Should You Cleanse Or Exfoliate First?

Should you exfoliate or cleanse first? Let's get to the answer to this age old question!

do i exfoliate or cleanse first
We find out whether it is better to exfoliate or cleanse first.

So you are about to start your skin care routine, and then suddenly before you start your routine, a question strikes your mind. “Do I Exfoliate Or Cleanse First” might be this question and you might have searched on the internet for hours on end on whether one should cleanse or exfoliate first. Well here is the perfect post to help you figure out whether you should exfoliate or cleanse first.

Wait…What’s The Difference Between The Two?

cleanse or exfoliate first
Cleansing removes impurities from the top of the skin, whereas exfoliation removes the top layer of dead cells from the skin.

First of all, let us understand the difference between cleansing and exfoliation. Imagine the top layer of your skin, with all the pollution and debris. You want this top layer of dirt and bacteria off your skin. What would you do? You “cleanse” your skin. Cleansing basically involves removing bacteria and dirt buildup on the skin. Think of cleansing as the first essential building block to healthy skin.

Hence, cleansing has two major objectives –

  • Remove oil and dirt – Throughout the day, your skin collects all kind of clutter, like oil, sweat and dirt. This leaves pores of your skin clogged, which in turn makes the skin more prone to blemishes and all sorts of skin problems.
  • Reduce the amount of bacteria – Your skin has all kinds of bacteria on it. Some nasty bacteria make your skin more susceptible to acne and certain types of skin disorders. It is in our best interest to get rid of these bacteria on skin.

Generally speaking, cleansing removes makeup, oil, dirt and other impurities from the top of the skin. It forms the foundation of a good skin care regimen. If you do not have a good routine of cleansing, your skin care regimen won’t be as effective.

Whereas exfoliation involves the removal of the dead skin layer present on top of our skin. That means it breaks away the top layer of dead skin cells covering your skin.

Exfoliation reveals the fresh, new skin cells beneath the upper layer of dead skin cells. As a result, your skin is better able to absorb other products. Needless to say, exfoliating regularly forms the very core of a good skin care regimen.

Should I Cleanse Or Exfoliate First?

exfoliate or cleanse first
Dr. Harold Lancer says that exfoliating before cleansing can get you better results.

Now that you know the basic differences between cleansing and exfoliation, we will tackle the question of whether to cleanse or exfoliate first. And the answer to this question is –

You better exfoliate first!

Here’s why! Several skin care products suggest you to cleanse before exfoliating for better results. But celebrity dermatologist, Dr. Harold Lancer has something else to say! Dr. Harold says that exfoliating before cleansing might get you better results. Exfoliating first ensures more efficient delivery of active ingredients and more robust cell renewal.

Quoting Dr. Harold, “Say, for example, you wanted to replace a tile floor. If your epidermis is the floor, then exfoliation is the gentle lifting process that breaks up the old, worn out tiles. Next you have to scoop up and sweep away the debris, e.g. cleansing, and finally fresh tiles have to be laid, which represent the nourish step”.

The next step is to cleanse, which helps in getting rid of everything that you have loosened up by exfoliating.

Be mindful of the fact that it is not recommended to exfoliate daily. Cleansing morning and evening every day is always recommended, whereas exfoliation is recommended 2-4 times a week. So there will be days when you should ideally be only cleansing your skin, and not exfoliating.

A Few Tips For Effective Exfoliation

do you cleanse or exfoliate first
When exfoliating, avoid a scrub with jagged granules if you have sensitive skin.

Now that you know whether to cleanse or exfoliate first, here are a few tips that will make your exfoliating game strong-

Do’s –

  • Exfoliate once or twice in a week. The best time to exfoliate is early morning. Skin renewal happens overnight, so it is best to exfoliate early in the morning. Exfoliate properly in circles, and do make sure that you don’t exfoliate too hard.
  • Make sure you know your skin type properly. Figure out whether you have a oily skin or acne-prone skin or some other skin types, and according to that choose a scrub.

Dont’s –

  • Don’t pick exfoliators randomly. Select your exfoliator wisely. Some exfoliators are harsher on the skin than other exfoliators. You don’t want to be using a strong exfoliator if you have a sensitive skin, so do use a milder one if you have sensitive skin.
  • Don’t go for a scrub with jagged granules if you have sensitive skin. Jagged beads can cause cuts and damage to skin and may cause redness and irritation. Perfectly rounded beads are the perfect option for sensitive skin.

Summary

Contrary to the popular opinion, it is recommended that you exfoliate first, and then cleanse. Exfoliation removes the top layer of dead skin cells, leaving behind a fresh layer of underlying skin cells. This layer is better able to absorb other products, and thus results in more effective cleansing.

So there you have it! Hope you now know whether to cleanse or exfoliate first. Let us know about your opinions in the comments section below. And since you are here, you might also want to check out our post on whether to exfoliate before or after shaving.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I always wondered whether do I exfoliate or cleanse first, and most people told to cleanse first. This is the first resource I have come across that has told me to do the opposite (based on Dr. Harold’s words). The logic behind this is sound, and I will have a go at it.

  2. Exfoliating before cleansing – hmmm. Always wondered whether to exfoliate or cleanse face first. This is opposite to what I’ve always heard. Will try and report later.

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