Getting a professional facial can be transformative. Done properly, it’ll leave your skin glowy, radiant, smooth (basically, exactly how you want your skin to appear). While this is due in part to the products used during the facial, another reason your skin looks so great after a deep cleaning and exfoliation is that it’s no longer weighed down by dead skin. Having some dead skin is completely normal, but a buildup of dead cells can make your skin look dull, rough, or uneven. Of course, getting professional facials every day is not a reasonable solution to this problem. So the question becomes: How do you get rid of dead skin on your face safely—and effectively?
Here, we’ll answer just that. Ahead, you’ll learn a bit about what can cause a buildup of dead skin on your face and discover some of the visible skin concerns that dead skin can contribute to, like dullness and clogged pores. More importantly, we’ll clue you in on the best ways to remove dead skin immediately and over time. Get ready to glow and read on to learn how to get rid of dead skin.
What Can Cause a Buildup Of Dead Skin On The Face?
Skin isn’t one entity—it’s comprised of millions (maybe even billions) of individual cells called keratinocytes. The outermost layer of your skin is called the stratum corneum, and it consists of up to 30 layers of dead keratinocytes. Once these cells die, they slough off, making room for new skin cells to take their place. From start to finish, this process typically takes anywhere from 28 to 56 days (give or take).
However, some factors can slow this process down, making you more likely to develop an accumulation of dead skin cells. Age is the most common factor that can contribute to dead skin buildup, as your cellular turnover rate significantly slows as you get older. Other factors that may impact dead skin buildup include dryness and failing to exfoliate often enough.
What Happens When You Have Dead Skin On Your Face?
As we mentioned earlier, one of the most obvious concerns that an accumulation of dead skin cells can lead to is dullness, or a lack of radiance. Your skin may also take on a rough, patchy, or uneven appearance. And over time, if you’re not taking care to remove dead skin cells regularly, they can clog your pores, leading to blackheads, whiteheads, and other breakouts.
How To Get Rid Of Dead Skin On Your Face
While an accumulation of dead skin cells on your face can contribute to various skin concerns, there’s good news: It’s really quite simple to remove dead skin. All it takes is regular exfoliation. There are two main types of exfoliation, physical and chemical.
Clearly Corrective Brightening & Exfoliating Daily Cleanser
Physical exfoliation involves using an abrasive product to manually slough away dead cells. You can do this with a tool (like a facial brush), or with an exfoliating cleanser, like Clearly Corrective Brightening & Exfoliating Daily Cleanser. The mild cleanser gently exfoliates, removing dead skin, debris, and environmental pollutants without disrupting the skin’s natural moisture barrier. It’s suitable for all skin types and can be used morning and night to help reveal a clearer, more radiant appearance with regular use.
Milk-Peel Gentle Exfoliating Toner
The alternative to physical exfoliation is chemical exfoliation. This method involves using enzymes or acids (such as alpha-hydroxy acids) to help loosen the bonds between dead skin cells, which allows them to fall away naturally. If you’re new to chemical exfoliation, an acid toner like Milk-Peel Gentle Exfoliating Toner is a great place to start. The dual-phase formula with lipo-hydroxy acid and 23% emollients gently exfoliates and dissolves impurities while helping to replenish the skin’s moisture levels. The unique toner is clinically-demonstrated to visibly smooth and brighten the skin within just one week, and it’s suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin.*
*Results based on expert grading in a clinical study of 44 panelists, age 30-50, after 4 weeks of use.
How To Get The Most Out Of Your Exfoliating Routine
Now that we’ve covered the basics, find our top tips for exfoliating dead skin and getting rid of dead skin on your face, below.
Choose The Right Method Of Exfoliation For You
Both physical and chemical exfoliation will remove dead skin, but each method has different benefits. Physical exfoliation is great for those looking for immediate results and tends to be best suited for normal and oilier skin types.
If you have drier or sensitive skin, try chemical exfoliation—it tends to be gentler than physical exfoliation. You can use our aforementioned Milk-Peel Toner, or add Ferulic Brew Antioxidant Facial Treatment With Lactic Acid to your existing skincare routine. This antioxidant-packed facial essence with lactic acid and ferulic acid gently removes dull, dead surface skin for a visibly smoother, more even appearance. The unique treatment also helps support your skin’s natural recovery processes and primes your skin for the rest of your routine. Unlike toner, you don’t need to apply this essence with a cotton pad: Simply pour a bit of it into your hands and pat it onto your face before applying your serum, moisturizer, and sunscreen.
Don’t Overdo It
When choosing an exfoliant, it’s crucial to read the instructions on the product. Some are gentle enough for daily use, while others, such as our Epidermal Re-Texturizing Micro-Dermabrasion, are best when used only a few times per week. Formulated with shea butter and diatomaceous earth, this efficient face scrub (a physical exfoliant) helps refine the skin, leaving it instantly smoother and softer. With consistent use over time, it also helps minimize the appearance of enlarged pores and fine lines.
If you do want to exfoliate daily, look for something designed explicitly for that purpose. One option we love is Nightly Refining Micro-Peel Concentrate. The concentrated formula with phytic acid exfoliates your skin while you sleep, leaving it fresher and more radiant looking by morning. It’s also clinically-demonstrated to help accelerate skin cell turnover for smoother, more refined skin over time.* While it’s suitable for nightly use, you may want to start slowly—a few times per week or so—and build up to a more frequent schedule over time.
*Based on instrumental test within skin surface layers.
Finally, note that not overdoing it refers not just to frequency but also to not combining too many exfoliation methods within the same routine. Doing so can strip your skin and leave it feeling irritated.
Keep Your Skin Well-Hydrated
Moisturizing alone won’t get rid of dead skin completely—but it can help ensure that your skin stays looking smooth and flake-free. Plus, exfoliating can dry your skin out if done improperly, so it’s important to ensure you’re hydrating your skin if exfoliation is a part of your regular skincare routine.
We recommend taking a two-pronged approach to moisturizing, first plumping your skin with Hydro-Plumping Hydrating Serum, which helps improve the appearance of dehydrated skin, and then locking in moisture with Ultra Facial Cream with Squalane. This classic Kiehl’s moisturizer delivers up to 24-hour hydration and helps strengthen your skin’s natural moisture barrier. It’s suitable for all skin types, absorbs quickly, and can be used morning and night for soft, healthy-looking skin.
Use a Kiehl’s Overnight Mask
If you’re dealing with dead skin on your nose, flakes on your cheeks, or a general dull appearance due to dry, dead skin, try adding an overnight mask to your nighttime skincare routine. We love Ultra Facial Overnight Hydrating Mask with 10.5% Squalane. The intensely hydrating balm-to-oil formula helps prevent overnight moisture loss, leaving your skin visibly more hydrated by morning. With continued use, it also helps strengthen your skin’s natural moisture barrier and boosts its resilience against potentially harmful environmental aggressors. It’s non-comedogenic and suitable for all skin types and can be used nightly or as needed to help address visible dryness and flakiness.
How To Remove Dead Skin On Your Body
Dead skin can occur anywhere, not just on your face. Thankfully, managing dead skin on your body isn’t much different from addressing dead skin on your face. Specifically, it requires two steps: exfoliating and moisturizing. For the former, we recommend adding Gently Exfoliating Body Scrub to your shower routine. It’s a creamy body scrub with crushed apricot kernels that helps slough away dead skin without over-drying your skin. Use it daily or as needed to help keep your skin soft and smooth.
Finally, after bathing or showering, remember to moisturize your skin (even if it doesn’t feel dry). A lightweight body lotion, like Creme de Corps Body Lotion with Cocoa Butter, is a great option for everyone. This classic Kiehl’s formula with squalane and cocoa butter provides fast-absorbing, non-greasy moisture for skin that feels elegantly soft and beautifully moisturized.