Are You Over-Exfoliating?

How to know if you're going overboard—or not doing enough.

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Much like moisturizing and slathering on your daily dose of SPF, exfoliation is non-negotiable for healthy, happy-looking skin. Why? Because sloughing away excess dead skin is a surefire way to make your complexion look and feel brighter, softer, and more even-toned.

It doesn't matter what method you choose, either—whatever works best for your skin is the way to go. Chemical and physical exfoliators are both highly effective at removing dead skin buildup, and the best part is, many of them do it super-gently and with very minimal irritation. In fact, those with non-sensitive skin types shouldn't experience any residual redness at all. Albeit, this raises the inevitable question of how much is too much. 

It it possible to damage your skin by over-exfoliating? Keep scrolling to find out. 

Natural Exfoliation

The body naturally “exfoliates” through a process called desquamation, which happens daily to make room for new cells every month or so. Everyone's skin sheds at different rates, so while some might find they only need to exfoliate once a week and they're good to go, others might benefit from doing the skincare step more frequently. 

Types of Exfoliators

The two main methods of exfoliation are chemical and physical. Chemical exfoliators generally come in the form of acid-based serums or enzyme masks, while scrubs, sonic brushes, and washcloths are a few common physical exfoliators. Both techniques will get the job done; it simply depends on your skin type and the strength of exfoliation you can handle. For instance, those with sensitive, easily irritated skin might want to avoid acids and enzymes, as they tend to be harsher on fragile complexions. Ultimately, it's all about finding what works best for your skin and sticking to it (consulting a dermatologist never hurts either).

Cell Turnover Slows With Age

As we get older and our skin ages, the turnover of the epidermal layer slows down and results in skin that can appear dull and rough in texture. This means that regular exfoliation is needed in order to keep the skin looking bright and rejuvenated. 

On the flip side, you don't want to over-exfoliate, as this can create tiny cracks in the skin that leads to loss of hydration and inflammation. Experiment to find out what makes your skin happy—or better yet, consult your dermatologist first because they know your skin best. 

How Much Is Too Much?

Good question. However, unfortunately, there isn't a clear-cut answer. For instance, for some, a mild daily physical exfoliation might be exactly what they need, while for others, it's too much. What's more: Others might find their skin looks fabulous when they exfoliate just once a week, maybe twice. But some people can benefit from doing the deed more often. 

Certain chemical exfoliants can be too strong for daily use, so it's crucial to patch test first to make sure it's safe for your skin. Washcloths and sonic brushes, however, are generally gentle enough for frequent use, so long as you're working in soft circular motions and never scrubbing. 

When in doubt, ask your dermatologist or research your skin type to get a better idea of what will suit your needs.

Signs of Over-Exfoliation

When you strip the skin’s protective barrier, dehydrated, inflamed skin is the result. A few telltale signs that you're over-exfoliating include redness, tightness, excessive dryness, flaking skin, and a persistent burning sensation.

If any of the aforementioned issues occur, you should definitely decrease the frequency, strength, and type of exfoliation. 

Final Things to Consider

  • The face, neck, and chest require gentler exfoliation than other areas of the body.
  • Dry brushing, washcloths, sponges, loofahs, exfoliating, and power brushes are exfoliators, so it's best not to use them in conjunction with chemical exfoliants.
  • When using exfoliating particles, gently massage in circular motions on the skin. Do not scrub; let the formula work its magic.

Any kind of exfoliation thins the skin barrier, which can lead to moisture loss and sensitivity, so be sure to moisturize afterward and to use sunscreen since the skin will be more susceptible to sun damage.

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