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Beauty Routine - Exfoliate!

Sarah W

Beauty Routine - Exfoliate! by watereverysunday on polyvore

Bye bye winter. Welcome spring! Gorgeous weathers. Now everyone is probably doing the spring cleaning, right? How about your skin? Have you done spring cleaning for you face yet?  Yes, we seriously need to exfoliate our dead flaky winter skins if you have not done so yet. This winter has been record cold. Our skins are super dry and cracked by both hot indoor heat and cold outdoor wind. However, exfoliation is not only a winter ritual. We need to exfoliate our skin all season long to keep our skin healthy and beautiful.

So why do we exfoliate? To answer that, same question comes to mind like why do we get haircuts and clip nails? We regularly trim and cut off in order to remove the dead and damaged ends and to promote healthy, new hair and nails. So as our skins. Our body cells regenerate constantly in cycles and shed dead skins. However, it does so in micro level thus it is not obviously visible like hair and nails but it does need physical trimming. Without this prefer skin layer trimming, the skin gets clogged and suffocated. Skin troubles ensue, chapped and even premature wrinkles appear. Also if you moisturize your skin without prefer exfoliation, you are basically moisturizing your dead skins while leaving your real skin underneath starving and thirsty. This also causes your face looking ashy and patchy.



With all said, skin exfoliation is pretty much the same thing as giving our skins haircut and trimming which also means it needs to be done routinely. Just like the hair and nails, you can visit beauty salons or spa, or dermatologist's office for professional service, or with some skills and knowledge, you can practically DIY at home and achieve some satisfying results. After all, exfoliating is a physical business and almost always requires time and some type of downtime before it gets better. But once you understand the cycle or find the best process for your needs, things get easier and you will be very happy with the results.

If you regularly visit dermatologist or professional's office, let them do their job but it is very important to know about the treatments that you are getting before you committing to the procedure because once it is done you have to live with the result whether it was successful or disastrous.

I didn't do well once with my first pricey chemical peel sessions which were intended for my under eye milia removal. It did nothing to the concerned spots but the treatment was too strong for my skin and damaged the concerned spots even further and left me with stained dark spots. Also it caused me other irritations, and took me many years to recover. I regretted it for years but as said, the damage was done and not reversible. The same area still remains vulnerable and sensitive especially to the sun exposure. So know what you are doing and if the treatment is right for the concerns. Ask plenty of questions then sign the paper. Exercise cautions, especially with the chemical procedures and strictly follow the aftercare instructions.

Before we begin, this blog post will only be discussing about facial exfoliation because body gets a little different treatment than face. We will discuss more on the home routine and practice that are commonly available and relatively safe.

First, everyone probably know this already but...

WHEN, WHERE, WHAT and HOW do we do home exfoliate/scrub?



  • Before Bed Morning/daytime exfoliation is fine but if you are going to go under the sun after, your newly revealed skin will be irritated and sensitive to UV exposure, even with SPF. Do not double stress your skin with exfoliation and sun. Let them be rested after the treatment. Let the skin work during the night sleep while undisturbed.
  • In the shower Do not scrub at the first washing step. Let your face be cleansed and soaked first. When plumped and soaked in steam and water, the skin glide better for smooth scrubbing motion. So when would be the better time to scrub than during the shower?
  • After workout After sweating, your skin pores are open. Wash out the sweat, dirts and pores first then scrub for deeper cleansing and better penetration.
  • Frequency - Once or twice a week, not everyday. Your skin needs recovery and rest time in between.


So what kinds of exfoliators are out there & how do we do it?



Facial scrubs are the most popular and easiest exfoliators. There are two kinds of scrubs. Wet and Dry Scrubs.



Wet scrub is the easiest method and what everyone is most familiar with. You wet your face and apply wet scrub paste that contains some type pf scrubbing particles like grains, powder and beads. By applying moving motion with these particles, these grains physically scrub the skin surface and topically remove the dead top layers. Depending on the coarseness of the particles, the level of exfoliations differ. For example, body needs stronger grating compared to face where skin requires more delicate and finer action. Your hands know your skin so apply and adjust as you feel it. Avoid line motions as these cause skin creases. Instead, use circular motion to encourage circulation along your skin's natural grains and apply pressure evenly. Hold your skin tout while scrubbing cheeks, jawline and eye area get in deeply avoiding motions that cause skin folds and creases. 

I actually wrote two blogs about homemade scrubs. Aspirin scrub, great for acne, wrinkles and more. Coffee scrub for cellulite issue and lifting. Click links to read.

The following are some popular known facial scrub products with proven performance that are worth trying. I found them to be quite interchangeable in the long run in my routine. Same as shampoo and other beauty products, rotate and switch around time to time. Products build up. So use other product to remove them. 

1. Dr Hauschka Cleansing Cream - This German holistic brand is known for organic ingredients grown in their own botanic garden. This rich wheat germ paste scrub is super gentle and comes with specific rolling instruction, never scrub. See Youtube video below. When you need most gentle exfoliation with some aromatherapy experience, use their lavender oil for facial rinse water. When I use this cream, I feel like I am doing a skin ritual. Skin feels very nourished after. This is great for sensitive skins.



2. Bobbi Brown Buffering Grains - This relatively novel product has the buffering grains in a bottle. It contains Japanese adzuki bean powder. It can be conveniently added to water or your cleanser. You can certainly mimic this at home by using rice power instead.


Bobbi Brown Buffering Grains for face $46 bobbibrowncosmetics.com


3. Aveda Tourmaline Charged Exfoliating Cleanser (currently replaced by Botanical Kinetics Radiant Skin Refiner) - I am pretty sad about Aveda discontinuing the Tourmaline line and trying to replace with more expensive Botanical Kinetic lines. Tourmaline line was affordable yet great products that really make your skin glow promoted by the heat and electric charge generated by tourmaline minerals. The effect is unexplainable in some sense but the skin gets that metallic shine glow and radiance while using it. I've been using this line for long years together with the hydrating cream which was also one of my favorites. The replacement of this cleanser is now botanical kinetic radiant skin refiner, sold at higher price for a less amount. People have been voicing up to bring back the tourmaline line and I also hope Aveda bring them back.  

Aveda Tourmaline Charged Exfoliating Cleanser 5oz $29, discontinued

Aveda Botanical Kinetics Radiant Skin Refiner 3.5oz $41, aveda.com

4. St Ives Apricot Facial Scrub - There is a reason this classic drug store scrub is still around. This is a scrub that we can always fall back to when all others fails or stop working. This scrub contains apricot extract (Carotenoids/Vintamin A), corn kernel meal and walnut shell powder to really scrub and reaveal the new skin. I always feel well scrubbed after using this scrub. Great for body as well.

St Ive's Apricot Facial Scrub $3.50 Drug Stores


5. Clean&Clear Morning Burst - I said do it at night but this newly best ranked facial exfoliator has caffeine, lemon and papaya, everything needed for a morning wake up plus wash away some night time residue to start fresh in the morning. It exfoliates with micro bursting beads while brighten face and dark spots with lemon, caffeine for dark circles and fruit acid exfoliation with papaya enzyme. The name says it all.


Clean&Clear Morning Burst Skin Brightening Facial Scrub $5.80, Drug Stores



Dry Scrub is another method, also known as Dry Brushing. Not many people are familiar with this but once you try, you might get addicted to it. What you do is you literally brush your face with a face brush while your face is still dry, distinguished from the facial brushes that we use in cleansing. The method is originally comes from Japan and you might be more familiar with Japanese body brushing for detoxing.

Please do this on clean and dry face after all makeup is removed and cleaned. Otherwise your brush and your face both will be contaminated while your face gets all the makeup and oil right back into your pores and you know the rest.


Belula Body and Face Dry Brush Set $19.95 amazon.com


The dry face brushing physically brushes off the dead skin cells like you brush off rust from metal surface in micro level. That's an extreme comparison but you get the idea. But of course, these face brushes are nowhere near the brushing that you are thinking of. The bristles are way softer and made specifically for face. This sounds quite damaging and rough but when done right, not only it exfoliates skin but also invigorates skin by increasing blood circulation, releases toxins and help lymphatic drainage such as dark circle, under eye puffiness or eye bags. However I do not recommend this if your face has breakouts and open wounds because the brush will further irritate the wounds and interfere the healing process. 

Always brush upwards and outwards from chin to cheek to hairlines and away from heart to encourage the circulation. Do this about 5-10 minutes. You will experience some heat building up, flushed face and skin glowing. Don't forget to do this for your neck and decolletage. When finished, go with your regular skin care routine. Such as facial toner to remove any released toxins and impurities from the brushing, and balance pH. Apply serum, moisturizer or facial oil or whichever your skin routine is. If you are applying night cream, skip oil.

Maintain the brush by cleaning once a week with mild cleanser like baby shampoo and air dry. Use only dry brush on your face. I personally own sublime beauty face brush with the pouch and the pouch is pretty handy and keeps the brush clean from the dust.

I do this to body as well before the shower sometimes with body brush. This is great for cellulite since it helps release toxins and lymphatic build ups in the body. Great step to do before spa massage session if they offer this service. Body brushing is way rougher than facial as the bristles are way coarser, so be careful because it might scratch the skin and leave marks.


Belula Face Brush (see above)

Sublime Beauty Face Brush $14.99 sublimebeautyshop.com


Aveda Tulasara Radiant Facial Dry Brush($44) & Oleation Oil($49) Kit $89, aveda.com

Aveda's new ayurvedic line called tulasa uses dry brushing and oleation technique by saturating the body lipid cells with oil then remove toxins to detox skins.



Tool based/Mechanical exfoliation can be done at beauty spa or dermatologist's office unless you are gadget experts or experienced with the techniques but after some visits to professionals and becoming familiar with the process and feel, you can certainly do some at home. 


Facial Brush

Facial Brushes are really popular and very easy to use. Electric or not, no professionals or no skills required. This basic and popular tool works just like the electric sonic toothbrush during your cleansing routine. Wet your face or the brush, add apply cleanser to your face or brush and turn on the brush or manually cleans your face by brushing around. People typically use it with foam cleansers and this brushing action also massages your face at the same time. However, do not use this without cleanser as this is designed to mainly deep clean the skin than exfoliate and bristles do cause friction without lubricant which is the cleanser. There are also regular brushes that you can use manually.

Clarisonic Mia 2 Cleansing System $169, sephora.com

This most popular facial sonic brush uses sonic oscillation technology to massage the skin surface and deep clean, its does not rotate as you might think. 

Foreo Luna Mini 2 $139, amazon.com

Another relatively new sonic facial brush with silicone bristles that has the hand mitten like grip. Soft nonabrasive silicone bristles are great for clearing oily skin. Also comes in various sizes resembling ipad series and also for men. The big pros over other facial brushes are the mini sizes and the portability. You can definitely find cheaper versions as there are many out there.

DHC Facial Exfoliating Cleansing Brush $17.59, dhccare.com

This long standing Japanese brand DHC is known for its original oil cleanser and great performing products at affordable prices. DHC has its own Japanese Facial Exfoliating brush.


Unfortunately, I personally do not own a facial brush except for dry brushing since my skin does not like foam cleansers as I am a bit of allergic to soap based cleansers and prefer oil/milk based cleansers. But if you are fan of foam cleansers this facial brush is for you.



I've done this at professional's office once a month for a year. It definitely removes the dead skin top layer using a physical motor head tipped with micro grating disks that are made of crystals and diamond, and this works on dry skin. These are practically micro sanding machines for your face. In spas or dermatologist's offices, they use the more coarse disks than home use but once you get used to it and know what's best for your skin, you can do this at home with disks for home use. PMD pro is the one I use and this does the job. Only thing I don't like about is, it is hard to keep the face completely dry. Your face is somewhat always moist and when your face is wet, the vacuum tip does not glide well and you won't see much dry dead skins collected as shown in their tutorial video. 

Sometimes I just use it without disk for facial massage since it has the vacuum suction tip for removing wet dirt while stimulating circulation. I use it for a facial massage and I found the method quite working for me. I apply facial massage lotion or the like and do some facial massage with my fingers. Take the lotion off with cotton swabs or hot wet towel. I go thru my face with PMD exfoliator without the disk and the vacuum tip sucks up oil based impurities that were dissolved by the lotion such as blackheads and from oily pores. 

Typically several abrasion disks come with these home kits. They recommend to use the finest to start and build up your skin tolerance first then move onto the next coarser disk. After the treatment, your skin will feel sensitive and red. Do not use hot towels or wash with hot water after microdermabrasion for about 12 hrs. Professionals recommend not to apply hot water to the face as it dries and irritates the freshly exfoliated skin. Instead use skin toners/cleansing water to wipe your face for a day. They recommend using cold water to wash face if you have to. Professionals also recommend stop using use retinol based products with microdermabrasion for several days prior and after.

PMD Pro Personal Microdermabrasion Kit $199, pmdbeauty.com

PMD uses aluminum oxide crystal disk for the microdermabrasion and vacuum suction tip collect the dead skins. 

Kelley West Personal Diamond Microdermabrasion Kit, $29.99 amazon.com

There is no need to go pricy on this mechanical tools as long as they have enough power to grate the dead skins. This budget friendly but diamond tip microdermabrasion kit is a great one for a starter. 


Kingdomcares Facial Skin Scrubber $47.99, amazon.com

Relatively new to the market, this so called ultra sonic facial spatula has stainless steel head. It basically is like micro shaver for your skin plus some ionic charge features for better product absorption and lifting benefits. It is known to scrub away black and whiteheads, also loosening old keratin stimulate the circulation and collagen production. 


Demaroller is also known as Microneedling. The principle of process is not necessarily fall under exfoliation but in the end, it resurfaces/renews skin by creating enough micro skin injuries and cheat skin cells to initiate its natural wound repair process. Tiny needles are rolled on the face creating micro punctures on the skin dermis and skin starts repairing and stimulating collagen production as part of the healing process. The dermarollers are very affordable as it is just a titanium metal cylinder filled with tiny needles. There are many products are out there to choose from. Get one with case for storage and to prevent from dust accumulation. 


Facial Microneedling Derma Roller 0.25mm $19.99, amazon.com

The sizes of the needle are the ones that deciding factor depending on your skin conditions and the skill levels. Professional grade used in in-office visits are larger and treat more serious skin conditions like scars. Typically 0.25mm-1.5mm are available for home use. I recommend 0.25mm to start, up to 0.5mm for general face lift, plumping and regenerating effect. Some uses for dark cirlcle, wrinkles and other concerns. I personally use 0.25mm but if you don't feel anything after using 0.25 you can move onto the next length on the next session. If you have concerns on acne scars, cellulite and other specific concerns use 1.0 or 1.5mm but please exercise extreme cautions with this lengths as they cause deeper injury to the skin. Since this uses your own skin's healing process, the downtime is quite predictable as we are all familiar with. The microneedling also help your beauty products absorbed better and it is also known to shrinks pores. Think about as the farmers tilling the soil in the spring. It agitates, upturn and loosens the soil to get the water and fertilizers to absorb better and evenly. There are some serums also out there that are to be used with dermaroller. 

Clean your face as usual, apply skin toner to prepare skin surface. Some recommend applying serum before dermaroller but I recommend doing the derma roller the first then apply serum so that it penetrates better thru the opened skins. Roll with equal pressure, go thru areas of face in symmetrical manner and swiping motion like side to side, up and down and diagonal starting from jawlines, cheeks, side of face and forehead. No circular motions in this process. Do not use roller on eyes or eyelids. Basically do not use inside of your eye socket bones. Do apply extreme care around eye area such the needle can puncture your eyes. There are tons of how to microneedle online so please read plenty before trying this. 

About 1-2 hrs, your face will be red and sensitive. You might even be scared if something was wrong. But it goes away. Pop a couple of ibuprofen or aspirin to reduce inflammation. Since you kind of injured your skin, these definitely helps and promotes healing. Go to sleep and you might see some serious skin plumping and glowing as early as the next morning. However most of the time, the best results are witnessed at about at a week point. Do this once a month since this really requires time for your skin to rest and repair after the treatment. After all, your skin is feeling injured and need to heal.

Maintain the dermaroller by rinse with hot water then rubbing alcohol and air dry after use and store in the case until next use. Rinse with alcohol to sanitize, air dry prior to use. 

Exfoliating Gauge Pads

This is a new product that I really liked and reviewed in my K-Beauty Favorites blog here. This hand mitten sized gauge pads from biopeel is ready to use stacked in a plastic jar, filled in facial serums.  This one I really love and it really works and how it is just ready to use in a jar. You immediately feel the exfoliated and raw skin right after using it. 


NEOGEN Gauze Peeling Wine (30pads) $27, neogenlab.us




Exfoliating solutions are the ones used for chemical peels at the professional's office. These solutions exfoliate skins chemically, rather than physically like dermamicrobrasion. Best known exfoliating chemicals are AHA(Alpha Hydroxy Acids) & BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acids).

Both acids are known to exfoliate skins. AHAs, many found in the fruit acids, these acids are stronger and water soluble therefore more effective in penetrating into skin dermis, repair photo damaged or wrinkled skin by increasing collagen production and skin thickness. BHAs are a bit gentler acid and oil soluble. These have antibacterial and antiinflammatory properties, therefore best work in acne treatments. Typically known BHA is Salicylic Acid which is main active ingredient in Aspirin.

Glycolic acid solution is the best known AHA exfoliating solution that is commonly used in professional's office visit, which service is called chemical peels. The professional grade is concentrated as high as 70% and typical medium peel levels are about 30-50% but the solution available for home use is at as high as about 20-30%. Depending on your need and level of skill, you can choose the concentration as low as 2-7% for milder and even daily use.   


The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution 240ml, 8 fl oz, $8.70 theordinary.com

There is nothing ordinary about this Glycolic Acid Solution but the solid performance and the shocking bargain price, not to mention the clean and instagram worth packaging. It has studied Tasmanian Pepperberry derivative to minimize the acid irritation and ginseng and aloe vera for skin glow and soothing effect.

The ordinary also has all other acid solutions in their direct acids product line

Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner 8oz, $18 mariobadescu.com


Mario Badescu has been around and always had single and simple active ingredient products that are developed in laboratory like setting and packaging. Their spa located in NYC uses their own products where I'd visited several times in the past. I had used their glycolic acid gel version but it was somewhat strong for me. This toner is great and mild enough to use everyday without any irritation.   

BHA - Salicylic Acid  This works best for acnes but also great for dark spots and wrinkles. My blog Aspirin scrub/mask also discusses this. Read here

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, Salicylic Acid 4oz $29, paulaschoice.com

Paulas Choice has some great performing products that I like and for their simply well pumping bottles. Like Retinol liquids. The products are thin and have serum like texture and are made for simple application and made to mix use with other products. I've also tried the Resist BHA 9 treatment but it has the package pumping issue so that the liquid pumps out more than needed or shoots to wrong direction! I pump on cotton swan to apply topically. Still, it is great for your time to time ace treatment. 

Vitamin C - Vitamin C, Citric Acid is one of AHAs and known to brighten skin and dark spots with exfoliating property such as grapefruit & lemon.


OZNatural Vitamine C Serum 1 oz, $17, amazon.com

I actually did not expect anything from this serum as I bought on the hype and good reviews on amazon. However I was surprised by how it improved my dark spots and plumping skin with Hyaluronic Acid. Only thing it has sticky texture and burn sugar smell but my skin instant better the next morning.

Garnier Clearly Brighter Overnight Leave-On Peel, $16.99 garnierusa.com or drug stores

This is one of the products I tried to lighten my dark spots I got from too much sun days. This product line also has other spot treater and lotions but nothing really worked but this one. It is called overnight peel but the wear is quite gentle with a clear thin gel mask feel. It has Vitamin C and fruit Acid AHA to work on exfoliation and brightening. 

Lactic AcidLactic Acid found in milk and yogurt is one of AHAs. There are some lactic acid lotion that are effective for bumpy skins, also called chicken or strawberry skins. 

Amlactin 12% Lactic Acid Daily Lotion 20 oz, $16-19, drug stores

This semi medical lotion treats and used to treat keratosis pilaris to open the clogged protein build up over skin follicles and exfoliate the bumpy surface using lactic acid. Not sure if I had this condition but I used to have bumpy skins on my thighs and this lotion really worked. Time to time I use this lotion on body for exfoliation then also on face and neck. It is bit strong and has strong vinegary scent so use this at night. 

Malic Acid - Fruit acid found in apples works for skin exfoliation. Apple cider vinegar is good one to use. It is known for many healthy benefit but I am not really fond of the smell of apple cider vinegar. You simply swab this on your face using cotton swabs, leave in for 10-20 min and wash off. The smell is awful (to me) but it goes away. 

Fruit Enzyme - Some fruit enzymes are well known for food digestion and this also means that they digest protein, dead skins and etc. Papaya and pineapples are popular enzyme exfoliators and there are many cleansers available with these ingredients. Or you can smash the actual fruits to make instant homemade fruit mask. 

Amorepacific Treatment Enzyme Peel, 2.5 oz $60 (0.7oz $22), nordstrom.com

 Another K-Beauty innovated product. This awesome powder product gets activated by water and foams creamy lather to peel off the dead top layer and gentle enough for daily use. Wake up skin with ginger while nourishing with camellia extracts.



Typical in-office skin exfoliation service consists of chemical peel and microdermabrasion for exfoliation service but since the treatments are intense, your downtime is also longer with the time ranged about 1-4 weeks. However, with a personally designed and routinely performed home procedure, you can see the glow almost immediately as soon as 1-2 days. I do not really recommend both chemical peel and microdermabrasion done at the same time unless you are quite skilled and your skin has built some tolerance to the treatments already. Or you are doing spot treatments. However, if you have been doing this as regular routine, you probably are just doing the maintenance so try the methods and build your routine according to your needs.

My routines are: scrub twice a week with a couple of different facial scrubs in combination in wet and dry scrubs. I kind of believe in a 2nd day practice fro example like shampooing frequency. Also give at least a month per new method/product to figure out if it works, or its working cycles. The skin renewing process is not a short remedy nor one time deal as they repair and regenerate in cycles like hair, eye lash and nails. Therefore, timely and routine practice are the keys to beautiful skins. You only have one face to live with after all. 

Once every 2 weeks with microdermabrasion. Once a month or two month with dermaroller. 

Depending on your concern, needs and skin tolerance, you can build/adjust your routine. Never build a routine that you can't commit or burden your skin. You are doing this to benefit your skin therefore should not overdo or incur any unnecessary damage to the skin. As said, once damage is done, it might require professional remedy, or become permanently irreversible. So exercise cautions. Better safe than sorry. 

Hope you enjoy this blog. This blog took me forever to finish as it kept growing longer and longer. Some are briefly covered since even though all topics are equally important it is hard to cover them all. Some procedures will be covered separately in the future such as dermaroller, microdermabrasion and other skin issues such eye puffiness or dark spot remover tool I recently found. So stay tuned. 

Also, you know exfoliation is only a step towards beautiful skins. After exfoliation? You need to... moisturize/nourish. So my next blog will be about moisturizing and some homemade facial serums and facial oils! 

For now, Happy Exfoliating! 

*We are not affiliated with any products/brands/sites featured in this blog post. 







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