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Expert Advice

Skincare 101: The Guy’s Guide To Exfoliating

No matter your gender or skin type, exfoliating is vital for healthy-looking skin. Here, discover our 6 best face exfoliators for men and learn how to use them.

No matter your age, skin type, or gender, every skincare routine should have a few key elements: a cleanser, a serum, a moisturizer, and sunscreen. And for smooth, healthy-looking skin, at least one of those should double as an exfoliant. Incorporating an exfoliator into your skincare routine can help address a slew of skin concerns, from dullness to acne (and even some signs of aging). Men, who tend to have thicker, coarser skin, benefit doubly from the regular use of one. But as everyone’s skin is unique, it’s critical to choose a formula that suits your skin type and concerns.

Ahead, we’ve put together a guy’s guide to exfoliating. You’ll learn what, exactly, it means to exfoliate and why regular exfoliation is a critical step in an effective men’s skincare routine. We’ll also review the difference between chemical and physical exfoliants and offer advice on which method you should incorporate into your daily grooming routine. Keep reading for your crash course on exfoliating for men.

What Are Exfoliators?

An exfoliant is a product or ingredient that helps remove dead skin cells from the skin’s surface. There are two primary methods of exfoliation: Physical exfoliation, in which dead skin is removed with the help of an abrasive, and chemical exfoliation, in which dead cells are sloughed off with chemicals, typically mild acids. When done correctly, exfoliating can help smooth the skin and improve the appearance of some skin concerns, such as dullness and clogged pores. When choosing an exfoliant, it’s essential to take your skin type into consideration, as some types handle exfoliation better than others.

Why Do Men Need To Exfoliate?

Though exfoliating is important for nearly everyone, it’s especially crucial for men, who tend to have thicker skin, larger pores, and a higher sebum production than their female counterparts. These unique characteristics make men more prone to a handful of specific skin concerns, such as dullness and roughness, that can be improved through regular exfoliation.

Another factor to consider is facial hair. Though all humans have some hair on their face, men grow thicker, coarser, and darker facial hair than women. Men may also shave their facial hair, and as is often the case with coarser hair, frequent hair removal can result in irritation and razor bumps. While exfoliating won’t help eliminate razor burn, it can help reduce the frequency and severity of ingrown hairs. It may also help you get a closer shave by decreasing the amount of pressure you need to place on the razor, which can, in turn, help prevent razor burn.

Kiehl’s Best Face Exfoliators For Men’s Skin

Now that you know why exfoliation is critical, you can start determining how to exfoliate—specifically, which type of exfoliant you should use. To help, we’ve compiled a list of Kiehl’s best men’s face scrubs and chemical face exfoliators. Find out which of our exfoliating formulas is best for your skin type and unique needs below.

For Men With Normal And Combination Skin:

Rare Earth Deep Pore Daily Cleanser

If you have normal or combination skin, try exfoliating with Rare Earth Deep Pore Daily Cleanser. This gentle face scrub, formulated with Amazonian white clay and diatomaceous earth, cleans skin to remove dirt, oil, and other pore-clogging impurities. It also helps visibly reduce the appearance of enlarged pores for soft, healthy-looking skin.

To use this exfoliating cleanser, apply a generous amount of the scrub to damp skin. Using clean fingertips, massage the formula over your face in circular motions, taking care to avoid the delicate eye area. Rinse thoroughly with warm (not hot) water and pat your skin dry.

For Men With Oily Skin:

Oil Eliminator Deep Cleansing Exfoliating Face Wash

As we mentioned earlier, men’s skin tends to be oilier than women’s skin, which can give it a shiny or greasy appearance. Excess oil production can also lead to clogged pores and breakouts, such as blackheads and pimples. Using a mattifying cleanser, such as Oil Eliminator Deep Cleansing Exfoliating Face Wash, can help keep oil production under control. This men’s cleanser with crushed apricot seeds helps remove dirt, sweat, and excess oil to deep clean skin without over-drying. It gently exfoliates the skin and visibly diminishes the appearance of enlarged pores, leaving skin smooth and shine-free.

Kiehl’s Expert Tip: Discover more oily skin tips in our article Your Ultimate Skincare Routine For Oily Skin.

For Men With Dull Skin:

Facial Fuel Energizing Scrub

Manage dull, lackluster-looking skin with an energizing facial exfoliator, such as Facial Fuel Energizing Scrub. Our men’s skincare staple is formulated with caffeine and menthol and helps slough away dead skin, excess oil, and other skin-sabotaging impurities. When used before shaving, this effective formula also helps soften tough facial hair to enable a closer, more comfortable shave.

Whereas exfoliating cleansers are typically suited for daily use, this scrub is a bit more abrasive, and therefore recommended for use two to three times per week. Apply a dime-sized amount of the scrub to damp skin and massage in an upward motion, taking care not to apply too much pressure while scrubbing your skin. Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water and pat your skin dry with a clean towel before moving on to the rest of your skincare routine.

Kiehl’s Expert Tip: To avoid over-exfoliating, reach for a gentle foaming cleanser on days when you don’t plan to exfoliate. See some of our top facial cleansers for men here.

For Men With Sensitive Skin:

Nightly Refining Micro-Peel Concentrate

Despite having thicker skin, studies show that many men also experience some degree of skin sensitivity. Unfortunately, this can make exfoliation a bit challenging since those with sensitive skin are often more likely to find manual exfoliation irritating.

Instead of using a scrub, we recommend reaching for an ultra-mild chemical exfoliator, such as the best-selling Nightly Refining Micro-Peel Concentrate. This gentle nighttime peel with phytic acid and quinoa husk extract exfoliates skin overnight for smoother, more even-looking skin by morning. It’s clinically-demonstrated to help accelerate skin turnover with continued use, and it’s suitable for all skin types, even sensitive skin.*

To use it, first wash your skin with a gentle, non-irritating facial cleanser and swipe on a hydrating toner. Then, dispense several drops of this liquid formula into clean palms and press lightly onto your skin. Allow the concentrate to absorb fully, then apply your serum and nighttime moisturizer as usual for smooth, refreshed skin by morning.

For Men With Acne-Prone Skin:

Blue Herbal Acne Cleanser Treatment

Men with acne-prone skin should reach for chemical exfoliants designed to help unclog congested pores, such as salicylic acid (also known as beta-hydroxy acid, or BHA). You’ll find this popular ingredient in our best-selling Blue Herbal Acne Cleanser Treatment, which is formulated for oily and blemish-prone skin. This effective cleanser purifies pores and helps diminish the appearance of acne breakouts, including blackheads and whiteheads. When used regularly, it also helps prevent new blemishes from forming for visibly clearer-looking skin.

Kiehl’s Expert Tip: Learn more about the different ingredients for managing acne in our article The Best Ingredients For Treating Pimples.

For Men With Mature Skin:

Age Defender Dual-Action Exfoliating Cleanser

Aging affects everyone’s skin, including yours. As you get older, your skin becomes drier and less elastic, and cellular turnover—our body’s natural process of exfoliation—slows significantly. Ultimately, these changes can result in fine lines, wrinkles, and dull-looking skin.

To help manage the visible signs of skin aging, we recommend incorporating an exfoliating cleanser, like Age Defender Dual-Action Exfoliating Cleanser, into your anti-aging men’s skincare routine. This unique face wash with phytic acid and Moroccan lava clay thoroughly cleanses away dirt and impurities while gently exfoliating for a refreshed appearance. When used regularly, it helps improve skin texture and diminishes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. You can use it daily as your go-to cleanser or up to three times weekly as an exfoliating mask for fresh, youthful-looking skin.

*Based on an instrumental test within surface layers.
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