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

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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)

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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

For example, retinol and other exfoliating ingredients—salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and benzoyl peroxide—should not be used at the same time because the skin can get really dry. Rachel Jacoby Zoldan, SELF, "The 9 Best Skin-Care Tips I’ve Learned in 10 Years of Being a Beauty Editor," 13 July 2018 There are a lot of amazing acids to use at home once a week or every two weeks to exfoliate the skin. Vogue, "8 Skin-Care Products Every Woman Should Use Before She Turns 30," 10 July 2018 Prism is a featherlight, essence-like elixir, made with all-natural fruit acids (malic acid from apple, salicylic acid from willow bark, glycolic acid from bilberry, vitamin C from kakadu plum, and orange peel) to gently exfoliate the skin. Sarah Kinonen, Allure, "Herbivore Botanicals' New Prism Exfoliating Glow Potion Is the Prettiest Serum of the Summer," 12 July 2018 In fall the leaves turn red-orange and Tuscarora also has exfoliating bark. Calvin Finch, San Antonio Express-News, "There’s a lot to love about crape myrtles," 6 July 2018 Getty ImagesHelena Sprengers / EyeEm Fish pedicures may be a fun way to exfoliate rough heels, but experts are now warning that the procedure may pose an infection risk. Temi Adebowale, Marie Claire, "A Woman's Toenails Fell Off After a Fish Pedicure," 3 July 2018 Try: Neutrogena Blackhead Eliminating Cleanser/Mask, an acne-fighting formula, which contains salicylic acid to gently exfoliate skin’s surface to prevent — and help heal — blackheads and ingrown hairs. Nicole Catanese, Cosmopolitan, "The 8 Most Annoying Skin Problems Every Girl Deals With," 24 Aug. 2017 While most of us rely on various lotions and potions to exfoliate and brighten skin post-cleansing, Chambers instead reaches for an all-natural—like really natural—product. Harper's Bazaar Staff, Harper's BAZAAR, "Elizabeth Chambers Hammer's Nighttime Skin Routine Includes a Slice of Fresh Papaya," 10 July 2018 ExfoliKate Cleanser Daily Foaming Wash To buy: $45 (originally $60); katesomerville.com Pair your brand-new ExfoliKate treatment with an exfoliating daily cleanser that helps to slough away dead skin cells with each (gentle!) wash. Kathleen Mulpeter, Health.com, "Kate Somerville Is Having a HUGE Sale Right Now—Here's What We're Buying," 27 Apr. 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.

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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

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Statistics for exfoliate

Last Updated

20 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for exfoliate

The first known use of exfoliate was in 1612

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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

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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).


to express warning or disapproval

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