How to Exfoliate Sensitive Skin Safely

Sensitive skin can be very frustrating to deal with. When you don’t know how your skin will react to a product, it is difficult to give it the treatment it deserves.

Exfoliation, in particular, is a delicate topic since it consists of stripping out the outer layer of the skin. This can easily lead to inflammation and irritation in sensitive skin, and you will likely be put off from ever doing it again.

Removing dead skin cells is a crucial skincare step, however, and we don’t want you to miss out! If you follow simple guidelines, you can profit from benefits such as:

  • Unclogged pores.
  • Acne prevention.
  • Circulation boost, leading to healthy and glowy skin.
  • An even skin tone.
  • Skin preparation for other products.

So, how do you get rid of dead skin on sensitive skin?

First of all, we need to take a look at some signs that you have sensitive skin.

If you have red blotches around your face more often than not, have rashes you don’t know the origin, feel dry or flaky patches in some areas or have itches, swelling, or tenderness after using new products, chances are your skin is quite sensitive. That means you should avoid products with alcohol, fragrances, and harsh soap in their composition.

To understand what to do instead, let’s see the different types of exfoliation we can do and what is the best one for sensitive skin.

Physical exfoliation

Physical exfoliation is the kind that depends more on motions and the physical act of scrubbing your face to get rid of dead cells. This is actually the most dangerous kind for tender skin since it consists of rubbing and scratching your face – sometimes quite harshly.

Can I use a scrub on sensitive skin?

The most precious piece of advice we can give you is to listen to your body. That involves observing skin reactions and taking note of everything you do until you find the perfect routine. That includes not only the products you use but also for how long you scrub, the motions you used, and the force applied. By analyzing your face for redness and irritation, you’ll soon notice what works and what doesn’t.

If you want to use a skin scrub, go for natural products and especially ones without artificial fragrances. Even better, make your own natural scrub with gentle components, like oats.

Chemical exfoliation

Chemical exfoliators use acids or enzymes to disintegrate dead skin cells – usually glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, or fruit enzymes. Your skin type will determine the product to use, and there are plenty of good ones in the market. Read the labels carefully and make sure it says the scrub is suited for sensitive skin. Check our label tips for more information! 

Oil exfoliation

Yes, you read it right! One other option that many people don’t know about is to exfoliate with oil. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to use abrasive methods that hurt you to really feel that the scrub is working. The oil method is gentle, effective, and economical.

Firstly, choose the oil that will be used. A few options that we recommend are Jojoba, argan, sweet almond, and grapeseed oil. As with everything else, try it first on a small part of your skin to see how it reacts to it. Avoid heavier oils such as coconut oil as they can clog the pores and cause acne. Also, never use mineral oil, which is derived from petroleum and not really good for any skin type!

The process is simple. Apply the oil on your skin and leave it for at least one hour. After that, use a very soft face cloth with warm water and remove the oil from your face, rinsing it as many times as necessary. Do not scrub or exfoliate!

What the oil does is simple – it slowly penetrates the skin and melts and loosen up the hard sebum. It will also remove dead cells, and all that gets cleaned away by the soft cloth. As a bonus, it will also deeply moisturize your face leaving it soft and healthy! Start by doing it one or two times a week, and see how your skin reacts to it.

Label secrets to watch out for

Have you ever read a label and was left with more questions than answers? We too! All the names and chemicals can be very alien, and some may even be harmful. Sensitive skin may react differently than oily or dry skin, so it is even more important to be label literate. We have a few tips to get started:

  • Ingredients are always listed from the one with higher concentration to the one with the lowest.
  • A product can be labeled as “natural,” even if not all the components are natural, but only some.
  • Cruelty-free products that don’t test on animals have a bunny on the label.


  • Parabens – a cancerous product used as a preservative.
  • Artificial fragrances – not good for sensitive skin.
  • Sulfates – harsh detergents.
  • Hydroquinone – a chemical that essentially bleaches the skin.

What is a good exfoliator for sensitive skin?

With the guidelines provided, we are sure you can find the best way to exfoliate your skin. For a more natural approach, you can also make your own scrub! That way, you’ll know exactly what is going onto your skin. Choose one item from each of these categories and explore your own blends:

  • The exfoliant factor: oats, ground almond, baking soda, or ground rice.
  • The liquid factor: aloe vera, yogurt, or egg whites.
  • An extra touch for nourishing: avocado, honey, or turmeric.

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