The Skin Doctor Is In: How to Exfoliate Your Skin the Right Way

The Skin Doctor Is In: How to Exfoliate Your Skin the Right Way

Credo’s favorite dermatologist and member of our Clean Beauty Council, Dr. Whitney Bowe, weighs in on everything exfoliation.

How exfoliating helps our skin:
When we exfoliate our skin to optimize its smooth surface, light is able to reflect off of that surface evenly and we achieve that “lit from within” healthy glow. In contrast, if we have a rough surface of dead skin cells, this will scatter the light and leave our skin looking dull and patchy. 

So, I always recommend exfoliation to refresh and renew your skin’s healthy surface – with a few key caveats that just might surprise you!

The best way to exfoliate for healthy skin:
My pick: Chemical Exfoliants

I use a chemical exfoliant several times a week. Even water is a chemical, so don’t be afraid of that word in this context! A chemical exfoliant is a product that contains glycolic acid, or lactic acid rather than relying on particles to scrub away dead skin.

Harsh manual scrubs are NOT my pick for a healthy skin barrier. In fact, scrubbing your skin too much or too hard with a spin brush, or even a washcloth, can damage your delicate skin barrier and your acid mantle, the protective film of natural oils, amino acids and sweat that covers and shields your skin. When our skin barrier is not intact, it is no longer preventing allergens and irritants from entering the skin and it is unable to adequately trap moisture in the skin to keep our skin healthy and hydrated.  In other words, when you damage your skin barrier by exfoliating the wrong way, you create what I call “leaky skin.”

I was so honored to be featured in the New York Times in connection with this important discussion.


Dr. Bowe’s 5 Pro Tips for Exfoliating your Face:

  1. No harsh physical scrubs
  2. No manual tools like spin brushes
  3. Chemical exfoliants are my preferred pick (think AHAs like glycolic acid)
  4. Two-times per week is ideal
  5. If you want to elevate your exfoliating, see a dermatologist for an in office chemical peel or a Fraxel laser


How is exfoliating your elbows, knees, and feet different?
The skin on our elbows, knees, and feet is much less delicate and much less sensitive than the skin on our faces. So, I do not have the same concerns when it comes to using gentle sugar or salt scrubs on those areas to reveal softer skin.

My Product Picks to Exfoliate your Face:

Prism 20% AHA + 5% BHA Exfoliating Glow Facial
Herbivore Prism 20 % AHA + 5 % BHA Exfoliating Glow Facial

Why I love it:
Herbivore Botanicals Prism 20% AHA + 5% BHA Exfoliating Glow Facial is an at-home weekly facial treatment that exfoliates, softens, and helps to brighten skin. It really helps to reduce the appearance of pores, while rosewater and aloe vera provide hydration and restore moisture. Perfect balance!

Key Ingredients:

Acid blend:  20% concentrate of fruit-based glycolic, lactic, tartaric and malic AHAs  + 5% clarifying willow bark extract BHA. These chemical exfoliants gently dissolve the intercellular glue that holds dead, sticky cells to the surface.
Reishi: an adaptogen that helps restore skin’s barrier function.

Acid Potion Resurfacing Exfoliator
Moon Juice Acid Potion Resurfacing Exfoliator

Why I love it:
25% AHA+BHA acid complex

Key Ingredients:
Acid blend: chemical exfoliants that gently dissolve the intercellular glue that holds dead, sticky cells to the surface
Reishi: an adaptogen that helps restore skin’s barrier function

I hope you enjoyed this discussion on exfoliating your skin to achieve that radiant, lit from within glow!

Dr. Whitney Bowe

Dr. Bowe is a world renowned, New York based Dermatologist who views the skin as a window into our overall health. Dr. Bowe's holistic, 360-degree approach to skin health includes her passion for the safety of the ingredients we place on our skin. She has been a trailblazer and thought leader in the area of nutrition and the skin and is now at the heart of what she’s calling the “clean clinical” movement: clinical strength products using clean ingredients. Dr. Bowe is regularly asked to lend her expertise on national platforms including Good Morning America, The Rachael Ray Show, and Dr. Oz, as well as in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Allure, and InStyle. She is the author of the best-selling book Dirty Looks as well as over 50 scientific articles and book chapters.

Follow Dr. Bowe on Instagram and Youtube
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