How to Exfoliate Your Legs

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 28, 2021

Exfoliation is when you remove dead skin buildup, which stimulates new cell growth. Exfoliating your legs can make them look smoother and more polished, and give them a glow. 

When exfoliating your legs, do it safely. Exfoliating too often or too hard can cause redness or even damage your skin. Consider your skin type before exfoliating. Common skin types include: 

  • Sensitive skin, which may be prone to stinging or burning after exfoliation
  • Normal skin, which is clear and not sensitive
  • Dry skin, which can be flaky, itchy, or rough

The two types of at-home exfoliation methods are known as physical and chemical exfoliation. Physical exfoliation uses a tool like a brush or sponge to scrub away the dry surface. Chemical exfoliation uses chemicals like gentle acids to dissolve dead skin. 

Use the Right Method to Exfoliate Your Legs

Choose an exfoliation method that works best for your legs. If you have dry or sensitive skin, you may want to use a chemical exfoliant and a washcloth. If you have thicker, more resilient skin, you could use a mechanical exfoliant. Don’t use either type if you easily develop dark spots on your skin after bug bites or burns. This means your skin is also more prone to dark spots from exfoliating. Don’t exfoliate broken skin, as this will only irritate it.

Types of exfoliation include: 

  • Alpha or beta hydroxy acid cleansers, which remove dead skin cells and even skin tone
  • Ultrasonic cleansing brushes, which move in a circular motion to gently exfoliate. 
  • Mechanical exfoliation, which includes in-depth treatments done periodically by a dermatologist or other skincare professional. Examples of this type are microdermabrasion, micro-needling, and dermablading. Dry brushing is a type of mechanical exfoliation you can do at home. 
  • Chemical exfoliation, which includes salicylic, glycolic, or blended acid peels. These help improve skin tone and texture. 

Before you start exfoliating, you’ll want to figure out what kind of skin type you have. You can see a dermatologist for an evaluation to decide if exfoliation is good for you.

Ways to Exfoliate Your Legs at Home

Dry brushing is a way of exfoliating your skin by using a natural-bristle bath or shower brush. You do it on dry skin, without water or any product. You can start at your ankles and work your way up your body, moving the brush upward in long, fluid strokes. 

If you have sensitive spots on your legs, avoid the area or lightly reduce the pressure you’re applying to the brush. Don’t go over the same area too many times. This can cause irritation or bleeding. 

You can do dry brushing right before your shower. That way you can wash off the dead skin cells after you're done. Once you’re out of the shower, be sure to moisturize.

If you’re using a scrub or chemical exfoliator, gently use small circular motions to apply the product. Continue doing this for 30 seconds. Then rinse off the product with lukewarm water. 

Exfoliate Your Legs Gently

When exfoliating your legs, be gentle on your skin.

If you use a brush or sponge, use short and light strokes on your skin. Don’t exfoliate areas where you have open cuts or wounds, or if you have sunburn. This can further irritate your skin and cause discomfort. 

Always Moisturize After Exfoliation

Once you’re done exfoliating your legs, follow up by moisturizing them. Physical exfoliation can cause immediate shedding of the outer layer of your skin. This speeds up water loss in your skin. 

Ingredients used in lotions and creams help your outer layer of skin absorb water better and smooth the skin. Look for a product that suits your skin. Your skin type, age, and any skin conditions like eczema determine what kind of moisturizer you should use. 

Keep Your Skin on a Schedule

It’s not a good idea to exfoliate your legs every day. How often you exfoliate also depends on your skin type and what method you use to exfoliate your skin. If you exfoliate harshly, your skin needs more time to recover. 

Don’t over-exfoliate, which could lead to red, irritated skin. Exfoliation should make your legs feel smooth and soft, not raw and scratched.

Show Sources


American Academy of Dermatology Association: “HOW TO SAFELY EXFOLIATE AT HOME.”

Cleveland Clinic: “5 Ways to Exfoliate Your Skin Without Irritation.”

Mayo Clinic: “Moisturizers: Options for softer skin.”

Plastic Reconstructive Surgery Global Open: “Skincare Bootcamp: The Evolving Role of Skincare.”

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info