The Best Exfoliation Tips for Softer and Smoother Skin

August 22, 2022
Alanna Martine Kilkeary
By: Alanna Martine Kilkeary | by L'Oréal
person touching legs

If you want soft, smooth legs, shaving isn’t enough — you’ll also want to incorporate exfoliation into your hair-removal routine. Exfoliation removes the topmost layer of dead skin cells, either mechanically (with exfoliating tools or scrubs) or chemically (with an exfoliating acid), and results in skin that looks and feels softer. Ahead, we’re sharing expert tips for how to exfoliate your legs for best results.

Why Is Exfoliation Important?

As mentioned, exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells from the outermost layer of skin. It only takes a few moments to do and the results are immediate. In addition to instantly brightening skin, exfoliation helps your skincare products penetrate better, which can improve their effectiveness. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), if you keep up with a regular exfoliation routine, the long-term benefits include increased collagen production and younger-looking skin.

Chemical vs. Physical Exfoliation

There are two ways to exfoliate the skin: physically or chemically. Chemical exfoliation uses acids or enzymes to remove dead skin cells, while physical exfoliation uses a physical substance — like sugar, salt or walnut shell powder — to manually remove skin cells.

Chemical exfoliation can be milder because it doesn’t involve any scrubbing. If you have sensitive skin, a low percentage chemical exfoliator may be useful. However, if you have oily skin, you may be able to use a stronger chemical treatment or even a scrub with exfoliating particles (more on that later). Most chemical exfoliants include AHAs, BHAs or enzymes.

AHAs and BHAs

AHAs are derived from natural sources like fruit, sugar or milk. The most common AHAs are glycolic and lactic acids. BHAs, like salicylic acid, are an effective treatment for those with oily, acne-prone skin because they are oil-soluble. If you have sensitive skin, it’s recommended to look for enzyme-based exfoliants, which are derived from fruits like pineapple, as they work at a slower pace than the acids listed above.

Physical Exfoliators

Physical exfoliants feature particles that manually work to remove dead surface skin cells. These granules — commonly made of salt or sugar — can be large or small. Because there are a variety of types on the market, it is important to search for one that will work for you and your skin type.

Now that you know the difference between chemical and physical exfoliants, follow the tips below for the best way to exfoliate your legs.

Don’t Be Too Harsh

While the skin on your legs may be tougher than that on your face, being too rough can cause irritation and redness. The best method for exfoliation is buffing your product into damp skin in small, circular motions or using an exfoliating tool in short, light strokes. You should never exfoliate immediately after shaving, especially if you have an open cut or sunburn.

Pay Extra Attention to Certain Spots

Not everywhere on your body needs to be exfoliated to the same extent. Spots on your legs where skin is thicker — like your knees and ankles — should receive more attention.

Find the Right Frequency

A common question when it comes to exfoliating is how often you should do it. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The truth is, the frequency depends on a few factors: your skin type and exfoliation method. “How much is too much, is a very personal question,” says Dr. Dendy Engelman, a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist. “Some people can only handle exfoliating once a week, while others need to every day.”

Typically, the more aggressive the method you use is, the less often you’ll need to exfoliate. If you aren’t sure how much exfoliation your legs can handle, play it safe and start with only once a week. You can always build up to a higher frequency over time.

Follow With Moisturizer

After exfoliating, your body-care routine isn’t complete. Because exfoliating can be drying, you should always finish by applying a body lotion or cream. The best time to moisturize is immediately after exfoliating while your skin is still slightly damp from the shower.

Now that you know the basics, find the best body scrub recommendations to give you soft, glowing skin ahead.

Best Everyday Scrub

Kiehl’s Gently Exfoliating Body Scrub

This luxurious and rich body scrub gently exfoliates the skin without over-drying. It’s formulated with apricot seed and aloe vera to smooth the skin’s surface so it feels silky soft, baby smooth and prepped for the rest of your routine.

Best Energizing Scrub

L'Oréal Paris Resurface & Energize Kona Coffee Scrub

Instantly energize your skin with this coffee scrub with grounds sourced directly from Kona Coast, Hawaii. Although it’s suitable for your face, there’s no reason you can’t use it on your body as an exfoliating scrub. It buffs away dirt, oil and impurities to awaken and smooth the skin.

Best Smelling Scrub

Carol’s Daughter Monoi Body Polish

Moisturize as you exfoliate with this scrub formulated with ultra-nourishing monoi oil scrub. The polish is gentle enough to use from head to toe and smells like heavenly Tahitian flower fields.

Best Scrub for Rough Patches

Peach & Lily KP Bump Boss Microderm Body Scrub

Rough patches and skin bumps don’t stand a chance against the exfoliating power of this scrub that works as a chemical peel, microdermabrasion and physical exfoliator in one. AHAs, PHAs and micro-crystals smooth out bumps and unclog pores while calming ingredients like cucumber and tea extract aid in softening and soothing.

Best Scrub for Radiant Skin

Mario Badescu Coconut Body Scrub

Soft, smooth skin is just a scrub away with this sweet-smelling option from Mario Badescu. It gently polishes and buffs the skin to reveal a smoother, more radiant finish and is suitable for all skin types.

Best Non-Scrub Exfoliator 

Topicals Slather Exfoliating Body Serum with Retinol and AHA

Want to opt for an exfoliator that doesn’t have a scrub consistency? Try this retinol and AHA-infused lotion that helps reveal brighter, softer and more even skin. It’s perfect for exfoliating your legs post-shower.

Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn

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