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The NIVEA Guide On How To Exfoliate

All you need to know about exfoliation and how to exfoliate your face and body for smooth, radiant skin.

The NIVEA Guide On How To Exfoliate

Skin is our body’s largest organ, so knowing how to take care of it properly is hugely important. Most of us cleanse and moisturise regularly, but what about exfoliation? This is a key step in our skin care routine that can keep our skin smooth and soft, amongst many other benefits.
If you’re looking to exfoliate and are wondering what it does, you are in the right place. Keep reading to learn all you need to know about exfoliating, discover the right exfoliants for your skin type, find out how to exfoliate your face and skin safely.

What exactly is exfoliation?

Exfoliation derives from the Latin word exfoliare, meaning to strip off leaves. To exfoliate our bodies is basically to strip off skin. Around every 30 days we naturally shed dead skin cells to allow new skin cells to form on the top layer of our skin. 

Why should you exfoliate?

Sometimes if these dead cells don’t shed, we’re left with dull, dry, flaky patches and clogged pores. Exfoliating can help prevent this. Exfoliating simply speeds up the process by buffing away the dead skin cells from the surface of our skin. Plus, you’ll also sweep away dirt and bacteria at the same time. This keeps our skin smooth, soft and glowing with radiance. 

Exfoliating regularly brings many benefits:

  • Removes dead skin cells
  • Stimulates blood flow to flush out toxins 
  • Brightens and improves the appearance of skin
  • Encourages skin turnover, resulting in brighter skin
  • Improves the absorption of moisturisers and serums for hydrated skin
  • Helps prevent clogged pores which can cause blemishes and breakouts
  • Long-term exfoliation can increase collagen production to boost skin’s elasticity

Types of exfoliation

There are many different ways to exfoliate our skin. Popular ones to try at home include exfoliating scrubs, creams, masks and serums. Then there are exfoliation tools, such as a pumice stones, exfoliating gloves, shower puffs and electric cleansing/exfoliating brushes. 
Depending on your skincare needs there are professional exfoliation methods too, such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion and dermaplaning. For these treatments, speak to a dermatologist or medical professional who can help you consider the best options.
We can, and should, exfoliate all parts of our body, but delicate areas like the face need a different approach.
curly hair woman exfoliating her skin

How to exfoliate your face

It’s easy to start incorporating exfoliating into your facial skincare routine which can help achieve healthy, glowing skin. As the face is one of our most sensitive areas, it’s important to use really gentle exfoliating scrubs and see how your skin reacts. 
A good place to start is our NIVEA Gentle Cleansing Scrub, designed for all skin types to give a thorough cleanse. It exfoliates thoroughly and effectively to remove dead skin cells. It also refines and smooths the skin’s surface for an even complexion.


Plus, as it’s enriched with the anti-oxidant benefits of Vitamin E it can help strengthen your skin’s protective barrier and keep its natural moisture balance whenever you cleanse.

How to apply facial scrub

When applying facial scrubs remember to take care and be gentle on your skin. Here are some steps to follow as a guide:  
  1. Use your fingers to apply the facial scrub to your forehead, nose and chin. 
  2. Work your way from the centre of your forehead to your temples.
  3. Rub gently from the bridge of your nose towards the tip.
  4. Make more intensive circular movements in the area around the edges of your nose and very gentle movements on your cheeks.
  5. Work along your jawbone to your chin. 
  6. Finally, move down your neck from your chin. 
  7. Always make sure to avoid the eye and mouth areas.


For more advice on exfoliating delicate areas read our guide on How To Exfoliate Lips.

Exfoliating your face by skin type

Your skin type will determine how you exfoliate your face to suit your specific skin concerns.

Normal skin

If your skin is clear and not prone to acne, dryness, excess oil or irritation, chances are it’s normal. Most exfoliators and methods work well for this skin type. It might be a good idea to experiment with different ones to find the right one for you, but use one at a time to see how your skin reacts.

Dry skin

If you skin is dry, flaky or rough, you have dry skin, so it’s even more important that you buff away the old skin cells and let new skin cells emerge. Look for moisturising formulas that can break through the surface layer of your skin, which then allows your moisturiser to properly hydrate your new skin cells. 

Oily skin

If your skin appears shiny and feels greasy, you have oily skin. This means you can use slightly stronger exfoliating scrubs to help remove the excess layer of build up on the skin.  Exfoliator brushes can help with this.

Sensitive skin

If new products irritate your skin it can be sensitive, so tread carefully. Choose products suitable for sensitive skin and avoid scrubbing which can irritate the skin. Instead apply exfoliators carefully with a gentle face cloth.  

Sometimes, sensitive skin can be a symptom of an underlying condition, such as eczema and rosacea. Remember to talk to a medical professional or dermatologist before trying out any new products.

Combination skin

A mixture of oily and dry or dry and normal sections are usually characteristic of combination skin. You could try alternating between a scrub and a brush, concentrating the scrub on the drier areas, but don’t use both at the same time.
For a multi-tasking face scrub, try our NIVEA Pore Purifying 3-in-1 Wash Scrub Mask. As a wash, scrub and mask it unclogs pores, making it a good option for blemish-prone skin. If you have oily skin, it has anti-shine and sebum reducing qualities. If your skin is on the sensitive side, the mild anti-bacterial formula has natural Magnolia Extra and soothing Kaolin Clay which is gentle enough to be used daily to remove daily impurities and deeply cleanse the skin. 

To see more in our range, discover NIVEA Face Cleansers.

How to exfoliate your body

Exfoliation isn’t just for our face. We have dead skin cells all over our body which need to be buffed away. Exfoliating your body not only smooths our limbs but can also help alleviate other concerns, such as body acne and cellulite.
Here are some tips on how to exfoliate the different areas of your body.

1. Arms and legs

Using a brush, sponge or glove is the easiest way to slough off dead skin cells. Just make short, light strokes for about 30 seconds in the shower. This not only gets rid of dead skin cells but stimulates circulation too. You might want to also try dry brushing. Use a dry body brush and create circular motions around your arms and legs. As well as brushing off dead skin cells, it can help the appearance of cellulite and boost lymphatic drainage. 

2. Feet and hands

There are plenty of scrubs and peels specifically designed to get rid of the dead skin cells on our dry hands and feet. Pumice stones are natural exfoliators that are great for dry patches in thicker areas of skin on knees, elbows and feet. Soak your feet first in warm water to soften it and be sure to wet the pumice stone first. 
For more advice on achieving soft feet, read our guide on How To Get Rid Of Hard Skin On Feet.  

3. Pubic area

Before shaving or waxing your bikini line and pubic area, it’s a great idea to exfoliate. This step will soften the skin which can prevent any issues caused by hair removal, such as razor burn, in-growing hairs and itchy pubic hair. Use a really gentle scrub, loofah or body brush and have a warm shower to soften the skin first.

How often should I exfoliate?

The main thing is not to overdo it, especially if you’re new to exfoliating. Each time you exfoliate, a regeneration process is set in motion, and this can cause stress for the skin. Be gentle and learn what your skin needs and wants.
As a general rule, exfoliating your face twice a week as part of your weekly skincare routine  is enough to keep dry, dull skin at bay, without stripping away too many of your skin’s natural oils. Although oily skin often needs more regular exfoliation.


Exfoliating sensitive areas of the body too often, such as the face, can have the opposite effect and lead to dryness, redness and itchiness. 


Age is a factor too. It usually takes around 28 days in younger people for the complete cycle of cells to turnover. However, this process slows down as we age and takes longer, around 45 days to complete. So as we mature, even though we still need to exfoliate we might need to exfoliate less, maybe once a week instead of twice.

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What times should I exfoliate?

There are better times to exfoliate and times that are best to avoid it.

Night time

Each time we exfoliate we expose a fresh layer of skin, making our skin more sensitive and vulnerable. Exfoliating at night is safer as there’s less expose to sun damage and free radicals, and skin can heal as you sleep. After exfoliating skin will be more sensitive to the sun’s harmful UV rays than normal, so it’s especially important to apply SPF.  

Not after treatments

Leave about a week after any facial treatments before you exfoliate as this could have detrimental effects on your skin. Exfoliating is a good idea before waxing or shaving, but  after any hair removal treatment leave it a few days before exfoliating again. 

Some final Do’s & Dont's

Now you know that exfoliating, when done properly, can bring many benefits and help you achieve smooth, radiant skin. Removing dead skin cells, built-up oils, dirt and impurities can improve your skin’s appearance and help you feel refreshed. Here are some final do’s and don’ts before you dive in.
woman exfoliating
  • DO use the right exfoliant for your skin type
  • DO exfoliate at night 
  • DO wear sunscreen after exfoliating
  • DO apply a nourishing moisturiser after exfoliating 
  • DO exfoliate your body as well as your face

  • DON’T over-exfoliate
  • DON’T exfoliate after a facial treatment
  • DON’T exfoliate if it’s irritating
  • DON’T exfoliate if you have any cuts, open wounds or sunburn on your skin
  • DON’T be too rough