Dangers Of Over Exfoliated Skin

By Minji

  • Exfoliation is a key component to any solid skincare routine, but people tend to overdo it which can lead to more harm than good 
  • Instead of seeing how much exfoliation your skin can "tolerate," consider doing less and see what feels right
  • Personally, I've found 1-2 times a week works best

As with fashion, there are hot items that become pretty trendy within the world of skincare too.  Right now, it seems like exfoliation is having its moment.  Every where I turn, there’s a new exfoliating miracle product that’s supposed to be amazing or a new way you should be exfoliating.  Starting from cleansing brushes to scrubs to enzyme or chemical peels, exfoliation is clearly having its moment.

Of course, based on the information out there, I have to also agree that exfoliation is a key component to any solid skincare routine.  But I also think it’s one of the tasks that most people take too far without sometimes knowing it, and it can cause more harm than good.  Going overboard with exfoliating can take away too much of your skin’s good protective barrier that helps keep moisture locked in. Over exfoliating can cause your skin to dry out and lead to other issues like acne, inflammation, irritation and redness.

I find it troubling that most of the information out there recommends, “exfoliate as much as your skin can tolerate.”  A lot of these sites giving this type of information are plugging third party products at the same time and are more focused on telling you about the benefits of exfoliating.  Rarely do they focus on the potential dangers of going too far with your exfoliation routine.  When ever is “do it as much you can tolerate” good advice…for anything really?

Another reason I think most of us are falling into the over exfoliated skin trap is due to the fact that many of the products we use include exfoliating agents.  Unless you’re careful to read every label and check every ingredient, you could end up layering a bunch of products with a bit of exfoliator in each of them.  Exfoliants are found not only in cleansers or scrubs, but often lurk in serums or moisturizers too.  

My stance is, for dry to normal skin you should only really focus on exfoliating once or twice a week at most.  For me personally, I use a glycolic acid peel pad at night once a week (right after washing my face and before toner) during the dry winter months, and might up that to two times a week at most during the summer heat.  For oily skin, my experts tell me maybe double that, but never more than 4-5 times a week.     

The tell-tale signs of over exfoliated skin are your skin feels dry and tight, you see signs of inflammation, including redness or peeling, or your forehead looks unusually shiny (which can indicate your healthy skin barriers have been compromised).  If you notice one or any of these signs, you should stop using your exfoliators immediately.  Give it a week or two, then assuming your skin feels normal again, slowly introduce exfoliation back into your routine – but seriously consider cutting back.  Maybe start with half…and instead of seeing if your skin can tolerate more, see if your skin seems to feel clean, dewy and healthy as is?