Exfoliate: It's the difference-maker in your skincare routine
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Exfoliate: It's the difference-maker in your skincare routine

If you're not already exfoliating, you should be. Exfoliating is the second of three key steps to healthy skin between cleansing and moisturizing. As a matter of fact, Clinique's simple 3-Step Skincare System was developed to work together, and daily exfoliation is considered the “difference maker."

As a Clinique Guiding Dermatologist wisely put it, "Daily skincare pays off. And over time, skin is going to look healthier." Why? Because exfoliating after cleansing removes dead skin cells and oils left behind by your cleanser, leaving your skin ready to accept moisture and clearing the way for your other products.

Ready to add exfoliating to your skincare routine? Our handy exfoliating guide will cover everything from how to exfoliate and when, to choosing our best exfoliator for your skin.

What is exfoliating?

So what exactly is exfoliating, anyway? Before answering that, here's a fun and important fact about skin: It continuously sheds dead surface skin cells which are replaced with new ones. Exfoliating is the process of removing dead skin cells from your skin's surface, which lets those new surface cells shine through and prepares your skin to better absorb moisture.

What does exfoliating do?

Exfoliating doesn't only remove dead skin cells; it also helps get rid of any oil, dirt, and other impurities that your cleanser may leave behind. This offers loads of perks for your skin's healthy appearance.

Here's a breakdown on why exfoliation is so important:

  • Removes oil, dirt, and dead skin cells. Your cleanser may do a great job, but exfoliating also helps get rid of oil, dirt, and dead skin cells deep in your pores that may be left behind — all of which can clog pores.
  • Brightens skin. When dead skin cells pile up, they can leave your skin looking dull and rough. Exfoliating helps the process along so that those new surface cells can shine through, giving your skin a healthy and radiant glow.
  • Smooths texture. If you've ever painted a room, you probably know that sanding first can smooth a rough surface. Exfoliating can do the same for skin by sloughing off dry, flaky, dead cells,
  • Helps absorption of your other skin products. Exfoliating away dead skin cells opens the way for your other skincare products to work their magic.
  • Preps for makeup application. Exfoliating can give you a smoother canvas to apply your makeup on because it gets rid of debris and dulling flakes.

Types of exfoliation

There are different types of exfoliation:

  • Chemical exfoliation: Chemical exfoliation uses the muscle power of ingredients like AHAs, BHAs, and others to help slough off dead skin cells.
  • Physical exfoliation: This type of exfoliation uses small particles to remove dead skin cells from the surface of your skin. This can involve using a wash cloth or brush, or a scrub that contains ingredients, such as silica or bamboo beads, to physically slough away dead skin cells.

Chemical vs. physical exfoliation: Which is better?

One isn't better than the other as both have benefits for skin. Both can remove a buildup of dead skin cells from the surface of your skin and oils from your pores. This leaves your skin ready to absorb your other skincare products and makeup, as well as make your skin feel softer and look brighter.

How to choose our best exfoliator for your skin type

Consider your skin type first when choosing an exfoliator. All of the products in Clinique's 3-step skincare routine are based on skin type, which makes choosing the right exfoliator for your skin quick and easy.

Clinique's Clarifying Lotions, which are our twice-daily chemical exfoliators, are designed to work with the other products in our 3-step routine. They're gentle and formulated to help with issues often associated with each skin type.

Skin types are categorized from 1 to 4, so you simply choose the products with the corresponding number:

  • Type 1 - Very Dry/Dry
  • Type 2 - Dry Combination
  • Type 3 - Combination Oily
  • Type 4 - Oily

Sometimes, choosing exfoliators and other skincare products can be tricky, but we've got you covered. Along with our daily Clarifying Lotions for all skin types, we also offer other chemical exfoliators and physical exfoliators to help you.

Our other chemical exfoliators include:

Some of our other physical exfoliators include:

How to exfoliate skin

Clinique's exfoliators include directions on how to exfoliate on the package and instructions can also be found on the product page on our website.

To get you started, here's a general overview of how to exfoliate your skin with the different types of exfoliators.

With our Clarifying Lotion:

1. Use in the morning and at night after cleansing.
2. Saturate a cotton ball or cotton pad with the exfoliator.
3. Gently sweep it over your face and neck, avoiding the eye area and lips.

With our Exfoliating Scrub:

1. Dampen your makeup-free skin with water.
2. Dispense a dime-size amount of scrub and massage onto your fingertips.
3. Massage gently onto your skin in a circular motion, avoiding your eye area and lips.
4. Rinse off with water.

With our All About Clean 2-in-1 Cleansing + Exfoliating Jelly:

1. Dispense a dime-size amount onto your hands.
2. Massage gently over your face and neck, avoiding the eyes.
3. Rinse off with water

When should you exfoliate?

The best time to exfoliate is in the middle of Clinique's 3-Step Skincare System, which should be used twice daily, usually morning and before bed. The products in Clinique's 3 Step Skincare System were designed to work together, with each helping the next step.

Here's a closer look at the steps to show you why exfoliating between cleansing and moisturizing is best:

1. Cleansing removes the dead skin cells, oil, and other impurities that have accumulated on the surface throughout the day and overnight.
2. Exfoliating sloughs away dead skin cells and helps remove excess oil, leaving skin ready to accept the next step—moisturizer.
3. Moisturizing helps hydrate your skin so it feels soft and refreshed.

Add a daily exfoliator to your routine and let us know how it changes your skincare game.

*Clinical testing on 52 women.

Shop the Story

Clarifying Lotion 1.0 Twice A Day Exfoliator, Dermatologist-developed exfoliating lotion for Dry, Sensitive Skin.
13.5 fl. oz./400 ml
6.7 fl. oz./200 ml
Acne Solutions™ Clarifying Lotion, Gentle, medicated liquid exfoliator reduces excess oil and shine, mattifies skin, and unclogs pores.
6.7 fl. oz./200 ml