Not Exfoliating is Aging You, Says Aesthetician Isabella Traboscia

Not Exfoliating is Aging You, Says Aesthetician Isabella Traboscia
by Truly Beauty

Learning how to exfoliate your face can be the secret to achieving youthful, luminous, and acne-free skin. We spoke with Isabella Traboscia, a licensed aesthetician, certified laser technician, and skincare influencer, about the importance of exfoliating your skin, common exfoliating mistakes, and how to perform professional-level exfoliation at home.

Traboscia, who works at Natalie Rose Beauty in Media, PA, specializes in acne, anti-aging, perioral dermatitis, and sensitive skin. In addition to helping clients reach their skin goals through in-office treatments, she’s committed to educating her followers on honest and effective skincare practices and treatments, making her a trusted voice in the beauty and wellness space.

Ahead, she shares her expertise on how to exfoliate your skin for the best results, what will happen if you skip this essential step, and why your skin might get worse before it gets better. 

Why is Exfoliating Important?

Think of a baby’s skin—soft, smooth, radiant. This is all thanks to rapid skin cell turnover, a natural process that slows down as you age. 

“From around age 25, little by little, our skin cell turnover rate starts to change,” explains Traboscia. “The lack of skin cell turnover is what creates an uneven skin tone appearance. That will also create the appearance of larger pores and texture in the skin as well as fine lines and wrinkles.”

But there is a solution, she says: exfoliation. Exfoliating helps to remove dead skin cells and increase cell turnover, promoting brighter, smoother, clearer-looking skin. Without proper (and regular) exfoliation, dead skin cells accumulate, leading to a variety of skin concerns including acne, uneven skin tone, and fine lines and wrinkles. 

Exfoliating can combat these issues and serve as a preventative step against acne, signs of aging, uneven skin tone, and textural issues.



What’s the Best Exfoliator for Your Skin Type?

All skin types benefit from exfoliation but you need to use the right exfoliator for your skin type. Chemical exfoliators (alpha and beta hydroxy acids) are generally the best option because they penetrate deep into the skin, dissolving dead skin cells and impurities on and beneath the skin’s surface. Physical exfoliators (like scrubs), on the other hand, work by manually removing dead cells from the surface of your skin. 

“For acne-prone skin, I always recommend using salicylic acid because it’s an oil-soluble ingredient so it’s going to target any oil while also helping to exfoliate the skin,” says Traboscia. For inflamed acne, she doesn’t recommend using a face scrub because “it’s going to aggravate any inflammation and create more acne.” Instead, she advises acne-prone skin types to steer more towards chemical exfoliants, specifically salicylic acid

For oily skin types, she also recommends beta hydroxy acids like salicylic acid. As she mentioned previously, it’s oil-soluble, so it will “target any excess oil in the pore which can cause blackheads and clogged pores.”

“Dry skin types, on the other hand, should use a larger molecule,” says Traboscia. “Mandelic acid is a good choice for dry skin because it’s not going to go directly deep into the skin in the way that glycolic acid would.” In other words, it’s less drying. 



Benefits of Exfoliating Your Face

how to exfoliate your face | model applying serum to skin

Compared to cleansing and moisturizing, exfoliating doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. And yet, it’s a fundamental step for keeping skin healthy, enabling products to absorb efficiently, and most importantly: tackling skin concerns like acne, hyperpigmentation, and signs of aging.

“For acne-prone skin, you can expect your skin to be a lot more clear and a lot less oily, and scars will look a lot less noticeable with regular exfoliation,” says Traboscia. That's because exfoliating removes dead skin cells that congest the pores and lead to breakouts. 

Exfoliation is also essential for preventing and treating visible signs of aging. By removing dead cells on the skin’s surface and increasing cell turnover, your complexion will appear smoother and more luminous. 

“For the average person, you’ll experience more radiant skin, less texture, less visible pores, and prevent aging by exfoliating consistently,” confirms Traboscia. 



What Happens if You Don’t Exfoliate?

If you’re not exfoliating your skin on a regular basis or at all, it’s going to show in your complexion. As Traboscia puts it, “The effects of not exfoliating is going to lead to a rapid aging process.” 

She explains that while anti-aging has a lot of factors to it, cell turnover is very important. “If skin isn’t turning over properly and it’s taking about 70 days for our skin to fully turn over, you’re going to notice the appearance of larger pores, fine lines and wrinkles, some sagging to the skin, and loss of elasticity as well as pigment and sun damage.”

Oily and acne-prone skin types will see an increase in pore buildup, blackheads, pimples, and oiliness. “Even if you don’t have acne-prone skin, you’re going to see a lot of pore buildup and blackheads if you’re not exfoliating,” she adds. 

To summarize, not exfoliating your skin will likely worsen existing skin concerns and potentially even create new ones due to pore buildup. When there’s a buildup of dead cells on the skin’s surface, your skin’s not going to look smooth, radiant, and clear. Plus, your favorite serums and creams won’t penetrate the skin and ultimately work as well when you’re not removing that buildup.




How Often Should You Exfoliate Your Face?

According to Traboscia, “All skin types can benefit from daily exfoliation.” Particularly acne-prone skin. However, that only applies to chemical exfoliation, since physical exfoliants can be too harsh for daily use on the face.

“Acne-prone skin sheds skin in a different way than non acne-prone skin,” explains Traboscia. “Acne-prone skin has more skin cells to begin with and then it’s not able to shed them all which can lead to clogged pores, bumpy skin, and more breakouts overall.” For that reason, she says it’s “important for acne-prone skin to exfoliate more than any other skin type.”

Traboscia recommends daily exfoliation for mature skin types, too. Since cell turnover slows down as we get older, exfoliating every day helps to shed old, dead cells and replace them with new, healthy cells—and ultimately smoother, brighter skin.

How about sensitive skin types? If your skin is super sensitive and reactive, limit exfoliation to just a few times a week, otherwise you could end up irritating your skin and even damaging the skin barrier. 

It’s also important to exfoliate according to the seasons, adds Traboscia. “You’ll need to exfoliate more often during the summertime because of the oil and humidity. Whereas, in the wintertime you can exfoliate less, especially if you live in a dry and cool area.”



How to Achieve Aesthetician-Level Results at Home

Achieving radiant skin doesn’t necessarily require a trip to a professional aesthetician. With the right techniques and products, you can bring the spa experience into your home and enjoy similar results. 

“For professional exfoliation at home, I always recommend using a fine scrub and that can be comparable to a microdermabrasion treatment because you’re going to be exfoliating that top layer of skin,” says Traboscia. Just make sure you’re using a gentle scrub. Traboscia especially loves enzymes for exfoliating the face because they eat up dead skin without irritating the skin. They’re very gentle on even the most sensitive skin types.

“With a chemical peel, I would say peel pads would be comparable to that too. So using a stronger exfoliant a couple of times a week would be comparable to a chemical exfoliant at home.”



Always Analyze Your Skin First

As far as your daily skincare routine goes, Traboscia recommends analyzing your skin before you even cleanse to see what’s going on. Instead of jumping into your daily regimen, analyze your skin. Is there redness and irritation? Bumps? Dryness? Traboscia tells us to base our skincare routine off of what’s going on with our skin that day.

“Skin changes. It’s never the same,” explains Traboscia. “For example, if I feel like I have more breakouts that day, I’m going to use an exfoliating product. If my skin is a little bit too dry, I’m not going to use an exfoliating product and I'll take a little break on that until my skin looks more hydrated.”



Are You Over-Exfoliating Your Skin?

As essential as exfoliation is in a skincare regimen, you certainly don’t want to over-do it. Over-exfoliation removes the top layer of the skin barrier, which can cause all kinds of problems for your skin. The skin barrier is the protective layer of skin that prevents moisture loss, defends against external aggressors, and stops bacteria from getting in. Exfoliating excessively can compromise its protective functions.

So, how do you know if you’re over-exfoliating your skin? “The most common sign would be redness and tingling on the skin when applying skincare products,” says Traboscia. “If you have red patches or hive-like bumps, that could also be an indicator that you’re over-exfoliating your skin. Increased sun sensitivity is another common sign you’re overdoing it with exfoliation.”

You should also pay attention to the signs of a damaged skin barrier, which include redness and burning sensations. If you’re experiencing these effects, Traboscia suggests taking a two week break from exfoliation to focus on hydrating, moisturizing, and rebuilding the skin barrier.

“Take a nice break, use a gentle cleanser, wear sunscreen every day, and moisturize regularly. And this will help to rebuild your skin barrier.” If you don’t take time out from exfoliating, your skin barrier will break down even more, and you’re not going to get peak results from your products, she says.



5 Common Exfoliating Mistakes—and How to Avoid Them

Isabella Traboscia breaks down the most common mistakes people make when exfoliating and tips on how to avoid them. 

#1: Over-Exfoliation

“A common mistake is over-exfoliating and using too many exfoliating products in a skincare routine. You don’t want to use multiple chemical exfoliating acids in different products. You don’t want to use an exfoliating cleanser, exfoliating cleanser, exfoliating serum all at once. Keep it very simple and just use one exfoliating product at a time because you don’t want to ruin that skin barrier like I mentioned earlier.”

#2: Not Letting Your Skin Purge 

“Skin purging is a natural thing that is supposed to happen when using exfoliants. If the exfoliant is working, you’re going to get skin purging, especially if you are acne-prone or there’s any bacteria under the skin.

Purging means that your skin cell turnover is actually happening and the breakouts are coming up to the surface. It can happen all at once and it can happen for up to three months. But people tend to think that exfoliation is breaking them out instead of actually working so they’ll stop using the products and throw them out. 

If you keep switching up these exfoliating products, you’ll never get good results because you’re not allowing the skin purging phase to actually happen. So skin purging is a good thing and it’s supposed to happen. 

Any kind of acne or bump can stay under the skin for three months before it comes to the surface so if you start using a chemical exfoliating product, it’s going to come up a lot faster.” 

#3: Not Using Products Correctly

“I also recommend gradually easing into products. If you have more sensitive skin and don’t tolerate products very easily, it’s better to gradually build up that tolerance. Most of the time, people will just throw out a skincare product and think that it doesn’t work for them, but they just didn’t use it properly. 

I recommend a 4-week schedule. For the first week, see how your skin reacts to just using it every other day and then build it up to using it twice a day a couple of times a week, and then so on and so forth. Building that tolerance is going to give you peak results.”

#4: Starting Too Young

“In the world of TikTok and social media, the most common mistake people make is exfoliating too young. At 11, 12, or 13, I see girls using retinol and at that age, you have all the amount of collagen and elastin you need, and your skin cell turnover is absolutely perfect. There is nothing to work on. Sticking to just gentle scrubs is important for a younger demographic.”

#5: Shaving Your Face

“I see a lot of people shaving their face at home thinking it’s going to give them a professional-grade treatment. With the little face razors, it’s very hard to get the proper angle to exfoliate. The blade isn’t really sharp enough so it’s going to remove the hair and just a bit of dead skin. It can also cause microtears in the skin which will cause a lot of irritation.” 



Why You Need to Exfoliate Your Body, too

how to exfoliate skin | moon rocks body scrub


Exfoliating your body is just as important as exfoliating your face. Besides keeping skin bright and smooth, exfoliating below the neck helps to combat body acne, hyperpigmentation, signs of aging, and shaving bumps.

Just like the face, exfoliating the body removes the buildup of dead cells that makes skin look dull. It also prevents clogged pores and enables other skincare products to absorb better into the skin, making them work more efficiently. What’s more, exfoliation can boost collagen production and promote smoother, more youthful-looking skin.

It’s also an important pre-shave prep step. Exfoliating before shaving removes dead cells, preventing them from clogging and ultimately dulling your razor. This way, you can enjoy a smoother shave while reducing the likelihood of razor burn and ingrown hairs. 



How to Exfoliate Your Body

What’s the right way to exfoliate your body? Isabella Traboscia shares: “For the body, I like to mix both physical and chemical exfoliation. When I shave, I like to pair a scrub with that. On alternating nights, I’ll use a chemical exfoliant just to prevent any excess irritation from exfoliation.”

And her go-to chemical exfoliant for the body? Glycolic acid. “It penetrates deeper into the skin,” says Traboscia. “Usually our bodies can tolerate that more than our faces because our skin is a little bit thicker on our bodies compared to our faces.”

She also emphasizes the importance of moisturizing and applying sunscreen after exfoliation to avoid irritation and protect your skin. While most people only moisturize their bodies once a day, she recommends moisturizing twice a day to avoid losing moisture in the skin. Otherwise, that lack of moisture and sun protection will lead to accelerated aging.

If you’re dealing with body acne, Traboscia recommends using a product with mandelic acid. “It's antibacterial and anti-fungal, so it’s great for anyone struggling with inflammatory acne,” she explains. “It’s also very good for hyperpigmentation and any fungal breakouts. I recommend using a mandelic acid body product daily so you get the best results from it.”




When to See an Aesthetician 

While you can address and resolve many skin concerns at home, how do you know when it’s time to book in with an aesthetician? According to aesthetician Isabella Traboscia, there are two specific skin concerns that require professional intervention: acne scarring and sun damage. 

“With pitted acne scarring, it’s very important to see a professional to heal them,” says Traboscia. She warns against trying at-home microneedling which can be “very unsanitary, lead to infection, and even make scarring worse.”

Instead, she suggests seeing a professional for either microneedling, laser, or a chemical peel if you’re dealing with any form of acne scarring. The same goes for stubborn sun damage as a professional will be able to help with corrective treatments for fine lines, wrinkles, and discoloration.

“While regular exfoliation with chemical and physical exfoliants is very important, I always recommend seeing an aesthetician to let them analyze your skin and see what would be best for you,” says Traboscia. Not everyone needs a very intense treatment like microneedling or a chemical peel. Sometimes just a professional-grade facial would be beneficial.” But even if you do need a more intense treatment, you won’t need them once a month. 

“It’s not like you see an aesthetician and then you need to see them forever to see results,” says Traboscia. “Sometimes, it can just be for a couple of months and then you’re good to go, and you can just do a facial or a touchup treatment here and there.”

Exfoliation is clearly a crucial step in a skincare routine. Without it, we face a myriad of skin concerns including clogged pores, acne, and signs of aging. So make sure you follow these tips and commit to regular exfoliation. Your skin will thank you! For more aesthetician-approved skincare tips and tutorials, follow Isabella Traboscia on TikTok and Instagram


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