It's no secret that exfoliating is key in any skincare routine for healthy and glowing skin, but many of us can get carried away with our skincare routines by over-exfoliating in an effort to keep skin looking healthy and younger; unfortunately, too much of a good thing can lead to skin damage and premature aging.
When it comes to skin care, there can be a fine line between healing and harming; oftentimes, the same professional skincare treatments recommended for achieving healthier-looking skin can have side effects if taken too far.
Among those treatments is exfoliation — an integral part of any good skincare routine that we often don't give enough credit to.
Exfoliation aids in the process of skin cell turnover by sloughing away dead skin cell buildup, which leaves the complexion refreshed, clear, glowing, and healthy; but with a myriad of skincare products on the market promoting exfoliation, it's easy to fall into the trap and take things too far.
What if we told you that more isn't always better when caring for your skin? Contrary to popular belief, over-exfoliating can have the opposite effect; instead of achieving those coveted results, too much could create counterintuitive results, leading to serious side effects that are difficult or impossible to reverse.
When it comes to exfoliating, remember that the goal is not necessarily to provide a squeaky-clean feeling but rather clear away dead skin cells and dirt that builds up on the surface of our skin.
Over-exfoliation is a term often used in the skincare world, but why is it such a big no-no? We'll discuss over-exfoliation more in-depth so that you can make smarter decisions when caring for your to maintain healthy skin.
Keep on reading to find out why exfoliating less (not more) is key for getting healthier-looking skin.
What is over-exfoliation?
Over-exfoliation is a skincare term used to describe excessive exfoliation — it's the process of exfoliating your skin too frequently — it occurs when the skin has been exposed to more physical or chemical exfoliants than it can tolerate.
What causes over-exfoliation?
The most common causes of over-exfoliating are:
- Exfoliating your skin too often.
- Using the wrong types of exfoliant for your skin type.
- Incorrect usage and improper application of physical or chemical exfoliants.
- Overdoing it when scrubbing and/or buffing your skin.
- Not giving your skin enough time to recover between exfoliation sessions.
Why is over-exfoliation a skin care no-no?
As we age, our skin's natural cell turnover rate slows down, making it more difficult to shed the dead skin cells that build up on the surface of our skin. In an attempt to speed up the life cycle of our skin cells, many of us over-exfoliate in an effort to get rid of the dead skin cell buildup faster; over-exfoliation can have an opposite effect than the one desired, creating counterintuitive results that lead to serious skin-related side effects.
Over-exfoliating causes micro-tears in the skin and disrupts and weakens your skin's natural barrier function by stripping away essential oils and moisture from your skin, leaving it prone to attack from environmental aggressors, pollutants, and irritants — such as sun exposure, wind, and temperature changes — all of which can accelerate the aging process and cause premature aging.
Furthermore, a weakened skin barrier causes Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL) which leads to dehydration — which in an attempt to counter dehydrated skin, your sebaceous glands will produce excess sebum, resulting in clogged pores and acne breakouts — dryness, redness, flakiness, irritation, inflammation, and sensitivity, leaving the skin vulnerable to further damage.
It's important to remember that moderation is key when it comes to exfoliating, as too much can be detrimental not just to your skin health but also overall well-being. To avoid over-exfoliation and keep your skin looking healthy and radiant, it's important to take the right steps in incorporating exfoliation into your skincare routine; here are some of the best tips to exfoliate properly to avoid over-exfoliation and steps to reverse the damage caused by exfoliation in case you accidentally end up over-exfoliating your skin.
Signs Of Over-Exfoliation
The signs of over-exfoliation include:
- Disrupted skin cycle: Exfoliating too often disrupts the natural skin cycle — which is the process of healthy skin cell turnover — resulting in the skin's inability to regenerate itself as fast as it would normally, leading to visible signs of premature aging.
- Weakened skin barrier function: Over-exfoliation weakens the skin barrier function, which is responsible for protecting your skin from environmental aggressors, pollutants, and irritants which also lead to visible signs of premature aging.
- Redness, irritation, itchiness, and inflammation: The skin becomes red, irritated, itchy, and inflamed due to micro-tears and a weakened skin barrier function caused by over-exfoliation, which may take days or even weeks for your complexion to return to its normal state.
- Dryness, tightness, flakiness, and sensitivity: Over-exfoliating strips away essential oils and moisture from your skin, causing it to become leading to dryness, tightness, flakiness, and sensitivity which exacerbates premature aging.
- Acne breakouts: Over-exfoliation causes your sebaceous glands to produce too much sebum to overcompensate for the lack of moisture, leading to clogged pores and acne breakouts.
- Increased risk of skin conditions: Over-exfoliation weakens the skin's natural defense mechanisms, making it more vulnerable to developing skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea.
How often should you exfoliate?
The frequency of how often you should exfoliate depends on your individual skin needs because our skin has different needs at different times; depending on factors such as age, climate, and lifestyle, the amount of exfoliation required can vary significantly from person to person.
Although there is no one size fits all approach to exfoliation, it's recommended that you exfoliate a maximum of once to twice per week. It's important to identify what your skin needs, listen to your skin, and adjust the frequency of your exfoliation routine accordingly — for example, if you have oily or acne-prone skin, you may opt for twice-weekly exfoliation, while those with dry or sensitive skin can stick to once every two weeks.
Be mindful of how often you exfoliate, the type of exfoliant you use, and how it's applied and used; listen to your skin; if it feels like any of the above signs of over-exfoliation after an exfoliation session, give your skin a break for a couple of days and let your skin recover before reintroducing any further exfoliation.
If in doubt, speak to a professional board-certified dermatologist for personalized advice on how to best look after your skin.
Why it's important to give your skin time to recover?
Your skin needs time to recover and rebuild itself; this recovery period helps restore the water-lipid barrier — a thin film on your skin's surface that locks in moisture while preventing external aggressors from entering — which is essential for maintaining a healthy skin barrier function, but the time for recovery can take anywhere from a day or two up to several weeks depending on the damage caused.
The effects of over-exfoliation can be cumulative, so it's best to practice caution and patience when caring for your skin to avoid any long-term damage or premature aging.
If you experience any signs of over-exfoliation, it's best to stop immediately and consult with a professional board-certified dermatologist, esthetician or skincare specialist to ensure that your skin is on the right path to recovery.
Exfoliation is a necessary part of any good skincare routine which is why — but keep in mind that moderation is key when it comes to exfoliating; exercise caution when incorporating exfoliation into your skincare routine — here are 6 of the best exfoliation tips to make the most of your exfoliation routine — and adjust the frequency according to your individual skin needs; too much can be just as bad as not enough.
When done correctly, exfoliation can leave your skin feeling soft, smooth, and healthy. So it's important to know how often you should exfoliate, what products are best suited for your skin type, and how to properly incorporate and use exfoliants as part of your skincare regime safely — so that you can make smarter decisions when caring for your skin.