Why Regular Exfoliation is the Key to Beautiful Skin For Women Over 40

Your skin naturally renews itself by shedding old skin cells in favor of fresh, new skin every 28 days. The stinker is that process can drastically slow down as we approach (and exceed) the fabulous 40s.  (Ugh, like most things these days, we women have to take control.) Enter the need for regular exfoliation – an essential step in any skincare routine. The secret is finding the right method and frequency for your skin. The risk of too little lends itself to ‘meh’ results, while the risk of too much can be redness and irritation. Done right, regular exfoliation is the key to beautiful skin for women over 40. It helps prevent dullness, clogged pores, skin discoloration, and – bonus – allows skincare products to better penetrate.

There are two methods of exfoliation – physical and chemical.  And while most of us can tolerate some measure of physical exfoliation (think washcloths or scrubs), chemical exfoliants are a little trickier. Personally, I use a combination of both methods, but more on that later…

Ok, let’s talk specifics starting with gentle to more aggressive.

How To Exfoliate Over 40, sharing how to exfoliate your skin as a woman over 40 and why it's important including physical exfoliate

Physical Exfoliation

Physical exfoliation can include cleansing pads, washcloths, brushes, and smooth scrubs. With pressure, they create enough friction to loosen and slough away dead skin cells, debris, and oils. Each does the job of physically buffing the top layer of skin with the goal of removing those pesky over-40 dead skin cells.

Cleansing Pads

Cleansing pads are made of cotton but have a very soft, almost blanket-like texture. They’re designed to gently “grab” makeup and dirt with fewer passes over the skin. If you’re new to the exfoliating game, this is a very safe place to start. Face Halo started the trend and are super soft. I’ve tried these eco-friendly circular pads and actually got my teenage son using them as well.

Can be used daily with cleansers or lotions on any type of skin.

Wash Cloths

Let’s be clear that we are not suggesting the tired old rags you used back in high school. Today, it’s all about lovely cotton muslin cloths used in your double-cleanse regime. The idea here is that you’re gently removing makeup, dirt, and dead skin in the process. You decide on the pressure applied. (And as with anything, stop using if it irritates or hurts your skin.)
It’s rumored that Duchess Kate is a big fan and is said to use these. I’m partial to these baby cloths which are super inexpensive. This one from Colleen Rothschild’s is one of Erin’s faves. Be sure to have several on hand because you really should machine wash after each use.

Can be used daily with cleansers or lotions on any type of skin.


Whether you opt for a manual or powered hand-help facial brush, you can’t beat its cleansing power. A little more aggressive, the bristles are intended to slough away dead skin with more intensity. And while you can control the pressure or speed, brushes are definitely a step up from cloths. Olay’s new brush device is garnering rave reviews and this sonic silicon brush has been shown to remove 99.5 percent of dirt and oil as it exfoliates your skin without irritation.

Can be used daily on any type of skin. Just be sure to start with the lowest setting possible and build up once your skin adapts. 


We’ve come a long way from the thick, grainy scrubs we used in high school. Today, the scrubs are smoother and more refined.
Dealing with the occasional breakout, this scrub is crazy good!
Combination skin will ADORE this scrub/mask. It’s my personal favorite and one I buy over and over.
Slightly drier? You will love this gentle scrub that has a delightfully fresh scent (another favorite that I use regularly).

Can be used 2-3 times per week and are generally best for oily and dry skin types because they buff away dry skin patches and dramatically change skin texture.

How To Exfoliate Over 40, sharing how to exfoliate your skin as a woman over 40 and why it's important including chemical exfoliate

Chemical Exfoliation

Chemical exfoliation uses chemicals such as hydroxy acids (AHA), enzymes and retinols, to aid in cell turnover and cause the superficial epidermal layers to exfoliate without friction. More than likely, you’ve incorporated one (or all) into your regime as a toner, serum, or lotion – all ideal for mature skin.
Start with 2-3 times per week, rotating so that you don’t use all on the same day. For example, if you use an enzyme peel in the evening, skip the retinol. Not sure what order to use them?  Read my blog on the Best Way to Layer Your Skin Care Products to make sure you don’t overdo it!


This is by far the best AHA I’ve ever used. Can’t say enough great things about it! Need a more budget-friendly version? This is great and surprisingly gentle, don’t be afraid by its blood-like look and texture.
No more than 2x per week.


Exfoliating toners are excellent for mature skin. This is a cult favorite and I truly recommend this affordable option to everyone.
Start with every other night for a few weeks until your skin adapts, progressing to every other night for optimal results.


Every now and then, I set aside my prescription Retin-A in favor of this dreamy retinol oil or this medical grade version from Obagi. Both are non-irritating, yet super effective for exfoliating the skin. You may remember Erin has written several times about her love of this retinol product.
If you’ve never used retinol, start slow! Use a pea-sized amount 1-2 a week until your skin adapts, working towards nightly application.

As always, I love hearing from you so let me know if you have questions or product recommendations in the comment section below!

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5 thoughts on “Why Regular Exfoliation is the Key to Beautiful Skin For Women Over 40

    1. Hi Louisa,
      YES, retinol is probably THE most important item in your anti-aging arsenal. (And ALWAYS wear sunscreen!)


  1. Excellent article! I have not been very good at exfoliating, even though I’m aware of the benefits. Reading this motivated me to get back on track. Thanks!

  2. Super helpful! I feel like the message for women our age is moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! Which is great, but makes us shy away from exfoliating. Definitely a few things here I want to try.

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