Exfoliation is one of the most controversial steps in skincare. And it’s probably the one that’s responsible for the most mishaps. Largely down to human error.

There’s so much sharing of skincare routines nowadays, that exfoliation, in particular, has become something of a competitive sport.

So what IS exfoliation?

It’s very simple. Our skin’s outer layer, the epidermis is lined by a highly specialised structure called the stratum corneum. This turns over and gets replaced all the time. But as we age this natural exfoliation, where the skin cells are lost, slows down, meaning the top layer get a bit worn out, leading to a dull appearance and rough texture.

So when we exfoliate with our skincare, we help remove those older cells, to reveal perkier younger cells that are fresher, smoother and reflect the light better.

Exfoliation can be physical. Or it can be chemical, where specific ingredients dissolve the bridges between skin cells to get rid of the outermost layers, often assisted by the product’s pH, as an acid environment also triggers exfoliation.

So Where Are We Going Wrong With Exfoliation?


Overdoing physical exfoliation.

Especially if you have…...pretty much any skin condition. Like acne. Like melasma. Like rosacea. Like sensitivity.

Combining physical + chemical exfoliation.

Much increased risk of irritation versus benefit. So much better results with a leave-on product and much less risk of irritation as can be titrated slowly.

Physical on physical

I think that many people don’t appreciate that flannels and cleansing brushes count as physical exfoliation - and then wonder why their scrub + usual cleansing aid gives them a red face.

Using acids on top of retinol

High risk behaviour. If you feel the need to do both separate them out.

Using a daily physical exfoliator

I honestly don’t believe that there's anyone who should approach their skincare this way. Not with so many other good ingredients out there to explore, with the potential for much greater yield and far less risk.


I’m really excited to explore this topic further with you so look forward to your comments and I’ll see you again next week for part 2!