Ask the Expert: Do I Really Need to Exfoliate My Skin?
Regular skin exfoliation can help give skin a radiant, glowing appearance. However, there can be too much of a good thing and that’s where things get murky. Not to mention all of the conflicting information out there about skin exfoliation; not everyone is in agreement on when, where, and how much time to dedicate to this ritual. The truth is, all skin is different and can tolerate exfoliation to varying degrees. To answer the initial question: Yes, you should try to exfoliate. But there’s more to it than a simple yes or no. Here, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman gives us the 411 on exfoliation—and how to know if you’ve gone too far.
WHAT IS EXFOLIATION?
“Exfoliation is the process of removing the oldest dead skin cells on the skin’s top outermost layer. There are two types of exfoliation: Mechanical—which involves scrubbing skin with an abrasive product like microfiber cloths, beads, a brush, sugar, or salt—and chemical—which involves the use of salicylic acid, glycolic acid, citric acid, alpha hydroxyl acids, beta hydroxyl acids, or enzymes. As we age, the rate of cellular turnover decreases, making our skin appear dull. Exfoliating helps remove the dead skin buildup on surface skin to reveal younger skin cells. It’s the single easiest way to achieve radiant and glowing skin!”
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I EXFOLIATE?
Ah, the much-debated question. The jury’s still out amongst derms when it comes to how often one should exfoliate. “How much is too much, is a very personal question,” says Engelman. “Some people can only handle exfoliating once a week, while others need to every day.” She suggests starting with once or twice a week and increasing in frequency, as tolerated. “It’s not hard to spot excessive exfoliation; you can usually tell if skin is red, flaking, or peeling.” Don’t forget to follow up your exfoliation with a gentle serum or moisturizer to keep skin hydrated and healthy.
As we age, the rate of cellular turnover decreases, making our skin appear dull. Exfoliating helps remove the dead skin buildup on surface skin to reveal younger skin cells. It’s the single easiest way to achieve radiant and glowing skin!
WHAT IF I OVER-EXFOLIATE?
“Over-exfoliating can trigger inflammation on the skin and weaken the skin’s barrier function. If the barrier function is damaged, skin can become vulnerable, more sensitive and irritated," explains Engelman.
Think you’ve gone overboard with your exfoliating? It’s possible, but don’t panic. Take a break from exfoliating for a little while until your skin calms down. Avoid using any products that may cause irritation. If you’ve exfoliated to the point of bleeding or blistering, make an appointment with your dermatologist ASAP to discuss more treatment options.