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How Often Should I Exfoliate If I Have Oily Skin?

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How often to exfoliate oily skin is a question I wish I knew the answer to earlier. I often am ashamed of how rarely I used to exfoliate my oily skin. In the past, when I didn’t know much about skincare, exfoliating once every three weeks or so seemed enough. Say what?! Yes, not exfoliating is just one mistake that encouraged my pimples to appear over and over again. Oily skin actually needs more frequent exfoliation than other skin types. So my problem back then was that I didn’t know the answer to two simple, yet tricky, questions: how often to exfoliate oily skin, and what type of exfoliant should I use? But now I do, so stay tuned, you’re about to find out how often to exfoliate your skin and why.

Skin is ever-changing and renewing, and old cells are shed from the skin’s surface while new healthy cells take their place. But if you allow the buildup of the dead cells to stay on your skin, it leads to a dull look, clogged pores, and most likely breakouts.

Here is where exfoliation comes to help.


What exfoliation does

By exfoliating your skin, you help pores unclog and eliminate excess sebum, so fewer chances for pimples and blackheads to appear. Also, exfoliation increases products absorption for better effects, and in time, reduces dark spots and uneven skin tone.

Determining how often to exfoliate your oily skin is important, but you wouldn’t want to over-exfoliate. Overdoing it can lead to the opposite effect. This means that if you over-exfoliate your skin, it will dry out and the sebaceous glands will secrete even more oil in an attempt to replenish the moisture loss. That you don’t want.

Types of exfoliation

Before we go into how often you should exfoliate oily skin, I’ll take you through the types of exfoliation. This is important because while some exfoliating agents are gentle, others can be harsh, and the type of exfoliant you use also influences how often you should exfoliate your skin.


The old, traditional method of exfoliation, meaning small granules (or brushes) that you rub on the skin to slough off dead skin cells, is called physical exfoliation. Often used for the body, physical exfoliation may be too harsh for most people — unless you use a facial cleansing brush. If your skin is prone to acne, silicone brushes will do better, thanks to their hygienic properties. 

How often to physical exfoliate oily skin

You can use your facial cleansing brush two-three times a week. Physical exfoliation is more abrasive, so you wouldn’t want to do it more than 2-3 times per week.


Chemical exfoliators are acids that work to eliminate dead skin cells and are gentler than physical ones. You most likely heard about alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs). While AHAs are water-soluble and remove dead skin cells from the skin’s surface, BHAs are oil-soluble, so they penetrate the skin more in-depth, removing oil and dirt below the skin’s surface. The best are salicylicglycoliclactic, and azelaic acids to exfoliate oily skin, especially if it’s prone to acne. 


How often to chemical exfoliate oily skin

Even if chemical exfoliation is gentler than physical, for the best, start with once weekly and increase slowly up to maximum three to see how your skin reacts. This also depends on the product at hand and its concentration. For instance, you could use a salicylic acid toner every day, but you can’t use The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution daily. 


Enzymatic exfoliation most often uses fruit enzymes like papaya, pomegranate, and pineapple, and they also have calming effects on the skin. This type of exfoliation works on a much gentler level than a chemical one. So, if you want a safe cell turnover process, go for enzymatic exfoliation that works by breaking down the glue that holds dead cells together, revealing smoother skin. 

How often to exfoliate oily skin

How often should you exfoliate oily skin? It depends on the type of exfoliant you use, but the general belief is that people with oily skin should exfoliate 2 to 3 times a week. No answer fits all, you have to observe your skin and see how it reacts. Start with one exfoliation weekly, then two, and finally three a week. If your skin gets irritated reduce the frequency. Proper exfoliation and skincare routine for your oily skin are mandatory to control excess oil and breakouts. So make sure you’re doing everything right!

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