Skin Care 101: Do You Exfoliate or Cleanse First?

Developing a quality skincare routine is essential for keeping your skin as youthful and radiant on the outside as you are on the inside. Part of putting together a routine that works for your unique skin is knowing the proper order to do it.  

Do you exfoliate or cleanse first? Should you use toner? What type of moisturizer is best? To help you create your optimal self-care routine for your skin, Home of Chiji has all the answers to those questions and more tips and tricks you need to know!

What Are the Important Elements of a Skin Care Routine?

Do you exfoliate or cleanse first? To understand that, you first need an understanding of each of the elements of a successful skincare routine.

First of all, a skincare routine has to start with a cleanser. This is a non-negotiable step, and we’ll discuss why in just a moment. Cleansers should be chosen by the way they relate to your skin type, and support your specific needs. 

After cleansing, the next step would be an optional toner. 

When it comes to where in your routine to exfoliate, it should be performed after cleansing the skin and applying a toner. The only time you would want to exfoliate before using a toner is with physical exfoliators. 

Following your exfoliation, it’s time to apply any serums that you may be using. 

And finally, you’ll want to end any skincare routine with a supportive moisturizer.

Why Should You Cleanse First?

So, do you exfoliate or cleanse first? As we said, cleansing should always be the very first step in any skincare routine. This isn’t just an arbitrary decision, either. It comes from solid, scientific logic. 

For the rest of your products to impact the skin in the most efficient, beneficial way, you need to provide them with a blank canvas. If your skincare routine has to fight through layers of makeup, environmental dirt and debris, and other similar factors, it’s essentially like you are just throwing money away. You wouldn’t put on sunscreen over your shirt, would you? 

When you use a cleanser that works with your skin, it helps to remove that layer and prepare your skin for the rest of your routine. If you wear makeup or work outside, you may also want to consider doing a double cleanse. 

When you double cleanse, you start with a water-based cleanser and makeup remover to start the process. You’ll then follow that up with an oil-based cleanser to remove whatever was left behind. That way, you can be more sure that you have gotten all the debris off your skin before moving on to the next step. 

What Is Toner?

The next step, which is entirely optional, is to apply toner. Toners are liquids designed to remove the final traces of cleanser and open the pores up for the following skincare products. The toners of the past earned an unfair reputation for being too harsh on the skin and stinging when it is applied. However, modern-day toners have come a long way and are much more gentle and beneficial for the skin. 

Think of toners as being a preparation step between your cleanser and your exfoliator. However, if you plan to use a physical exfoliant (sometimes known as a mechanical exfoliant), you’ll want to do that before applying your toner. Physical exfoliants are those that use force to remove the dead skin cells from your skin, and they include brushes, sponges, and some scrubs.  

What Is Exfoliation?

Exfoliation is one of the best, most multifaceted skincare tools at your disposal. The end goal of exfoliation is the removal of dead skin cells and other debris from the top layer of the skin. While that may sound strange, it is an essential part of keeping your skin looking and feeling beautiful. 

Although we’re not consciously aware of it, our skin is constantly running through the process of renewing itself. Specifically, it is the epidermis that produces and replenishes the cells, starting near the basement membrane. It takes about a month for the new skin cells to move through the entire cycle. However, in many cases, they are not able to clear themselves off the skin’s surface. 

In addition to physical exfoliation, there are also exfoliants that clear the dead skin cells using chemicals. Chemical exfoliation is a far more popular choice, as it tends to be easier on skin sensitivity.

The result of exfoliation is clearer skin with fewer blackheads and impurities and more radiance. Over time, exfoliation can also lead to a decrease in the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles. 

A Quick Word About Serums

While we are focusing on exfoliation and cleansing, we wanted to talk quickly about serums. After you’re done with your exfoliation (whether chemical or physical), your skin is ready to accept products deeper into the pores. Serums come in all kinds of different formulas and can target nearly any skin concern. To up the ante, apply your serum with a crystal roller.

Moisturizer: The Final Step

Once you are finished with your routine, the last step should be a supportive moisturizer. As good as it is for your skin, exfoliants can sometimes cause slight irritation. To help replenish the skin and maintain your moisture barrier, you need to nourish your skin with the nutrients it needs to keep itself protected. 

Moisturizer isn’t just for dry skin, either. A common misconception is that people with oily skin don’t need them as their skin has enough natural oils all on its own. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Oily skin is often the result of the skin attempting to protect itself from dehydration by producing even more oil. In some cases, oily skin needs moisturizing most of all!

Don’t Forget About Your Body

Although skincare is most often focused on the face, the same premise can also be applied to the rest of your skin. Your body can use exfoliation, too, as the skin renewal process happens all over the body as well. 

There are plenty of skincare products designed specifically for the body. Take our Crystal EnergyTM Body Scrub, for example. We’ve taken the healing power of crystals and combined it with moisturizing ingredients, which allows you to turn any shower into a meditation. You’re not only taking the time out to take care of yourself, but you’re also helping to both literally and figuratively wash away old things that no longer serve you. 

To use our scrub, cleanse your skin first (just like you should with your face). Then, with your skin prepped and ready, you can use a generous amount of scrub in small, circular motions. Once finished, simply wash away the scrub with warm water and step into your day as a brand new person. Best of all, our scrubs are vegan, so you won’t have to worry about your personal morals either!

In Summary

No matter your skin type, having a well-designed skin care routine is one of the best self-care activities you can do for yourself. You’ll not only be taking care of your skin, but you’ll also be setting aside time to support your mental health. 

We so often put ourselves absolutely last on our list of priorities. Home of Chiji has a wide variety of ways to develop a routine and make sure that you carve out some quality time for yourself in the process. 


How does skin work? - | NCBI Bookshelf (

How to safely exfoliate at home | AAD (

The skin: an indispensable barrier - Proksch - 2008 | Experimental Dermatology