Should You Exfoliate Your Skin In The Morning?

When it comes to keeping your skin clean, cleansing alone is not enough. Cleansing only washes away surface-level makeup, oil, and other pollutants. For a deeper and stronger burst of cleansing power that clears your pores of deep-seated gunk and dissolves the glue that holds dead skin cells together, you need exfoliation. Aside from preventing blockages and keeping acne-causing bacteria at bay, exfoliating your skin also makes the skin surface look more radiant and feel smoother, explains dermatologist Dr. Michelle Henry from Clinique Derm Pro. If you go without exfoliating your skin for long, blackheads, whiteheads, and more pronounced aging lines are the results.

However, it's one thing to exfoliate the skin because dermatologists say so, it's another thing to do it right and reap full benefits from it. One of the most polarizing issues concerning exfoliation is when is the best time to do it: a.m. or p.m.? When it comes to skincare, twice per day is the golden rule. If the evening is the time for repairing the daytime damage done to the skin, the morning is all about prepping the skin for the bombardment of pollutants and UV rays that lie ahead. So, is there any difference between exfoliating the skin in the morning and at night? And if there is, when is the better time to do it?

You should exfoliate your skin in the morning

According to dermatologist Dr. Harold Lancer, the best time to exfoliate the skin depends largely on a person's lifestyle habits. "If someone wears makeup on a daily basis, exfoliating at night would help to lift any remaining makeup particles from the skin and ensure that your products are penetrating properly," Dr. Lancer tells Refinery29. On the other hand, if you have oily skin or your face looks dull in the morning, exfoliating early in the day might be a good shout. Echoing the sentiment, dermatologist Dr. Karyn Grossman tells Refinery29 that daybreak is the best time for exfoliation. People usually apply products formulated with strong active ingredients to the skin before bedtime, and a harsh exfoliant can further overburden and irritate the skin.

The question of when to exfoliate also has to do with the type of exfoliants you use. Contrary to popular opinion that you should stick to either chemical exfoliation or physical exfoliation, you can actually incorporate both into your a.m and p.m skincare routine. If your skin usually feels softer and smoother after using a facial scrub formulated with finely ground grains, celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau recommends using physical exfoliation for your morning routine and sticking with chemical exfoliation for your night-time regimen (via Byrdie). Because chemical exfoliants, such as glycolic acid, polyhydroxy acid, or fruit enzymes, can loosen your dead skin cells, the morning is the ideal time to scrub them away with a physical exfoliator.

How often should you exfoliate your skin

When it comes to skincare, there's no step more misused than exfoliation. Under-exfoliating can predispose your skin to acne breakouts, but so does over-exfoliating. For those with dry skin, dermatologist Dr. Lian A. Mack and Dr. Neda Mehr recommend exfoliating the skin once or twice per week to avoid drying it (via Rose Inc). If your skin is receptive to the exfoliants, consider increasing the frequency of exfoliation to three times per week. For those with oily or less sensitive skin, you can exfoliate up to three times per week to reduce oil build-up. If you have acne-prone skin, Dr. Mehr suggests exfoliating as often as once to twice per day if your skin responds well to it.

However, be ready for some trial and error and stop immediately when you notice signs of skin irritation. If your skin swells, breaks out in pimples, or gets excessively dry following exfoliation, chances are you're either over-exfoliating or the exfoliator isn't right for you. For those with sensitive skin, dermatologist Patricia Farris suggests using exfoliators containing polyhydroxy acids and bionic acids, which are similar to AHAs but are less likely to cause irritation (via Everyday Health). Since BHAs are gentler than AHAs, they are also the preferred chemical exfoliant for those with inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and rosacea. Whether you use chemical or physical exfoliation, follow up with a moisturizer and a broad-spectrum sunscreen containing an SPF of 30 for adequate sun protection.