ex·​fo·​li·​ate | \ (ˌ)eks-ˈfō-lē-ˌāt \
exfoliated; exfoliating

Definition of exfoliate

transitive verb

1 : to cast off in scales, laminae, or splinters
2 : to remove the surface of in scales or laminae
3 : to spread or extend by or as if by opening out leaves

intransitive verb

1 : to split into or give off scales, laminae, or body cells
2 : to come off in thin layers or scales
3 : to grow by or as if by producing or unfolding leaves

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from exfoliate

exfoliation \ (ˌ)eks-​ˌfō-​lē-​ˈā-​shən \ noun
exfoliative \ eks-​ˈfō-​lē-​ˌā-​tiv \ adjective

Synonyms for exfoliate


molt, shed, slip, slough (also sluff)

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of exfoliate in a Sentence

a soap that promises to help me exfoliate all that dry, flaky skin I've apparently been carrying around

Recent Examples on the Web

And no need to exfoliate daily — a few times a week is just fine. 3. Mona Gohara, Good Housekeeping, "6 Reasons Why Your Skin Is Blotchy — And How to Fix It," 13 Dec. 2018 Book the Ultimate Coconut Mango Pedicure, which harnesses the natural benefits of organic Hawaiian herbs and coconut mango butter; or a massage using Hawaiian sea salt to exfoliate for that perfect Maui glow. Todd Plummer, Harper's BAZAAR, "Why Maui Needs To Be Your Next Girls Trip," 19 Nov. 2018 My skin always comes alive after exfoliating and moisturizing. Lindsay Schallon, Glamour, "Charlize Theron on the Power of Being a Woman," 28 Nov. 2018 Retinol and colloidal oatmeal deliver a brighter, more even skin tone, and jasmine helps calm and exfoliate skin. Alison Caporimo, Seventeen, "It's Official: You Should Always Shower At Night, Not in the Morning," 3 Oct. 2018 For the rare person who would like to extend her morning routine, this technique exfoliates skin. Lauren Ingram, WSJ, "Your A-to-Z Guide to Skin Care Today," 9 Aug. 2018 There is salicylic acid & LHA to exfoliate and decongest pores. Micaela English, Town & Country, "The 4-Step Skin Care Plan I Am Hooked On For Life," 18 Mar. 2015 Try a Gentle Scrub Created with ultrafine jojoba beads and exfoliating glycolic acid, this new face and body scrub sloughs off dead cells without overdrying and controls skin’s oil production. Jenna Rennert, Vogue, "6 Ways to Get Rid of Acne for Good This Summer," 8 July 2018 Use a good facial scrub or exfoliating acid—sparingly. Lauren Valenti, Marie Claire, "The 8 Worst Things You Can Do to Your Skin," 30 Jan. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'exfoliate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of exfoliate

1612, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for exfoliate

Late Latin exfoliatus, past participle of exfoliare to strip of leaves, from Latin ex- + folium leaf — more at blade

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about exfoliate

Statistics for exfoliate

Last Updated

13 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for exfoliate

The first known use of exfoliate was in 1612

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for exfoliate


ex·​fo·​li·​ate | \ -ˈfō-lē-ˌāt \
exfoliated; exfoliating

Medical Definition of exfoliate

transitive verb

1 : to cast off in scales or laminae
2 : to remove the surface of in scales or laminae
3 : to shed (teeth) by exfoliation

intransitive verb

1 : to split into or give off scales, laminae, or body cells
2 : to come off in thin layers or scales : scale off

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on exfoliate

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with exfoliate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for exfoliate

Britannica English: Translation of exfoliate for Arabic Speakers

Comments on exfoliate

What made you want to look up exfoliate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


important, real, or meaningful

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three-bears-two-of-them-look-like-theyre-whispering-to-a-third-bear-who-looks-chuffed-to-be-the-center-of-attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!