Maybe you suspect you've been over-exfoliating, but you're not sure what the signs are. If you answer 'yes' to any of these questions, it's likely you've been overdoing this commonly misunderstood skincare step.
Exfoliation, when incorporated correctly into a skincare routine, helps keep your complexion looking plump, healthy, and nourished. Exfoliation is often overlooked in its value as a skincare step, but once you've realised the positive benefits, it can be tempting to overdo it.
So how do you know if you're over-exfoliating?
Ask yourself the following:
- Does your skin shine even when it's not oily?
- Does your skin feel tight?
- Has your skin recently become sensitive or reddened?
- Have you noticed new areas of dryness or dehydration?
- Do you experience peeling or flaking?
If you've answered 'yes' to one of these questions, over-exfoliation may be the cause. If you've answered 'yes' to three or more, over-exfoliation is almost definitely the cause.
The Telltale Shine of Over-Exfoliation
The uppermost layers of skin are already dead. This nonreactive tissue helps to create the perfect barrier against attackers such as pollutants and bacteria.
But dead skin cells that have hung around for too long can create a rough texture and uneven tone. Younger skin cells are smoother and more radiant. Exfoliation helps speed up the turnover rate of skin cells and reveals newer, fresher, younger-looking skin.
Exfoliation is very helpful at creating a healthy-looking complexion. However, if you're over-exfoliating, you're revealing very young skin cells and polishing your complexion to an extremely smooth surface.
While this might sound like a good thing, it's not. When you've revealed too many young skin cells, your skin will look shiny. This is one of the first warning signs of over-exfoliation.
Tightness From Excessive Scrubbing
Skin is composed mainly of dead skin cells held together by an oil-based substance. This basic composition helps seal in hydration while also providing natural lubrication. Healthy skin feels comfortable, meaning you're unconscious of it.
Exfoliation removes excess dead skin from the chosen treatment areas. If you're exfoliating too much, you're removing too many layers of natural protection. Your skin will likely become tight, and you'll feel conscious of it.
Red in the Face? Try Dialling Back on Exfoliation
If your skin feels tight from excessive exfoliation, it's also likely that your skin has become sensitive and inflamed. When in this condition, skin isn't as effective at keeping irritants, allergens, and bacteria out. Dermatologists call this a 'reduced barrier function'.
You can help to repair this damage with an emollient-based barrier repair cream. Some of our favourites include:
- Uriage Bariederm Reconstructive Barrier Cream
- Avène Skin Recovery Cream
- First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream
Over-Exfoliation Can Actually Cause Dry Skin
When you thin your skin by removing too many layers through exfoliation, your skin is very likely to become visibly dry and dehydrated. This is because the impaired barrier is no longer able to keep moisture in the skin.
Good Exfoliation Removes Flakes; Bad Exfoliation Causes Flakes
Areas of peeling skin or visible flaking are the ultimate sign of over-exfoliation. Flaking and peeling are caused by the same thing as dryness: loss of your skin's natural barrier. But when dryness becomes excessive, it progresses to the next stage, which is a visible loss of skin.
Peeling is sometimes the desired effect of a professionally administered exfoliation treatment, such as a chemical peel. However, peeling shouldn't occur through regular use of scrubs and exfoliating acids at home.
Product overuse to this extent is cause for concern. If you find that the integrity of your skin has become compromised, it's best to consult with a medical professional, who'll be able to advise you on the best care procedures.