How to Get Rid of Dead Skin on Face: 7 Methods with Instant Results

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If your complexion has been looking dull and feeling rough lately, chances are that dead skin cells are to blame. Once these build up on your skin’s surface, you can kiss goodbye to that radiant glow, at least until you decide to take some action. Wondering how to remove those dead cells with as little effort as possible? Here’s everything you need to know…


What Causes Dead Skin Cells to Build Up on the Face?

Your skin is constantly producing new skin cells. This process takes place in the deepest layer of your skin. As each new cell forms, it slowly makes its way up to the surface, after which it then dies off. On average, the lifespan of a skin cell is about four weeks, with the body losing around 50 million skin cells each and every day [1].

If this process ran flawlessly, you wouldn’t need to worry about dead skin cells on your face – your skin would naturally and regularly shed these on its own. However, there are a few factors that interfere with this, resulting in all of those dead cells building up on your skin:

  • Aging – cell regeneration slows down with age, meaning that the body doesn’t create new skin cells fast enough to push out the old ones
  • Dry skin – if your skin type is dry, then this means that your skin cells die at a much faster rate than normal, which causes them to build up on the surface of the skin
  • Environment – from sun exposure to your local climate, the environment can heavily contribute to how quickly or slowly your body is able to shed dead skin
Woman applying clay face mask for treatment

It’s usually important to identify the trigger of any skin conditions or concerns you may be facing, but, in this case, no matter the cause of your dead skin cell buildup, the solution is the same.

Exfoliation: The Key to Removing Dead Skin Cells

If you want to get rid of dead skin cells on your face, exfoliation is the answer. This technique clears away your skin’s rough and dull outer layer, revealing the fresh and vibrant cells beneath.

There are several methods of exfoliation out there, but these can all be split into two categories; physical exfoliation and chemical exfoliation. Physical exfoliation involves manually sloughing off those dead skin cells with abrasive materials, whereas chemical exfoliators consist of specific acids or enzymes that dissolve away the glue-like bonds that keep dead cells attached to the skin. It’s important to try both methods, so that you can properly determine which form of exfoliation works best for your skin.

4 Ways to Physically Exfoliate Your Face

Let’s start with physical exfoliation, since this is usually the most easily accessible:

A Soft Washcloth

The simplest way to exfoliate your face is by using a clean soft towel or washcloth. Make sure that your skin is damp and then gently rub the cloth over your face. Don’t scrub it harshly over your skin – this will only lead to microabrasions, not to mention extra wrinkles from all of that tugging. Keep your motions soft and gentle and you’ll soon see flaky skin literally fall away.

Face Scrubs

Just about everyone has used a face scrub at some point in their lives. This is probably the most common way to get rid of dead skin cells – it’s fast, easy, and you don’t actually need to invest in any extra products since you can easily make a face scrub at home.

DIY Face Scrubs for Removing Dead Skin Cells

If you’d like to give a DIY face scrub a try, you have several options. Coffee grounds mixed with olive oil, honey, and sugar creates a soft and nourishing scrub, while a mixture of oatmeal, yogurt, and honey will get rid of dead skin while soothing and softening your face at the same time. Bananas, powdered milk, or turmeric powder can also be mixed with olive oil to form a thick paste that can be used as a scrub.

If you don’t have any of those ingredients at home, then a simple mix of a few drops of olive oil with sugar or sea salt will work well to revive dull skin and lifeless cells too. Gently rub this over your skin in circular motions, before rinsing with lukewarm water and then patting your skin dry.

Applying coffee scrub on face

Dry Brushing

Dry brushing is an exfoliation technique that has been used since ancient times. It involves rubbing a special brush with firm but soft bristles over your skin in circular motions. People usually start at their feet and work their way up, but you can purchase a dry brush designed specifically for the face too.

Not only does dry brushing remove dead skin cells, but the circular motions also boost blood circulation and increase lymphatic drainage [2]. This detoxifies the skin, leaving you with bright, clear, and healthy cells.

One thing to keep in mind is that you should always cleanse your skin after dry brushing, as you’ll need to get rid of that dead skin that you’ve dislodged. Use cool water to do this if possible.


If you’d like to turn to the professionals, then microdermabrasion would be the best treatment available. It involves a handheld device that sprays a jet of fine crystals onto your skin. This is then followed up by a small vacuum, which clears away all the dead cells that the crystals have dislodged.

Not only does microdermabrasion get rid of dead skin cells, but it also improves the appearance of fine lines, dark spots, acne scars, and overall skin tone [3]. The procedure itself is actually far gentler than it sounds, making it suitable for all skin types.

3 Ways to Chemically Exfoliate Your Face

Chemical exfoliators may sound a little frightening, but most experts agree that they’re actually much kinder to the skin than the physical alternatives listed above. Plus, chemicals aren’t always bad – most of the chemical exfoliants out there are actually natural chemicals that have been derived from fruits and other plants.

A smiling woman cleaning her face using cotton pads

Alpha Hydroxy Acids

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are natural acids that come from various foods. There are several different AHAs out there, but they all work in a similar way – by dissolving the ties that keep dead cells stuck to the surface of your skin. This then allows them to easily be washed away.

In order to choose the best alpha hydroxy acid for your skin, you’ll need to go by your skin type:

  • Glycolic acid – derived from sugar cane, this AHA is best suited to combination, oily, and normal skin
  • Lactic acid – created from fermented sugars, lactic acid is suitable for all skin types. However, it is especially beneficial for those with mature, dry, or sensitive skin – it doesn’t strip away the skin’s natural oils, and also helps to moisturize dry patches
  • Mandelic acid – suitable for all skin types, even those who suffer from rosacea, mandelic acid, which comes from almonds, is the gentlest of all the AHAs
  • Citric acid – extracted from citrus fruits, this AHA can be used by everyone, although those with sensitive skin could find it too irritating

If you’ve never used an AHA in your beauty regime before, always perform a patch test first, even if you’ve chosen a gentle acid.

Beta Hydroxy Acids

There are a few beta hydroxy acids out there, but salicylic acid is the one that’s most commonly used in skin care. This beta hydroxy acid is best used by those with oily skin. It delves deep into the pores to get rid of all the dead skin cells and excess sebum gathered inside.

Salicylic acid also helps to regulate the sebaceous glands, preventing them from producing excess oil, while destroying acne-causing bacteria on the surface of the skin. As a result, it’s a popular ingredient among those who want to treat acne and remove dead skin at the same time.

Fruit Enzymes

Fruit enzymes are often compared to AHAs. However, while AHAs can also sometimes remove live skin cells, fruit enzymes work by digesting dead skin cells and scarred tissue, without touching any of your live skin cells. This makes them one of the gentlest ways to exfoliate, which is why they’re often favored by those with sensitive and dry skin.

There are several fruits out there with enzymes that effectively remove dead skin cells, but papaya tends to be at the top of every beauty must-have list, mainly because it also has skin brightening properties. Pumpkin enzymes are also very beneficial since they’re a great source of vitamins C and A. Pineapple and pomegranate enzymes would be a good choice too – they’re loaded with antioxidants!

Woman in white bath towels applying face scrubs


How can I remove dead skin cells from my face at home?

Exfoliation is the best way to remove dead cells from facial skin. If you don’t own any exfoliating products, then you could make your own face scrub from ingredients that you have in your kitchen.

How do you get rid of dead skin naturally?

There are several natural exfoliation methods to choose from. Simply rubbing your face with a washcloth will remove dead skin built up on the surface, while a homemade face scrub made with natural ingredients will immediately brighten dull skin.

Is it bad to rub dead skin off face?

No, it’s not bad to rub dead skin off your face, so long as you do this gently and correctly. Use a soft towel or a face scrub to ensure that you’re not damaging any of your healthy cells.


When it comes to clearing away dead skin cells and keeping your face looking bright and healthy, exfoliation really is the answer. When it comes to picking the best method of exfoliation, this all depends on your skin type and concerns. By all means, start off with a simple face scrub if exfoliation is new to you, but don’t be afraid to try out chemical exfoliants either – you’ll be surprised at just how effective they are at preventing dead skin cells from building up on your face.



Avatar for Alina Jumabhoy
About Alina Jumabhoy

With almost 10 years of experience writing for the skincare industry, Alina brings her unique perspective into all of the in-depth reviews and articles she writes.