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Should you Mask or Exfoliate first?

by | Last updated Apr 21, 2020 | Published on Mar 23, 2020 | FAQ | 0 comments

Masking is a great habit and brings loads of benefits to your skin. It can help in cleansing and detoxifying your skin of all the harsh chemicals and environmental factors our face is exposed to.

Clays are especially on top of the list when we’re looking for deep cleansing. The specific chemistry and composition of clays help them grab on to dirt and excessive oil from deep into the pores and flush them out.

But there are steps we can take to help our clay masks reach their maximum potential. Exfoliation is one of those steps.

At a Glance,

What is exfoliation?

Our skin sheds a lot of dead cells every day, exfoliation is just a process of making this happen faster. We remove the layer of dead and dry cells by means of scrubs or acids to reveal brighter healthier skin inside.

What are the benefits of a face mask?

A clay mask works by soaking up unwanted oil and product buildup on our face. They provide a deep nourishing cleanse with the help of its absorptive powers and a number of minerals naturally found in these clays.

Should I exfoliate and use a face mask together?

Using an exfoliator before masking helps the mask work more effectively. Since the dry dead cells are removed, the mask provides maximum benefit to the newer younger cells beneath. So exfoliate first, then mask.

There are steps we can take to help our clay masks reach their maximum potential. Exfoliation is one of those steps.

Should you Mask or Exfoliate first? 1

Why do we need to exfoliate?

The outer layer of the skin  is called the epidermis. It’s composed of 5 layers of cells. The top most layer is called stratum corneum and is made up of cells called corneocytes.

These cells are continuously shed off as they get older and drier. They are supposed to be replaced by newer healthier cells.

This is where exfoliation plays its role. You’re basically helping your skin to remove the layer of corneocytes faster and more efficiently so that new cells can take its place.

There are two types of exfoliators:

Physical exfoliators:

Also called scrubs, these are tiny, hard and abrasive particles suspended in a oil cream or gel medium. They work by mechanically scrubbing off dead skin cells with the movements of your fingers. Sugar scrubs are by far the most popular.

Chemical exfoliators:

Also known as “chemical peels”. They use acids like lactic acid, salicylic acid and glycolic acid to penetrate beneath the dead skin layers and stimulate the exfoliation along with new cell turnover.

Lower concentration of acids can be used at home but higher concentrations require a specialist. I particularly like the ordinary brand for these acids.

Chemical peeling is extremely effective in improving skin texture, photo-ageing, acne scars and melisma.

Should you Mask or Exfoliate first? 2

What are the benefits of masking?

Everyone uses face masks these day for all the good reasons. It is now an essential part of our skincare used for various purposes like hydration, cleansing or tightening.

Any type of face mask, especially clay based, works by grabbing tightly onto the dirt particles and excessive oil from deep into the pores and pulls it out. When a clay mask dries it also causes tightening and contraction of the skin underneath. This helps our enlarged pores look smaller.

Exfoliation helps scrub dead skin cells off the surface and stimulating the growth and maturation of new healthy cells. A mask picks up on the after effects of pollution and high sebum production for a deeper cleanse.

My favorite mask?  A dry clay mask, that way you avoid the nasties of chemical additives or preservatives.  The best introduction to masks is with a clay assortment pack.

So, what comes first? Exfoliation!

Now that we know the purpose of both mask and exfoliation, it’s easier to understand which product we should use first if we want to incorporate both in our skincare routine.

Should you Mask or Exfoliate first? 3

An exfoliator will take off the layer of dead and dried out skin cells revealing fresher ones to the surface. When a mask is applied, it will have maximum contact with new healthy skin, without any barrier or blockage in-between.

Scrubs and exfoliators also stimulate the skin by either causing micro-abrasions or inducing inflammation. Which signals the skin into producing more cells and synthesizing more collagen. Collagen is responsible for the elasticity of the skin.

How often to exfoliate?

For someone whose skin is very oily and not sensitive, you can indulge in both products much more frequently then someone with extremely reactive skin which is prone to getting dry and inflamed.

It is generally suggested for people with oily/combination skin, can easily use a chemical or physical exfoliant 2 or 3 times a week without any significant side effects. If you have dry or dehydrated skin, keep it once a week.

For sensitive skin, it’s better to use chemical peels instead of very abrasive scrubs. The rough particles of these scrubs can create micro tears in your skin causing unwanted water loss and further dehydration.

Can you exfoliate and mask on the same day?

Yeah doing both steps together makes sense and there are clear benefits of incorporating these two in our skincare routine.

In fact, I have created some recipes that have manual exfoliants in it:

Should we also exfoliate and mask together?

I firmly believe that we are the best judge of how much our skin can handle. We can look for signs of struggle on our faces before anyone else.

If your skin is oily and not very sensitive, you can get away with using a clay mask  preceded by a scrub with a recommended frequency of 2 to 3 times per week.

But if you think your skin does not respond to deeper treatments that well, it is dry and sensitive then give it a try once and go from there. Use a scrub before masking every other week if once every week is still too much.

And it goes without saying, always hydrate after as a final step.

Both exfoliation and masking are important and irreplaceable parts of our skincare with proven benefits for both young and ageing skin.

Using an exfoliant before mask helps the mask work far better when its contact with the skin is not blocked by a layer of dead cells. Scrubbing will just make it a lot easier for your clay mask to do its job in full potential.


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