In an attempt to achieve healthier-looking skin, it can be tempting to fall into the over-exfoliating trap, which has severe consequences on the skin; here are 10 steps to help you exfoliate properly to avoid over-exfoliating your skin.
The skin is our body's largest organ and one of the most important in terms of protecting us from harm. Not only that, but having healthy skin is a key element of feeling confident and looking your best.
While exfoliation is a great way to remove dead skin cells and promote cell regeneration, it can be easy to over-exfoliate when done incorrectly and cause more harm than good; therefore, looking after it is essential.
To avoid over-exfoliation in this comprehensive guide, we'll cover all the key elements you need to know about avoiding over-exfoliation: the signs and symptoms to keep an eye out for to determine if you need to adjust your exfoliation habits, the steps so that you know exactly what adjustments to make when it comes to maintaining a healthy exfoliation routine; insights on the different types of exfoliants and tools to use for your skin type; and tips and tricks on how to exfoliate correctly and safely so that you can achieve healthy skin once again.
How can you tell if you've been over-exfoliating? Signs and Symptoms Of Over-Exfoliation
The most common signs and symptoms of over-exfoliation to look out for when determining whether or not you may be at risk of over-exfoliating are:
- Redness, irritation, itchiness, inflammation, and burning or stinging sensations.
- Dryness, tightness, flakiness, and sensitivity.
- Acne breakouts or acne flare-ups.
- Skin texture changes, such as rough patches or bumps.
- Erosion of the skin's protective barrier and loss of moisture.
- Fine lines and wrinkles due to premature aging.
- In extreme cases, it can even lead to scarring.
If these symptoms persist for several days without showing signs of improvement, it might be a sign that your skin needs more time to recover.
On the other hand, if you are unsure whether the exfoliant is to blame, it's best to discontinue use of the product and look for alternative options that may be more suitable for your skin type.
How to avoid over-exfoliation? 10 Steps To Exfoliate Properly
To help avoid any mishaps before any significant event, here are 10 steps to help you exfoliate properly so that you know exactly what adjustments to make when it comes to maintaining a healthy exfoliation routine:
1. Determine your skin type.
Before you start exfoliating, it's key to determine your skin type because everyone's skin is different; each has different needs and requires a specific type of care, which is essential to approach exfoliation properly.
For instance, normal, dry, and sensitive skin types need to use gentler exfoliants and exfoliate less frequently, while combination, oily, and acne-prone skin types tolerate harsher exfoliants and more aggressive exfoliation techniques.
Knowing your skin type is essential to choose the right exfoliating method and product to determine what works best for you.
2. Select the right exfoliant for your skin type.
Once you've determined your skin type, it's time to find and select the right exfoliant designed for your skin type and needs.
There are two main types of exfoliants:
- Physical exfoliants — such as beads, seeds, and granules scrubs — physically remove dead skin cells from the surface of your skin.
- Chemical exfoliants — such as Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs), Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs), and Poly Hydroxy Acids (PHAs) — chemically dissolve the dead skin cells from the surface of your skin.
Both types of exfoliants are effective, but it's essential to choose the right one for your skin type and needs; here's a quick guide on the different types of exfoliation.
3. Read the label before use and do a patch test.
Read the label of any skincare product you plan on using to ensure you're using the product according to its instructions and that its ingredients are safe for your skin.
If in doubt, do a patch test by applying a small amount of the product onto an inconspicuous area — such as behind your ear or on the underside of your arm — and keep an eye out for any signs and symptoms of irritation and potential reactions or allergies.
4. Cleanse your skin and remove all makeup first.
Always cleanse your skin first before exfoliating to remove excess dead skin cells and sebum and all traces of dirt, makeup, and pollution that could have accumulated throughout the day to allow for deeper penetration of the skincare products used afterward so that they are more effective.
5. Exfoliate on a schedule.
The key to a successful and healthy exfoliation routine lies in moderation, finding the perfect balance between not enough and too much; too little exfoliation and you won't see any results, but too much can lead to over-exfoliation.
Exfoliating too frequently can cause over-exfoliation, so it's important to establish a schedule that works for your skin type and needs; once to twice a week is usually enough.
That being said, it can be hard to know how much is too much exfoliation — or if you're even over-exfoliating at all — so start slow to find the right balance for your skin type.
6. Use gentle exfoliation techniques.
In the case of physical exfoliants, use gentle exfoliation techniques, which means being conservative with the amount of pressure you apply when massaging the product into your skin; stay away from overly aggressive techniques — such as rubbing or scrubbing too hard — and instead use light and circular motions — which are more than enough — to let the exfoliants do their job.
Note: Pay attention to any particularly sensitive areas — such as around your eyes or on your lips — because certain exfoliants can be too harsh for these areas, so use a milder product, apply an even gentler pressure, or avoid them altogether.
7. Start with a lower concentration and gradually increase.
In the case of chemical exfoliants, start by using a lower concentration first — such as 5% — and gradually increase the strength over time if needed; this will help you determine whether your skin can tolerate frequent exfoliation without causing skin damage and help your skin adjust appropriately to the product to prevent potential reactions.
Use one type of chemical exfoliant at a time and monitor your skin for potential reactions or allergies; many exfoliants are very concentrated and can be too strong for those with sensitive skin types, so use your judgment and pay attention to how your skin responds, then adjust accordingly.
That being said, if you find that your skin is reacting negatively to the product, find one with a lower concentration or switch to a gentler product, but if you experience signs of potential reaction, discontinue use immediately and consult with a board-certified dermatologist, esthetician or skincare professional; especially if the reaction is severe.
8. Don't exceed the recommended time.
Timing is everything; each chemical exfoliant — depending on its ingredients — has a set amount of time it should be used on the skin; if you leave an exfoliant on for too long, it can lead to over-exfoliated skin — which is why it's essential to follow directions closely and carefully.
Note: The higher the concentration of the chemical exfoliant, the shorter amount of time it should be left on the skin because they are more potent and harsher, which means the longer it's left on the skin, the more it requires caution; so pay attention to the recommended time for each product and take extra care when using higher concentrations.
9. Monitor your skin's reaction and adjust your routine if needed.
Every person's skin is different, so monitoring your skin's reaction to your exfoliation routine is essential to determine whether or not it's working for you.
Listen to what your skin is telling you, and depending on how your skin responds, adjust your routine accordingly if you experience signs of over-exfoliation; reduce the intensity and/or frequency of your exfoliation routine and switch to gentler products until your skin has time to recover and return to its normal state.
No two skins are the same, and your exfoliation routine should be tailored to your skin's needs, so if you find that a specific skincare product or technique is not working for you — try something else.
If your skin isn't responding well to physical exfoliants, switch to chemical exfoliants and vice versa; there are many types and methods of exfoliation available, so experiment until you find a combination that works best for your skin type and needs.
10. Follow up with your regular skincare routine.
Following up with your regular skincare routine of hydrating, moisturizing, and protecting to maintain the healthy balance of your skin.
Post-exfoliation, your protective barrier is weakened, hence, your skin is more sensitive and vulnerable than usual. Therefore, once you've finished exfoliating, to help your skin recover and prevent further discomfort from the process and replenish and reinforce its protective barrier, hydrate and moisturize to lock in the hydration and create a barrier against environmental aggressors and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every day — even when it's cloudy outside — to protect your skin from UV damage and keep it healthy.
Exfoliation should be part of a healthy skincare routine, not the only step; without proper hydration, moisture, and protection, even the best exfoliation routine can do more harm than good; here are 6 of the best exfoliation tips to make the most of your exfoliation routine.
Although exfoliation is an important step in any skincare routine, it's essential to be aware of the risks and take preventive measures to avoid over-exfoliating; in case you accidentally end up over-exfoliating your skin, here are 7 steps to reverse the damage caused by over-exfoliation.
By following the steps outlined above, you can ensure that your exfoliation routine works for you and your skin; you can keep your skin looking its best with the right approach to exfoliating and a tailored skincare routine.