How to Know if You Over-Exfoliated Your Skin
Exfoliating your skin and sloughing away dead skin cells from its surface can offer a plethora of positive skin results, like reducing dullness and improving skin texture to name just a couple. However, exfoliating more frequently or opting to use harsher exfoliators doesn’t always equal brighter, smoother-looking skin. In actuality, by attempting to maximize the benefits of exfoliating, you may end up over doing it. Yes, over-exfoliating your skin is a thing. To discover key signs of over-exfoliated skin and how to take care of your complexion after the fact, keep reading.
Signs of Over-Exfoliated Skin
Think you may have over exfoliated your skin? According to ethnic skin expert, founder of Kwan Dermatology, and Skincare.com consultant Dr. William Kwan, you can spot over-exfoliated skin because it looks irritated, red, and chafed. If your skin is looking worse for wear after exfoliating—or after introducing a new chemical or physical exfoliator to your regimen—it’s likely that over-exfoliating is the culprit.
How to Take Care of Over-Exfoliated Skin
If you’ve taken a look at your complexion and think your skin is over-exfoliated, you shouldn’t continue as is. You’ll need to adjust your routine accordingly.
1. Take a break from exfoliating. First things first, no more exfoliation—at least for now. Dr. Kwan suggests giving your skin a break from exfoliation to allow it time to recover. If you keep going, it’s probable that your skin will only become increasingly irritated.
2. Switch to gentler formulas. The exfoliators you loved before you over-exfoliated your skin may not be what’s best for your complexion right now. Even if your skin can normally handle more potent products, over-exfoliated skin may not be able to. Play it safe and stick to Dr. Kwan’s recommendation, which is to use only gentle cleansers and moisturizers while your skin recovers.
3. Address skin irritation and chafing. To help comfort over-exfoliated skin, try using a soothing balm like the La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 or a protective ointment, like the CeraVe Healing Ointment.
How to Avoid Over-Exfoliating Your Skin
After you’ve properly taken care of your skin and helped to reduce visible signs of irritation caused by over-exfoliating, you can slowly start reintroducing exfoliation to your skin care routine. Here’s how to exfoliate without taking two steps back:
1. Weigh your options. There’s more than one way to exfoliate, and the option you choose could impact how your skin reacts. Selecting a product that isn’t right for your skin type is all the more likely to result in over-exfoliation or skin irritation. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, those with oily skin may be better suited to stronger physical exfoliation, while those with dry, sensitive, dark spot- or acne-prone skin may prefer a mild chemical exfoliator.
2. Consider the rest of your routine. It’s possible that the products you’re already using have made your skin more sensitive to exfoliation. Take an inventory of your routine before deciding to exfoliate. You may need to reconsider your plans to exfoliate if your routine contains prescription retinoid creams or products formulated with retinol or benzoyl peroxide.
3. Find the right frequency. The most important thing you can do when trying to avoid over-exfoliating your skin is to be cautious with how often you exfoliate. Makes sense, right? Exfoliating more frequently won’t necessarily make your exfoliator of choice work better, it may just damage your skin. How often you exfoliate should depend on your skin type and the exfoliation method selected; the more aggressive the method, the less often you’ll need to exfoliate.
To determine what’s right for you, start slow. Dr. Kwan typically recommends exfoliating only once a week. If you think your skin can handle more, gradually increase the frequency, being sure to look out for signs of irritation or over-exfoliation.
4. Be gentle during application and removal. How you apply (and remove) your exfoliator matters. Whether you’re using a face scrub or an AHA or BHA, be sure to apply the product gently in small, circular motions. For a physical exfoliator, the AAD says to only massage it into your skin for about 30 seconds. Then, rinse off with lukewarm water. Turn the temperature too high and you risk drying out your skin.
5. Always follow with moisturizer. This tip may not prevent over exfoliation, but it will keep your skin look it’s best after exfoliating. Since exfoliation can be drying, it’s a must to apply moisturizer afterwards. Bonus if you use a moisturizer with SPF.