Prev Next

Go Gentle Into That Good Night: Rules for Exfoliating

By Amalah

Hi Amalah,
Love love love love love the smackdown. I followed your foundation routine religiously (including buying a Sephora brush) when I wore makeup… I stopped turbaning my hair as soon as you suggested it (and yes, my hair is happier.)
Ok, so my skin has bigger problems than can be solved over e-mail. But I’ll try to keep this focused: how much exfoliating does a face need? what’s the best way to gently accomplish this?
Background: I’ve had acne varying from moderate to horrific since I was 13 (I’m 26 now.) My face is supersensitive and dries very easily, so I had a nice solid habit of picking, rubbing, or
scratching at the itchy, scabby, peeling mess (sigh). I really tried to stop, I really did.
About four weeks ago, I thought about your advice to apply moisturizer “gently!” and I had an epiphany — time to be really gentle with my skin! NO MORE rubbing picking scratching pushing
touching AT ALL — including during washing.
So now my routine is: splash with lukewarm water, apply Aveeno Positively Radiant Cleanser by sliding fingertips over skin, rinse with 4 splashes of lukewarm followed by 4 splashes of cold, dry by patting VERY! gently with handtowel, apply Aveeno Positively Radiant Moisturizer with tip of pinky finger. This is in the morning — I don’t do anything at night because I don’t wear makeup anymore.
Since I started this, I’ve had a much easier time keeping my hands off my face throughout the rest of the day, because my skin doesn’t feel dry, tight and itchy. My acne is much, much better.
But….. It’s not great. Today is a good day — and I have 4 whiteheads on my chin and cheek, 4-5 other red bumps on my chin, one large red cyst on my lower cheek, and several blackheads on my forehead.
Plus, my skin is rough and scaly to the touch on my forehead and chin (although it doesn’t look like it), and peeling on my nose (the moisturizer is getting caught in the dead skin and looks gross I think). And I can’t wear any skin makeup because of this rough texture.
I want to have smooth skin on my face — but I’m not sure how to accomplish this. What’s a good way to exfoliate without drying or overrubbing? What do you do?

Okay. So.
Before I get to the general for-everybody sort-of rules re: exfoliating, let’s focus on JUST YOU for a second, and on the mistakes I think I see in your skincare routine.
aveeno1.jpgFirst, I gotta be honest. I do not like the Aveeno Positively Radiant line. I tried the moisturizer/sunscreen thing and it really did nothing for my skin, and even clogged my pores up a little bit. Aveeno has some wonderful products for sensitive skin, but I’m not sure this particular line is the best they have to offer. But! Just me. (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I have NOTHING against drugstore brands because they are drugstore brands. I simply have no tolerance for products that don’t WORK, whether they cost $6 or $60.)
HOWEVER, I don’t think that’s the biggest concern here. This is: I don’t do anything at night because I don’t wear makeup anymore.
*runs screaming*
You NEED to wash and moisturize your face at night, even if you don’t wear makeup. You must! Makeup is only ONE of the skin-polluting things that you should wash off at the end of the day, and your current routine is leaving all kinds of dirt and oil and sweat and environmental crap on your face overnight.
I’m so very glad to hear you’ve embraced the gentle approach to skincare (dudes, remember when we were all so crazily masochistic about it? With the Biore strips and astringents and peel-crap-out-of-your-pores mask things?), and yes, plucking and squeezing and picking at your face is BAD and WRONG and FAIL. But…your face needs to be washed twice a day. And moisturized. Especially now that winter is coming…the air in our bedrooms can be SO DRYING. (If you really hate moisturizing at night, then at least get a humidifier for your room, dear Lord.) The right products will let you wash and moisturize twice a day without dryness or irritation.
If you really like the Aveeno cleanser and moisturizer (and it does sound like you’re seeing some good results with them) keep using them. TWICE A DAY. (Unless you’re using the moisturizer with SPF in it. No SPF at night, chickies, so maybe try one of Aveeno’s non-SPF moisturizers. Perhaps Positively Smooth to fight the rough texture? Clear Complexion for the acne? Ultra Calming for all of the above?)
So, for the general rules, as promised: Everybody needs a morning and night skincare routine. I use a stand-alone sunscreen in the morning (Neutrogena), so I just omit that at night. Otherwise, it’s the same deal: cleanser, moisturizer, eye cream, acne spot treatment as needed. If you use a moisturizer-and-sunscreen in one, you should use an SPF-less night cream at night. And then once a week, I do a more intense exfoliating treatment (Microdelivery Peel). I think everybody — even the very sensitive — can benefit from a mask or peel or some kind of deep treatment. OCCASIONALLY.
I remember the first time I used a deep pore-sucking clay mask in high school…and oh! how cleeeeean my skin felt afterwards…and I decided to ignore the “once-a-week” instructions and used it everyday for an entire week. Uh. Dumbass. Burny hurty red-faced dumbass. But once a week, five minutes of a more intense treatment can really rid your skin of a lot of underlying crap without going overboard on the scrubby-scrubby. (And will maybe get your skin back to a point where you can wear makeup again? And use that nice Sephora foundation brush again? Hmm?)

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

icon icon
chat bubble icon