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Do I Need to Cleanse Before Exfoliating?

By Manna Zel

If you’ve ever wondered what comes first, cleansing or exfoliating, know that the confusion is understandable: though the two go hand in hand—you should always cleanse before exfoliating. 

“I always recommend exfoliating on a clean face, whether that means you cleansed two seconds ago or the night before,” says Youth To The People's Director of Education, Laura Cline. She recommends the Superfood Cleanser for all skin types and at any time of day. “Cleansing before exfoliating means that the face is makeup-free, sunscreen-free and product-free, you’re good to go.” Basically, it’s totally cool to exfoliate without cleansing just before exfoliating if and only if you’ve cleansed your skin at some point beforehand without adding SPF or makeup on top. 

If you cleanse at night and exfoliate in the morning, Cline suggests following that up with your normal cleanser.

“Some exfoliators are made with oils, so you’d feel like you want to cleanse afterward, so do whatever feels most comfortable,” Cline says. But Youth To The People’s Yerba Mate Resurfacing Energy Facial isn’t made to make your skin feel oily afterward, so a post-exfoliation cleanse isn’t necessary. “You won’t feel like you have to cleanse again because it really does rinse very clean,” she says.

If you are cleansing at night and not again before exfoliating in the morning, keep an eye on how often you’re washing your bedsheets, particularly your pillowcases. Between the oils from your hair, sweat, and those oh-so-very-rare nights you accidentally fell asleep with makeup on, the cleanliness of your pillow can have an impact on your skin’s health. “You should be rotating in a clean pillowcase at least once a week,” Cline says. Still, laundry can pile up, so Cline’s general rule of thumb is this: “When in doubt, cleanse.




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