When it comes to exfoliation, less is more, cautions Laura F. Sandoval, DO, a senior clinical research fellow in the department of dermatology at Wake Forest University. "We actually tell most patients not to exfoliate, because once people start, they can get very aggressive and it can really irritate their skin," she says. This is especially true of people with sensitive skin, or who are already on a medicine, like retinol, for acne or anti-aging benefits.
Avoid Irritating Exfoliants
Browse the skin-care aisle at your local pharmacy or search online for DIY skin-care "recipes" and you'll find facial scrubs containing everything from sugar and salt to ground-up rocks and seeds. But a wash with larger particles or sharp edges can result in more irritation than exfoliation, leaving your face with tiny scratches that make it more prone to breakouts and infection.
Try a Skin-Care Brush
If you're curious about trying a skin-care brush, choose one that's meant specifically for use on the face; because our skin is much more sensitive here, these brushes can't be as rough as what we'd use on the rest of our body. You can find both manual and electric brushes in a variety of shapes and textures, but the important thing to remember is to follow instructions and use them as directed.
Use a Toothbrush (On Your Lips!)
Even if your face isn't dry and flaky, chances are your lips get that way every once in a while – especially in the winter months when temperatures and humidity drop. When chapped lips strike, gently scrub away dead skin with a soft toothbrush.
Consider a Professional Treatment
If you're not satisfied with the results of your at-home exfoliation, consider talking to your dermatologist about microdermabrasion or chemical peels. These procedures are done at a doctor's office or medical spa, and they can quickly provide results for people suffering from acne, skin discoloration or wrinkles and other signs of aging.