist.

2. Oily Skin

  • Exfoliate three to five times a week at the maximum.
  • For an over-the-counter product, apply it on your face for a maximum of one minute.
  • For a homemade exfoliant, you may apply it on your skin for 20 minutes.
  • If you opt for a prescriptive product, instructions are given by your dermatologist. For a serious case of oily skin, it’s best to use a prescriptive product.

3. Sensitive Skin

  • Exfoliate twice a week at the maximum.
  • If you’re using an over-the-counter product, check the instructions that go along with it. Most of the time, you apply this type of product for 30 seconds to a full minute.
  • If you prefer using a homemade exfoliant, you may leave it on for 20 minutes at the maximum.
  • If you’re using a prescriptive product, instructions are given by your dermatologist. If you have a serious case of sensitive skin, it’s best to use a prescriptive product.

Why Should You Exfoliate?

By now, you already know how long should you exfoliate your face and how often should you do it. This time, let me cite several reasons behind the importance of face exfoliation.

how long should you exfoliate your face

1. Unclogging of Pores

Unclogging your pores is the main reason for exfoliating. Look closely at your face in a mirror and see if you have blackheads or whiteheads. If yes, it means that you’re not exfoliating your skin effectively.

2. Acne Prevention

Exfoliation prevents the prevalence of blackheads and whiteheads. Thus, it helps deep cleanse your face. This further means that exfoliation also prevents the occurrence of acne.

3. Prevention of Other Skin Issues

Through exfoliation, other facial care products can penetrate your skin more deeply. These include your moisturizer and serum, among others. 

4. Making Your Skin Tone Even

Through exfoliation, you’ll notice that your skin tone becomes more even. Again, this is because exfoliation helps other facial care products to work effectively.

5. Skin Regeneration

In case you didn’t know, the surface of your skin consists of dead cells. Beneath your dead skin cells are new skin cells. When these new skin cells mature, they move up to replace your dead cells.

Through exfoliation, you won’t experience skin regeneration issues. Your skin cells will most likely appear healthier than those who don’t exfoliate.

6. Anti-Aging Benefits

Exfoliating means that your skin appears healthier-looking. This further means that your skin is younger-looking than those who don’t exfoliate.

See the below video for a demonstration of the length of time to exfoliate the face:

Conclusion – How Long Should You Exfoliate Your Face?

So, how long should you exfoliate your face? You should exfoliate your face for 30 seconds to 1 minute, for most over-the-counter exfoliants. Natural, homemade exfoliants can be on your face for longer, up to 20 minutes. How often should you exfoliate your face? You should exfoliate a maximum of 3 times a week.

The length of time you should exfoliate can vary, especially if you have sensitive skin. In which case, you first have to confirm with your dermatologist which is the safest product for you. He or she may prevent you from using over-the-counter products. Instead, he or she might recommend a prescriptive product for you.

It’s also important to identify your correct skin type. Confirm if you have:

  • Normal skin
  • Dry skin
  • Oily skin
  • Sensitive skin

That way, you can figure out the exact product for you. You can figure out how long you should exfoliate your face. You can figure out how often you should exfoliate. Moreover, you’ll learn the correct face exfoliation process specifically for you.

For homemade, natural exfoliants, like honey or avocado-based exfoliants, you can leave them on your face for up to 20 minutes. Don’t get impatient with these homemade exfoliants.

The last point I’ll leave with you is simply to remember to exfoliate! If you exfoliate properly, including for the right length of time, you can get the following benefits:

  1. Unclogging of Pores
  2. Acne Prevention
  3. Prevention of Other Skin Issues
  4. Making Your Skin Tone Even
  5. Skin Regeneration
  6. Boosting of Anti-Aging Benefits

So remember to exfoliate to get these benefits; just don’t exfoliate for too long. After exfoliating, remember to moisturize!