Are you worried about the damage caused by over-exfoliation? With these 7 steps, you can reverse the damage caused by over-exfoliation and restore your skin to its healthy state.
While exfoliation is an important part of a healthy skincare routine, consistency is the key to healthy skin.
However, too much exfoliation can strip away the skin's protective barrier and cause skin damage, resulting in a disrupted skin cycle, weakened skin barrier function, redness, irritation, itchiness, inflammation, dryness, tightness, flakiness, sensitivity, acne breakouts and increased risk of skin conditions.
If you have over-exfoliated your skin, here are 7 steps to help reverse the damage caused by over-exfoliation.
Can skin recover from over-exfoliation?
Yes, skin can recover from over-exfoliation. However, it's essential to understand what caused the over-exfoliation in the first place — here are the most common causes — to take the steps and make the changes in your skincare routine to prevent it from happening again. Once you identify the cause, you can adjust your skincare routine accordingly and focus on repairing the skin.
A general rule of thumb is to stop exfoliating and discontinue any exfoliating treatments and let the skin rest for at least four weeks to allow the skin to heal before reintroducing any forms of exfoliation again.
Give your skin time and patience, but if you notice any severe reaction — such as prolonged redness, irritation or inflammation, burning sensations, or that the skin is not recovering after several weeks — it's best to visit a board-certified dermatologist, esthetician, or skincare professional for further analysis and offer the right advice.
How long does it take to recover from over-exfoliation?
The recovery time from over-exfoliation depends on the severity of the damage, but it can take anywhere from four weeks — which is the time it takes for the skin to complete its natural skin cycle — to several months for the skin to recover from over-exfoliation fully; for mild cases, it can take a few days, but for more severe cases it can take up to several months.
Once your skin has healed, gradually reintroducing exfoliation into your skincare routine is essential — just make sure it's done in moderation, which is key when it comes to exfoliating. If you are still worried about over-exfoliating your skin, it's best to seek advice from a board-certified dermatologist, esthetician, or skin care professional to get medical advice on how to proceed.
7 Steps To Reverse Damage Caused by Over-Exfoliation
Here are 7 steps to help reverse the damage caused by over-exfoliation:
1. Know the signs and symptoms of over-exfoliation.
The first step to reversing the damage caused by over-exfoliation is to familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms — here are the most common causes — to recognize them so you can take immediate action if needed.
2. Stop and take a break from all forms of exfoliation.
Once you have identified the signs and symptoms, stop and take a break from all forms of exfoliation — from physical to chemical exfoliants — for at least four weeks before reintroducing any forms of exfoliation again to give your skin time to recover and repair itself to its healthy state without any further irritation from exfoliants or other skincare products.
3. Hydrate and moisturize your skin.
Over-exfoliation strips away essential oils and moisture from your skin, which disrupts and weakens your skin's natural barrier function and causes Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL), leaving it prone to dehydration, dryness, and attacks from environmental aggressors, pollutants, and irritants.
Hydration and moisture are vital to helping repair and restore your skin's natural barrier function — here are the other 8 best ways to repair your skin's moisture barrier — which is essential for healthy skin.
A hydrator works to attract water molecules into the skin which helps maintain hydration levels high, while a moisturizer works to lock in the moisture from evaporating and prevent dehydration — here's more information on the differences and importance between hydrators and moisturizers.
Make sure you use skincare products specifically designed for your skin type — read labels carefully before purchase — and that are formulated with ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and fatty acids, which help replenish the skin's natural barrier function; apply both hydrator and moisturizer twice a day — in the morning and at night — to ensure your skin stays hydrated and retains moisture throughout the day.
4. Avoid harsh ingredients.
Avoid harsh ingredients in your skincare products; common examples of harsh ingredients include alcohol, fragrances, exfoliating particles — like walnut shells or apricot kernels, acids — like Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs), and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs), strong surfactants — like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), and retinol (Vitamin A) for the time being, as these can further aggravate and damage your skin.
Instead, opt for gentle, calming, and soothing formulations such as creams or oils with actives such as aloe vera, chamomile, lavender oil, and green tea that are non-comedogenic — meaning they won't clog your pores — and are designed to provide barrier-repairing hydration to help reverse the damage caused by over-exfoliation.
5. Gradually reintroduce exfoliation into your skincare routine.
Once your skin has healed and the signs and symptoms of over-exfoliation have subsided, it is time to gradually reintroduce exfoliation into your skincare routine.
Start with gentle skincare products and work your way up to stronger ones, if desired; physical exfoliants are more abrasive and should be used sparingly — once a week maximum — while chemical exfoliants may be used up to once or twice per week, depending on your skin type.
That being said, if you decide to use chemical exfoliants, start with a low percentage of concentration of gentle chemical exfoliants such as lactic acid, glycolic acid, mandelic acid — or even enzymes like papaya, pumpkin, or pineapple ones — and gradually either increase the frequency of use or percentage of concentration.
But, if you decide to use physical exfoliants, use only very gentle ones, like fruit scrubs that contain small particles, Konjac sponges, or an exfoliating cloth to remove any dead skin cells that may be lingering on your skin's surface — less is more when it comes to physical exfoliation if you have sensitive skin — and refrain from using any large scrubbing particles — such as walnut shells or apricot kernels — that are too abrasive that will further irritate and damage your skin; gently massage it onto wet skin in circular motions on the areas you wish to exfoliate, but avoid any scrubbing or harsh movements that can cause micro-tears and inflammation.
It's also essential to use proper techniques when exfoliating; do not scrub too hard, apply too much pressure, or leave the product on for longer than recommended; doing so can cause further damage to your skin and lead to over-exfoliation again.
Always make sure you patch-test any skincare products before use, as sensitivities can arise even with the mildest formulations. Pay attention to your skin's response and effects from different products and adjust accordingly; take breaks between treatments if needed, and if any signs and symptoms reappear, immediately stop the treatment until those signs and symptoms subside.
6. Wear sunscreen every day.
UV rays are a major contributing factor to skin cancer and premature aging, so the importance of wearing sunscreen cannot be stressed enough. That being said, over-exfoliation causes your skin to be more sensitive and vulnerable than usual, leaving it prone to further damage from the sun's UVA and UVB rays if left unprotected.
Not only that, but sun exposure causes your skin to lose its natural water content because it breaks down hyaluronic acid found in your skin, which leads to dehydration, dryness, and tightness along with dead skin cell build-up, which makes it look congested and dull; all of which further accelerate the aging process.
Therefore, it is essential to wear sunscreen every day; look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher — we've compiled a list of the best sunscreens on the market — to best protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
The sun's rays can penetrate through windows and car windshields as well, so don't forget to wear sunscreen when indoors, too, and if you are going out during peak hours — between 10 am and 4 pm — stay in the shade as much as possible when outside and avoid direct sunlight or, if possible, altogether because, although sunscreen can offer protection, it can't completely block out the UV rays.
Sunscreen should be applied to all exposed areas of your body at least 30 minutes before going outdoors and reapplied every two hours throughout the day — more often if you are swimming or sweating profusely — to make sure that the SPF remains effective and provides adequate protection against ultraviolet radiation.
Wearing sun-protective clothing — such as wide-brim hats, sunglasses, long sleeves shirts, and pants — with a high UPF for added protection whenever outdoors will further protect your skin from the sun's rays.
Research indicates that it takes approximately eight minutes for sunscreen to dry completely and withstand contact with clothing; this applies to all sunscreens. However, some sunscreens may require longer drying times depending on their specific ingredients and formulas.
7. Listen to your skin, and adjust accordingly.
Over-exfoliation is a common mistake that can be easily reversed with the right approach — here are 10 steps to exfoliate properly and 6 of the best exfoliation tips to make the most of your exfoliation routine— but it's also important to remember that everyone's skin responds differently to different skincare products; skincare is highly personal, and what works for someone else may not work for you.
It is, therefore, essential that you listen to your body and take note of the effects that certain skincare products have on it — such as how your skin feels after any treatments or if you experience any adverse reactions — so that you can adjust accordingly; be mindful of the signs and symptoms of over-exfoliation, and if any of them appear, immediately adjust or stop the treatment as soon as possible.
If you've followed all of the above steps but are still experiencing signs and symptoms of over-exfoliation, it is best that you visit a board-certified dermatologist or skincare professional for medical advice on how to move forward and recommend the best course of action.
The key to healthy skin is having a consistent and effective skincare routine that works for YOUR unique skin type — so take your time, do your research, and always listen to what your skin is telling you.