Do I Exfoliate Before Or After Shaving? Shaving Tips from LTHR

Do I Exfoliate Before Or After Shaving? Shaving Tips from LTHR

By Daniel Broadley

Do I Exfoliate Before Or After Shaving? Shaving Tips from LTHR

A lot of men make the mistake of overlooking all skincare that doesn’t relate to acne management. That can be a huge mistake. 

Cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing all work in conjunction with shaving to keep your skin and your beard healthy. Healthier skin promotes healthier hair growth, and healthier growth can give you a thicker, fuller beard without any bumps, knicks, or ingrowns. 

If you’re looking to make a statement with a strong beard, or if you prefer to keep your skin neat, clean, and smooth, both styles can be achieved by the same method. You need to exfoliate your skin. But how? When? With what? There are a lot of factors to consider. Don’t go scrubbing up just yet.

What is Exfoliating?

Your skin rapidly sheds and regenerates cells. It’s always cycling through these cells, and they leave behind remnants when they die. Sometimes, these remnants don’t readily fall off. They hang on to the texture of the skin or get stuck in pores, causing clogs, acne, and can contribute to the severity of ingrown hairs

Exfoliating is the process of manually removing these skin cells that aren’t in a hurry to leave on their own. There is a whole host of different products with different formulas designed to remove the dead skin cells and leave behind the layer of fresh, healthy new skin.

Does Everyone Need to Exfoliate?

Everyone’s skin cells shed, therefore, everyone needs to exfoliate. How often you need to exfoliate depends on what happens to your skin when your cells shed. Some people notice they get flakes in their eyebrows or under their beard when their dead skin accumulates. Some people rarely notice a buildup of dead skin. 

The question isn’t whether or not you should exfoliate. It’s how often you should exfoliate. 

You might not need to do it more than once a week. You might need to do it three times a week. You’ll have to watch and wait to see what happens with your dead skin. If you notice the surface of your skin is looking dull or patchy, that usually means it's time to exfoliate. 

How Does Exfoliating Help My Facial Hair?

Your skin sheds from the surface of your skin, and your beard grows on top of that surface. This means that your dead skin cells are shedding right below your hair. Beard hair is coarse and wiry. It’s likely to hold onto those skin cells, keeping them where they don’t belong.

When you exfoliate, you’re helping to dislodge all the flakes that get trapped beneath the blanket of your beard. Those flakes are acting as a barrier between the razor and your skin. At first it might sound like they’re offering some kind of protection. In reality, they’re making it a lot harder for you to shave. 

The dead skin cells on the surface of your skin are going to build up, blocking the hair at the root. Your razor will shave them up, gunking them between the blades and dulling your razor head faster. After a few swipes on an unexfoliated face, every successive stroke of the razor will become less and less effective.

What Happens If I Exfoliate Before I Shave?

If you exfoliate before you shave, you’re making the shave easier. With all the dead skin cells out of the way, the razor can do its job. It has easier access to the hair follicle up against the skin, allowing it to easily cut away each hair smoothly and cleanly at the lowest possible point. 

Without all that dead skin in the way, your razor will last longer. It won’t clog up with skin cells or waste its sharp edge trying to get through the dead surface down to the skin. The end result is a cleaner, closer shave.

What Happens If I Exfoliate After I Shave?

If you wait until after you shave to exfoliate, you aren’t going to get the results you want. Your razor will remove some of the dead skin cells, leaving them patchy and uneven. Some areas will come out exfoliated, and the areas the razor exfoliated will come out irritated. 

Exfoliating may also help to lift the hair up off the root a little more. Even though you just shaved, it might look like you’ve missed spots when the hair trapped by dead skin begins to raise. 

You shouldn’t exfoliate immediately after you shave. Instead, exfoliate before you shave or on days where you don’t intend to shave. You don’t want to be too rough on your skin. Roughness leads to irritation, and irritation can lead to a shabby face. 

What’s Up With All The Different Kinds of Exfoliators?

A lot of guys love the way their beard feels after they’ve exfoliated. If you get itchy or flaky under your beard, an exfoliator is going to solve that problem. You might be able to let your facial hair grow longer because it won’t feel as uncomfortable when the skin underneath is regularly exfoliated.

You’ve probably seen the stuff with crushed up walnut shells or apricot kernels at the store. Those are the products that most people think of as exfoliators. They are great exfoliators. They’re just a little too good. 

Those large, sharp particles can actually cause damage to your skin. Even if you have a thick layer of dead skin on your face, using a heavy duty exfoliator probably isn’t the best way to go about removing that layer. 

If you get breakouts on your face, products like salicylic acid acne scrubs or prescription tretinoin make cells turn over rapidly. The old skin dies and peels away much sooner. If you’re using these kinds of products already (or if you’d benefit from them), washing your face thoroughly with a cloth the morning after you apply these products should be enough to get the dead skin off. You won’t need to use another exfoliator. 

If you don’t have acne, you can exfoliate your skin with other kinds of acids that do the same thing. Alpha hydroxy acid and Beta hydroxy acid both act as gentle exfoliators. You can sometimes find them on pre-moistened pads. You just wipe them over your face really well and let the ingredients do what they do. 

If you prefer to feel a grit in your exfoliator, you can use products made with salt or sugar. These kinds of exfoliators are grainy, but they begin to dissolve with water. This keeps them from being consistently too harsh. They’ll start to dissolve as you use them, and your dead skin will rinse away with the remainder of the scrub when you’re done washing your face. 

What Else Should I Be Doing For My Skin?

Very dry skin and very oily skin often generate dry patches faster. Your facial hair is going to trap oil when you’re oily and make it harder for water to moisturize your skin when it’s dry. Your facial hair is acting as a barrier. If you want to keep your skin healthy, you’ll need to go out of your way to moisturize it.

Both dry skin and oily skin need moisturizer. Skin that is well moisturized can naturally regulate sebum production, keeping your skin in a place where it sheds and regenerates cells predictably. It might take you a little while to work out that balance, but once you do, getting a perfect shave will be easier than it’s ever been. 


Exfoliation will improve the overall health of your skin. Healthy skin is much easier to shave and groom. 

If you find you have a hard time styling your beard exactly the way you want, incorporate exfoliation into your grooming routine. You’re more likely to have a much better shaving experience