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Exfoliation : peau sèche ou peau humide ?

Is it more effective to exfoliate on dry or damp skin?

Exfoliation is an essential step in a skincare routine. It helps the skin regain its radiance, softness, and brightness, provided that the appropriate formula and correct application techniques are used. Is it better to apply your skincare product to dry or damp skin? We provide all the useful information for carrying out this wellness routine.

Published February 8, 2024, by Manon, Head of Scientific Communication — 6 min read

Exfoliation on dry or damp skin?

An exfoliation is a treatment for the face or body designed to exfoliate the skin in order to remove impurities and dead cells present on the surface of the epidermis. It helps to purify the skin by freeing the pores, allowing the active ingredients in other treatments to work effectively.

Depending on the formulation of the exfoliant you use, it will be more effective on dry or damp skin. Indeed, for this type of treatment, there are no specific rules, and it is recommended to follow the instructions of the exfoliant used.

Exfoliation on dry or wet skin?

Peeling is a type of treatment that uses chemical agents to remove dead skin cells by causing them to peel off. This process also promotes cellular renewal. There are three types of peeling:

  • The superficial peel for all skin types;

  • The medium peel for acne-prone or hyperpigmented skin;

  • Deep peeling to combat skin ageing.

It is generally recommended to apply a peeling treatment on dry skin to enhance its effectiveness.

Exfoliation: What is it?

In dermatology, theexfoliation encompasses techniques that allow the removal of dead cells present on the skin's surface, thus promoting cellular renewal. Two methods are distinguished: mechanical exfoliation, also known as scrubbing, and chemical exfoliation, also known as peeling. These two approaches differ in their way of eliminating dead cells from the skin's surface.

  • Themechanical exfoliation :

    This type of exfoliation involves the use of granular exfoliating products, commonly known as scrubs. These products lift dead cells from the upper layer of the epidermis through a mechanical action, such as rubbing or circular movements. Micro-grains, such as powders derived from fruit kernels, are often preferred for gently exfoliating the face and chest. Conversely, larger grains are used to exfoliate parts of the body where the skin is thicker and less sensitive, like the feet or legs. It is recommended to perform this type of exfoliation a maximum of once or twice a week.

    Scrubs containing fine grains are suitable for all skin types. However, it is advised against using large and abrasive grains on damaged skin, such as dry, sensitive or acne-prone skin.

  • Chemical Exfoliation:

    Unlike mechanical exfoliation, chemical exfoliation does not require scrubbing. It relies on active ingredients that work on the skin to remove dead cells and impurities, thus preventing the pores from becoming clogged. Formulated with enzymes or fruit acids, the chemical or enzymatic exfoliant is both gentle and effective, providing optimal exfoliation.

    This process utilises active ingredients such as AHA and BHA, which have diverse origins. The AHAs, or alpha-hydroxy acids, act like proteases by breaking the bonds composed of glycoproteins that connect dead cells to the stratum corneum. The BHAs, also known as beta-hydroxy acids, differ from AHAs in their keratolytic properties. They are capable of detaching and eliminating dead cells present on the surface of the epidermis. These acids can be of plant origin, derived from fruits such as pineapple, figs or apricots, or extracted from yeasts.

How to apply a scrub?

Depending on the type of exfoliant used, the application protocol varies. This is due to their texture, but it's also about facilitating their absorption and application.

This formula is typically presented in the form of a gel or cream, containing small granules. It is applied to clean, damp skin so that the particles lift away dead cells while stimulating microcirculation.

  1. Begin by cleansing or removing makeup from the skin to rid it of impurities;

  2. Apply a small amount of the treatment, then massage in circular motions, taking care to focus on the T-zone. Avoid the eye contour area;

  3. Allow it to rest for the prescribed duration;

  4. Rinse with clear water without applying too much pressure in order to preserve the skin's protective hydrolipidic film.

  • The peeling.

The enzymatic or chemical exfoliation is a gelified texture enriched with fruit acids. It is ideally applied on dry skin to deliver all its benefits.

  1. On clean skin, spread a sufficient amount of your skincare product;

  2. Allow a few minutes for the gentle acids to dissolve and detach the dead cells;

  3. Depending on the formula used, you have the choice to conclude your routine with a rinse or another process.

The effectiveness of these treatments varies depending on the type of exfoliant used. For a granular scrub, it is recommended to apply it on damp skin to fully benefit from its properties. As for chemical exfoliants such as peels, their effectiveness is generally optimal when applied to dry skin.


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