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 few. But 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 overdoing it. Yes, over-exfoliating your skin is a thing, and here’s how to figure out if you’re unknowingly taking part.
Signs of Over-Exfoliated Skin
According to board-certified dermatologist, 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 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’ll need to adjust your routine accordingly.
STEP 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.
STEP 2: Switch to Gentler Formulas
The exfoliators you loved before you over-exfoliate 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.
STEP 3: Address Skin Irritation and Chafing
How to Avoid Over-Exfoliating
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. Try these five steps to get your exfoliating regimen back on track.
STEP 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.
STEP 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.
STEP 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.
STEP 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 for the body like the Fur Silk Scrub, 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.
STEP 5: Always Follow With Moisturizer or Oil
This tip may not prevent over exfoliation, but it will keep your skin looking its best after exfoliating. Because exfoliation can be drying, it’s a must to apply moisturizer afterward. Bonus if you use a moisturizer with SPF during the day.