August 29, 2022 5 min read

Do I Have to Cleanse My Skin Before Exfoliating?

Do you know that following the steps for your facial routine is important? Here is what to do: what is cleansing, what is exfoliation, the benefits of using a cleanser and exfoliating first, and what is better.

Because they both work to remove dirt and dead skin cells from the skin’s surface, the processes of cleansing and exfoliating are frequently mistaken for one another. However, cleansers and exfoliators are two distinct types of products that must both be used as part of a comprehensive skincare routine. In an ideal skincare routine, however, you should cleanse or exfoliate before anything else. There are advantages to both of these options.

What is Cleansing?

Cleaning refers to thoroughly washing your face’s skin with an individualized product designed to remove debris and oil from the skin's pores. According to Mukhopadhyay (2011), a cleanser for the skin, and especially a facial cleanser, is designed to be mild enough to use on the more delicate skin of your face while also removing sebum, a dirty and oily skin solution that is naturally secreted throughout the day, dirt, and other debris from the skin. Using regular soap and water to wash your face is not beneficial to the skin on your face as using a cleanser. The typical bar or body soap is typically too alkaline, and as a result, it can strip the skin of healthy moisturizing oils, leading to adverse effects on one's health.

Corazza et al. (2010) noted that a cleanser is a product that contains specialized ingredients that can remove impurities and chemicals from the skin that the pores have absorbed throughout the day. It works much more effectively than comparable products, penetrating your pores to a relatively deep level and clearing them out. Compared to an exfoliating product, however, it is not as effective at removing dead skin cells or physically scraping away rougher debris. Moreover, it does not scoop away dead skin cells. Cleansers can remove makeup, which is another advantage of using them. Many of the best cleansing products on the market contain components that make it much simpler to eradicate all traces of makeup. Be advised to use cleansers regularly for any makeup you wear.

What Is Exfoliation?

It's similar to cleansing, but it has a separate procedure. During exfoliation, the topmost layer of the skin is removed, along with any nearby or stubborn dirt and debris, such as blackheads. Its purpose is to eliminate dead cells accumulated over the day or week. It is natural for dead skin cells to accumulate over time; they play an essential part in maintaining the hydration and protection of the pores in your skin. Every day, hundreds of the cells that make up the skin will pass away. However, while the majority of these will shed off on their own, some of them may become lodged in your pores and will need to be physically removed. If you don't remove them, they might clog your pores, which will leave your skin looking dry and rough.

By sloughing off these dead skin cells, the exfoliation process can help bring to the surface skin cells that are younger and in better health. Additionally, as a consequence of this, your skin will feel softer and will appear to be warmer or more colorful. The removal of tougher debris, the kind that a cleansing product might struggle with, can be accomplished through exfoliation. Lewis (2019) stated that exfoliation products typically contain harsher or more challenging ingredients such as glycolic or salicylic acid. Some exfoliating products may use physical ingredients like jojoba beads or other compounds to scrape away dead skin. Jojoba beads are one example of this type of ingredient.

The Benefits of Using a Cleanser First

It gives you the opportunity, to begin with, a clean slate. Exfoliation penetrates the pores to a greater extent than a gentle cleanser can. Daily removal of makeup and thorough cleansing of the face should be a priority for anyone who wears either. It is not always necessary to exfoliate as frequently as you normally do.

Apply a very thin product layer once or twice per week, either in the morning or the evening, and rinse. To ensure the skin can fully absorb the beneficial components of the facial scrub, Bremmer et al. (2006) recommended applying it to your face, massaging it for thirty seconds, and then leaving it on for up to two minutes. After that, give your face a quick rinse and pat it dry before moving on to your toner and moisturizer. If you use exfoliating treatments in the way recommended, you will see how it helps improve your skin's appearance.

Benefits of Using Exfoliation First

Although there are advantages to performing these skincare steps in the opposite order, most people choose to start with cleansing and then move on to exfoliating their skin. The process of exfoliation can simultaneously clean the skin by removing dead skin cells, excess oil, and other impurities from the skin’s surface. When viewed from this perspective, mechanical exfoliation is the method that offers the most benefits. The top layer of skin can be removed with the help of specialized tools, which results in the skin's surface becoming smoother and its appearance more radiant.

Wipe your face gently with a wet washcloth or an exfoliating brush, making sure to use motions that are both small and circular. As you do this, you will exfoliate the top layer of skin, which will, in turn, stimulate the skin below. It's important to keep in mind, however, that not all exfoliating cleansers can also be used to cleanse the skin and vice versa. Be wary of the kind of tool you use because some are more abrasive than others and have the potential to cause skin irritation or even small tears.

What Is Better?

Most people should cleanse before exfoliating. The method generally removes more dirt and debris. It's also more skin-sensitive. Because exfoliating products can dig deeper into pores, It might be uncomfortable if you have sensitive skin. Exfoliating and then cleansing is still a good idea.


Cleansing and exfoliating are essential for holistic skincare. If you're unsure, try one and see what happens. You can change the order if needed. Both are needed for healthy, beautiful skin.


Bremmer, H. J., Prud'Homme De Lodder, L. C. H., & Van Engelen, J. G. M. (2006). Cosmetics Fact Sheet. To Assess The Risks For The Consumer. Updated Version For Consexpo 4.

Corazza, M., Lauriola, M. M., Zappaterra, M., Bianchi, A., & Virgili, A. (2010). Surfactants, Skin Cleansing Protagonists. Journal Of The European Academy Of Dermatology And Venereology, 24(1), 1-6.

Lewis, J. (2019). Undergraduate Research Experiences Reports On Acne Treatment, Heavy Metal In Water, And Measurement Of The Heat Reaction Of Isosorbide Methacrylate.

Mukhopadhyay, P. (2011). Cleansers And Their Role In Various Dermatological Disorders. Indian Journal Of Dermatology, 56(1), 2.