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How to Exfoliate Your Legs for Soft, Smooth Skin

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Photo by Iuliia Komarova/Getty Images

By now, you likely know how to exfoliate your face and even your lips for a smoother complexion. Heck, you may even be aware of how to exfoliate your scalp to ensure your hair is well taken care of. But, what about your legs? Are you exfoliating them as often as you should? And are you even exfoliating them the right way? If you're not sure or if you need a gentle refresher, you're in luck. We reached out to a few skincare experts to get the lowdown on why you should incorporate regular leg exfoliation, how to properly exfoliate your legs, and the best exfoliating skincare products to use. Read more below!


About the Experts:

Amanda Arnold is the founder of The Shady Sun Tanning Co. and Shady Sun Spray Tan Services in Salisbury, Maryland.
Joshua Zeichner, MD, is the Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at the Mount Sinai Hospital.
Kaveri Karhade, MD, is a board-certified general and cosmetic dermatologist at the Berman Skin Institute.

The 5 Biggest Benefits of Exfoliating Your Legs

1. It makes your legs incredibly soft.

Obviously, one of the biggest benefits of exfoliating your legs is that it makes them super soft and smooth. Exfoliators remove dead skin cells and dry skin to leave you with smooth legs that are ever-so-silky. Even the experts agree: Exfoliation can leave you with the smoothest legs ever.

2. It can make your legs more radiant.

Along with making your legs smooth, exfoliating your legs can also make them appear brighter and more radiant. "The skin on the legs tends to be among the driest on our bodies and the most exposed to daily trauma. Dead cells build up on the skin leading to dullness," shares Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at the Mount Sinai Hospital. He notes that "exfoliation can improve radiance."

Bay Area dermatologist Dr. Kaveri Karhade echoes this point, noting "when the skin is hydrated, then gentle exfoliation can help brighten the skin."

3. It can help minimize the appearance of various skin issues.

Whether you struggle with "strawberry legs" or cellulite, Amanda Arnold of The Shady Sun Tanning Co. notes that regular leg exfoliation can help slough away these skin concerns. "Having a proper and regular exfoliating routine can help diminish the appearance of strawberry legs and cellulite. This is because exfoliating helps with circulation and lymphatic drainage," she notes.

4. It helps prevent ingrown hairs.

One of the benefits of leg exfoliation that we particularly appreciate is how well it helps prevent ingrown hairs. A buildup of dead skin cells often is one of the major causes of ingrown hairs. So when you exfoliate, you break up that buildup allowing the hair to grow as it should. Dr. Karhade suggests using a "gentle chemical exfoliation to decrease ingrown hairs."

5. It makes shaving easier.

Because exfoliating the legs sloughs off dead skin cells, this allows you to achieve a closer shave. "Remember that shaving is the interaction between the razor, the hair, and the skin," says Dr. Zeichner. "Dead skin cells that build up on the skin’s surface can make shaving more difficult, and theoretically, increase the likelihood of cuts, nicks, or even ingrown hairs."

Arnold notes that by exfoliating your legs to get rid of the dead skin that can cling to the razor blade, "this helps you get a cleaner, smoother shave." Exfoliating is just one of the many steps you should take to ensure a closer shave. Make sure to follow our step-by-step guide on how to shave your legs to protect your skin.

4 Easy Ways to Exfoliate Legs

When it comes to how you exfoliate your legs, there are a number of ways to do it. All of our skincare experts share that the key is to not overdo it. While exfoliating is great to remove dry, flaky skin, too much of it can cause damage to your skin barrier. "Stick to working this in only two to three times a week," Arnold suggests. Now, let's get into some ways to exfoliate legs, shall we?

1. Use a body scrub.

A body scrub, whether it be a sugar scrub or a salt scrub, is one of the most commonly used exfoliants. Dr. Zeichner shares that these manual exfoliants use "rough particles to physically remove dead cells from the surface of the skin."

Arnold is a big fan of body scrubs, as she shares that many of them have "amazing essential oils in them that help moisturize as you buff." In order to properly use a scrub, she recommends you "start at your feet and always work towards your heart in circular motions." Afterward, you'll want to apply a moisturizer to repair the skin barrier and leave you with extra smooth skin.

2. Try a loofah or a washcloth.

Body scrubs can sometimes be too harsh, especially for those with sensitive skin types. If you want something a little less rough, using a loofah or a washcloth is always a great option. Arnold recommends these methods for everyday use as they're gentler for all skin types. Though if you want something with a bit more exfoliating power, you'll want to use an exfoliating scrub.

When using the loofah or washcloth, Dr. Zeichner shares that it's critical you use a clean one. "I recommend using a new washcloth with every shower and not reusing them," he says. "A damp washcloth sitting in the bathroom increases the likelihood of microbial contamination. Replace your loofah every few weeks and make sure it fully dries between uses." To exfoliate with it, you'll rub it in a circular motion starting at the bottom of your legs up to the top, similar to how you would with an exfoliating scrub. With a loofah or washcloth, using your go-to body wash will work just fine. No need to use a scrub with a washcloth or loofah. You'll also want to slather on a moisturizing body lotion after you've exfoliated your legs.

3. Use an exfoliating glove.

Arnold loves exfoliating gloves because they're gentle, yet a bit more powerful than a loofah or washcloth—and they're incredibly easy to use. "I absolutely always recommend exfoliating gloves to all my clients and friends," she shares. "It’s amazing to see your dead skin literally come off your body." Arnold notes "you can use it by itself, with body wash, or a body scrub. Plus, it’s reusable, making it easy to start your exfoliation routine." We couldn't agree more.

4. Opt for a chemical exfoliant.

Manual exfoliants aren't the only ones on the market, though they're the ones often used. Dr. Karhade strongly advises against using a manual exfoliant, like the options listed above, because they can cause irritation and damage to the skin barrier. "I recommend avoiding any physical methods of exfoliation, as they are too harsh," she says. "Use a gentle chemical exfoliant instead, such as an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), beta hydroxy acid (BHA), or retinol-containing product." Dr. Zeichner shares that a chemical exfoliant also allows "dead skin cells to be more easily shed" by using "hydroxy acid like glycolic acid or lactic acid to dissolve" buildup.

Chemical exfoliants can also be used less often, no more than once or twice a week, if even that. They should always be used before you shave your legs because freshly shaved legs are incredibly sensitive, and adding any sort of acid will cause unnecessary irritation.

DIY Body Scrub Recipe

For those who prefer the DIY route, we have the perfect body scrub recipe for you. This brown sugar scrub only requires three ingredients, with one of them actually being optional. We've used this scrub many times before and highly recommend it.

To make it, you'll need the following:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup carrier oil (we like coconut oil, though you can use jojoba, almond, or olive oil)
  • A few drops of essential oil (optional)

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, then rub it on your legs, working your way up. All it takes is three minutes for this scrub to leave you with the softest legs ever. You can also mix a smaller portion of the ingredients if you're hoping to just use it once.

Our 4 Favorite Leg Exfoliating Products

1. Best Loofah: PMD BEAUTY Clean Body

PMD BEAUTY Clean Body

This truly is the ultimate skincare tool to exfoliate, cleanse, and even massage your entire body. What makes it so noteworthy is the anti-bacterial and silver-infused loofah, which gently buffs away dead skin without spreading or harboring any bacteria whatsoever. You can use it on its own or with a body wash of your choice. Plus, you can skip the body scrub, as this will work great without one.

2. Best Body Scrub: FRANK BODY Original Coffee Scrub

FRANK BODY Original Coffee Scrub

Arnold recommends this tried-and-true body scrub because it's not overly oily or goopy. She notes that drier scrubs like this one "help get a better buff on the more stubborn leg skin." Not to mention, it smells so good. Why drink a cup of coffee when you can scrub some beans all over your body? Oh, and did we mention this particular scrub can reduce the appearance of cellulite, stretch marks, acne, and scarring? This product truly does it all.

3. Best Chemical Exfoliant: AMELIORATE Smoothing Body Exfoliant

AMELIORATE Smoothing Body Exfoliant

For those who struggle with bumps, rough patches, and dry spots year round, this body exfoliant is screaming your name. Featuring biodegradable bamboo granules and AHAs to slough dead skin cells, this product will leave you with smoother legs almost instantly. It's even infused with shea butter and coconut oil to keep your legs moisturized after you wash it off. Leave it on for a few minutes once or twice a week—your legs will thank you.

4. Best Exfoliating Pads: TULA SKINCARE The Instant Facial Dual-Phase Skin Reviving Treatment Pads

TULA SKINCARE The Instant Facial Dual-Phase Skin Reviving Treatment Pads

We know these are designed to be used on the face, but they work just as well on your legs. Trust us, we've used them when we need a quick exfoliating treatment. Removing dead skin cells and excess oil, these pads will get rid of any dark spots or dead skin cells to leave your legs looking radiant. They're also incredibly gentle so you don't have to worry about scrubbing your legs too roughly with them. Circular motions always do the trick.

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About the author
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Ashley Locke
Ashley is a Long Beach-based freelance writer who loves sharing beauty and skincare hacks with her fellow “lazy girls” out there. When she isn’t writing, you can find her crying while listening to The Maine or watching "The Office".
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Article Last Updated January 16, 2022 12:00 AM