A Guy’s Guide to Exfoliating

We’ll skip the part where we compare your skin to snake scales and cut to the chase: Exfoliation is the process of taking off dead skin cells. Do it, and your skin will generally look and feel cleaner, fresher, and smoother. It’s that simple, but also a bit more complicated.

The first complication is this oft-repeated, rarely heard-aloud exfoliation term: to “slough.” This word rhymes with “tough” and just means to shed or dispose of something. (Acing the SAT: one of many side benefits of upping your grooming game.) Now, onward to the actual sloughing.

Why you should do it

Scrubbing away dead skin cells unclogs pores and keeps your skin clean. It also helps expose your beard hair follicles. This reduces ingrown hairs and, as you might imagine, makes for the perfect pre-shave treatment.

What you need

A facial scrub soap with some grit to it. You’ve probably encountered a cleanser at some point that felt like one of its primary ingredients was sand. That’s what you need. That grittiness is typically some combination of granulated pumice, sea salts, or fruit seeds. Many products also use salicylic acid, alpha-hydroxy acid, and beta hydroxy acid, which help break down the bonds between dead cells and your face. (Again, see how much smarter you’re getting?) While the level of grittiness is a matter of personal preference, remember that your aim is to get smooth—not ragged—skin. Billy Jealousy LiquidSand and Adrenaline Junkie are both pretty gentle exfoliators. EvolutionMan’s Wash and Buff is a bit tougher.

How to exfoliate

After getting your face wet in the shower, rub a small amount of the exfoliator into your hands. Then massage your face using circular motions. No need to scrub too hard—the coarseness of the product will do the work. And you’ll feel it working. After massaging for about 30 seconds to a minute, rinse clean. Afterward, apply a moisturizer since exfoliating can leave your skin drier than normal.

When to do it

Every other day. If you exfoliate every day you run the risk of pissing off your skin and triggering redness and breakouts. Use your best judgment and on your off days, opt for a regular gentle face cleanser.

Note: Exfoliating isn’t just for your face. You can use a variety of tools to scrub away dead skin on the rest of your body. A pumice stone (a small piece of volcanic rock), loofah sponge, or gritty bar soap can do the trick for rough patches on your body (we’re partial to this oatmeal- and pumice-packed soap bar from Kiehl’s). They’ll also give you that invigorating, impossible itch type satisfaction you get from having your back scratched.

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