Dead skin cells can wreak havoc on your complexion -- they contribute to breakouts and larger looking pores and give your skin a dull, drab appearance. Makeup can help a little bit, but it doesn’t address the underlying problem. If you don’t like the skin looking back at you when you look in the mirror, it’s time for you to exfoliate.

How It Works

Your skin regenerates about every 28 days. As new skin cells are made, old, dead skin cells rise to the outer layers of your skin. Some of these dead skin cells fall off, but others stick to the surface of the skin. The accumulation of dead skin cells causes your skin to look dry, dull and flaky. The build-up of dead skin cells can also lead to clogged pores, an uneven complexion, blemishes and blackheads. You can remove these dead skin cells, and reveal the fresh skin underneath, by exfoliating two to three times per week.

Reap the Benefits

According to Sonya Dakar, skin care expert, acne-prone skin types shed dead skin cells faster than other skin types. These skin cells stick to the skin and clog pores and hair follicles, which can lead to blackheads and acne. Regular exfoliation removes the dead skin cells, reducing the risk of clogged pores and accompanying breakouts. The benefits don’t stop there. In addition to removing dead skin cells, exfoliation removes dirt and debris that gets trapped deep in your pores. When the dirt is removed, pores appear smaller and your complexion looks brighter. Removing dead skin cells also allows your face to absorb product, like moisturizer and sunscreen, better makes makeup application more even.

Choose Your Type

There are two general ways you can remove the dead skin cells from your face -- manual, or mechanical, exfoliation and chemical exfoliation. Mechanical exfoliation involves using an abrasive surface, like a wash cloth or a scrub, to physically slough away dead skin cells. During chemical exfoliation, dead skins cells are removed with chemical substances -- like enzymes, alpha-hydroxy acids or beta-hydroxy acids. If you have sensitive skin, a wash cloth with a cleanser may be all you need to get a good exfoliation. Renee Rouleau, skin care expert and celebrity aesthetician, recommends using a combination of both types of exfoliants for the best results.

A Word to the Wise

The skin on your face is delicate and should be treated as such. If you use exfoliants that are too harsh, it can cause redness and irritation. Renee Rouleau recommends using scrubs that contain micro-beads, which glide across the face and don’t cause small tears in the skin. Exfoliate with a scrub two to three times per week. If you choose to use a chemical exfoliant, use it only once or twice a week. If your skin starts to get too dry, scale back on use or switch to a manual exfoliant.