How to Exfoliate Your Legs — Plus, Our Favorite Body ExfoliatorsMay 18, 2023
If you want soft, smooth legs, you’ll want to incorporate exfoliation into your body-care routine. Exfoliation removes the topmost layer of dead skin cells, either mechanically (with exfoliating tools or scrubs) or chemically (with an exfoliating acid). The goal is to make your skin look and feel softer. Ahead, we’re sharing expert tips for how to exfoliate your legs for best results, plus some of our favorite products for exfoliating your legs.
What Is Exfoliation?
As mentioned, exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells from the outermost layer of skin. It only adds a few extra minutes to your skincare routine, and the results are immediate. If you’re new to exfoliating, you’ll be stunned by how smooth your skin feels afterwards.
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. A board-certified dermatologist can help you determine whether AHAs or BHAs are better suited for your skin.
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.
Why Should You Exfoliate Your Legs?
According to Elena Fisher, a licensed aesthetician at Mario Badescu Skin Care for over 40 years, “regular exfoliation helps to reveal a brighter, smoother canvas.” In addition to instantly brightening the skin on your legs, exfoliation helps your skincare products penetrate better, which can improve their effectiveness.
How Often Should You Exfoliate Your Legs?
The frequency with which you should exfoliate your legs depends on your particular skincare needs and the method of exfoliating you choose. However, generally speaking, Fisher advises using a physical scrub once a week. “Chemical exfoliants may be used every other week for healthy maintenance,” she says.
Fisher’s recommendations may not work for everyone, so you should always be sure to consult with a board-certified dermatologist to make sure that exfoliating (and which method) is right for your skin.
How to Exfoliate Your Legs
Step 1: Wash Your Legs
Before exfoliating, Fisher recommends showering and washing your legs with a body wash. “Then, you can use a gentle scrub, loofah or washcloth while in the shower.”
Step 2: Apply Your Scrub
Next, apply your scrub (or whatever type of exfoliant you choose) to your legs and “gently massage in circular motions to help remove dead skin,” says Fisher.
Step 3: Moisturize
Finally, once you’ve rinsed off, follow your shower by moisturizing your body with a cream or lotion for the softest, smoothest finish. That’s all there is to it!
Tips for Exfoliating Your Legs
Now that you know how to exfoliate your legs, keep reading for some tips and best practices to keep in mind.
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.
Ahead, find the best body exfoliants and moisturizers to give you soft, glowing skin.
The Best Exfoliators and Moisturizers for Legs
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.
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.
Give yourself a spa-worthy skincare experience with the Aēsop Redemption Scrub, a fine-grain gel fragranced with aromatic botanicals like sage leaf and pine needles. The finely-milled pumice grains are not too harsh, yet they effectively buff and polish the skin on your body. For the best results, apply it to wet skin, rinse thoroughly and follow it with a moisturizer.
Formulated with shea butter, glycerin and niacinamide, this indulgent body lotion is suitable for normal to dry skin and helps replenish the skin’s essential lipids. It’s also a great option for sensitive skin because it’s recommended by the National Eczema Association. Use it to give your skin a burst of hydration that will last all day.
Considering how rich and velvety the CeraVe Moisturizing Cream feels on your skin, you may be surprised to learn that it’s oil free and non-greasy. With hyaluronic acid and ceramides, this face and body moisturizer delivers major hydration at an affordable drugstore price. Like the Lipikar Body Lotion, it’s recommended by the National Eczema Association.
Cocoa butter, shea butter and squalane in the Kiehl’s Creme de Corps Body Lotion leave your skin feeling silky smooth and soft, making it the perfect post-exfoliating moisturizer. If you’re sensitive to heavy, greasy-feeling lotions, you’ll love this fast-absorbing option. Just be sure to give it a few minutes to soak into your skin before getting dressed.
Get nourished, hydrated, glowing skin in a pinch with the Carol’s Daughter Body Jelly All Natural Multi-Tasker. This product gets its name from its variety of different uses — it works as an all-over moisturizer, or as a balm for your elbows, heels or lips. You can even use it to remove your face makeup at the end of the day!
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.
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.
Want 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.
If you like citrus-scented skincare products, you’ll be obsessed with the Alo Yoga Renew and Glow Body Polish. Use this exfoliant to buff away rough, dry skin and even out skin tone and texture. Enriched with coconut, meadowfoam and sesame oils, as well as antioxidants, this body polish cleanses and moisturizes skin in addition to exfoliating.
Another chemical exfoliant option, the Mario Badescu A.H.A. Botanical Body Soap is a customer favorite, according to Fisher. Glycolic acid and enzymes in the formula clarify, revitalize and brighten the skin.
Dull skin? Check out the Versed Buff It Out AHA Exfoliating Body Scrub. A creamy chemical exfoliator, this scrub works to address such skincare concerns as hyperpigmentation, body breakouts and dry patches. It’s a great option for aging skin.