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Every natural exfoliation routine needs to have this beauty tool in rotation.

We all know we should exfoliate regularly for glowing, smooth skin, but sometimes you just don’t have time to do it.

Enter cotton pads. The right kind.

Avoid the most inexpensive, last-minute purchases at the drugstore, which can often be too thin (thus ineffective), abrasive (damaging and harsh for your skin), or thick (wastes precious product).

Instead opt for unbleached, layered, and soft glory — factors that often accompany Asian-branded cotton pads, or squares. From cult faves like Shiseido to Muji, these perfect cotton pads are:

  • textured enough to effectively remove surface skin cells
  • thick and layered enough to act as DIY facial masks
  • gentle enough for removing makeup when soaked with micellar water

  1. Wash your face like you normally would.
  2. Take a soft cotton pad and soak it in your regular toner (make sure it’s alcohol-free).
  3. Swipe it gently with minimal pressure over your face. The pad shouldn’t be tugging at your skin.
  4. Spend a little longer on areas where you often get breakouts and blackheads, rubbing in a circular motion.
  5. Toss the cotton pad when the pad starts to fluff up and move on to the rest of your routine.

Sometimes a simple soap and water routine isn’t enough to tackle all nitty-gritty grime. That’s where the kick-ass combo of toner and cotton pad comes in to reinforce pristine skin.

Plus, the satisfaction of knowing your skin is truly clean is a little joy like no other.

Remember: Results won’t happen overnight, but over time you’ll find that your serums will sink in more easily, your dull spots will disappear, and your skin tone will be more even and smooth.

If your skin starts to feel irritated or tight, you may have over-exfoliated. If this happens, try adjusting how often you exfoliate with other products, how long you exfoliate, and the pressure you use to let your skin recover.

Michelle explains the science behind beauty products at Lab Muffin Beauty Science. She has a PhD in synthetic medicinal chemistry. You can follow her for science-based beauty tips on Instagram and Facebook.