Are you guilty of exfoliating your skin too much? If you aren’t sure, then you probably are.
Over-exfoliating your skin is painfully easy. In fact, it can happen even though you’ve carefully read and followed the instructions in your product.
Red and inflamed skin after exfoliating- you’ve probably been there before. And just like most people who share the same experience, you’ve probably regretted exfoliating in the first place, too.
While exfoliation is great for skin renewal and getting rid of acne, doing it excessively can cause redness and irritation. Worse, it can also aggravate your acne and acne scars.
So, how can you make sure you are exfoliating properly?
Start off slow, and make sure you aren’t guilty of any of these seven exfoliation mistakes.
7 Exfoliation Mistakes
1. You aren’t exfoliating for your skin type.
Physical and chemical exfoliants are not a “one-size-fits-all” package. In fact, you will probably go through some trial and error before you can figure out which exfoliants are the most effective for you.
As a rule, however, chemical exfoliants are better for sensitive skin because they provide gentle exfoliation without abrasion. Physical exfoliants, on the other hand, are better used on thick skin that can withstand a cleansing brush or facial scrub.
Aside from skin type, it’s also important to exfoliate based on your skin condition. For instance, it’s not necessary for you to use salicylic acid if you don’t have acne.
Another key thing to remember, when it comes to exfoliation, is that one product that worked well for someone isn’t a complete guarantee that it will have the same effect on you. Everyone is different- and that means your skin, too.
2. You’re using more than one product (or method!) at a time.
If you are using both chemical and physical exfoliants, it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate your skincare routine. Exfoliating helps shed off dead skin cells and doing two methods at the same time can mean your skin is shedding more cells that it’s supposed to.
Exfoliants, in general, are broken down into two categories: physical and chemical.
- Physical exfoliants use a tool or scrub to manually exfoliate your skin. These include washcloths, sponges, brushes, and substances such as oatmeal and fruit pits.
- Chemical exfoliants rely on chemical reactions to break down dead skin cells for renewal. These include hydroxy acids (lactic acid, salicylic acid, and glycolic acid) and Vitamin A-based Retinols.
While it is generally safe to use a washcloth daily in conjunction with a mild chemical exfoliant, it’s best to skip sponges and brushes because they can be too harsh to use on a regular basis.
The use of more than one chemical exfoliant can lead to irritation and redness. For best results, try to use one product at a time and give each at least 3 weeks to determine which is the best for you.
3. You’re exfoliating every day.
As a starting point, you should only exfoliate once or twice a week, particularly if you’re using brushes and harsh chemical exfoliants. You should also consider the weather when you’re exfoliating your skin.
Experts suggest that you do it more in the summer and less in the winter to avoid irritation. One exception to this rule is the use of washcloths which can be done every day, provided that it isn’t negatively affecting your skin.
But, how can you tell if you have done it too much? Here are some symptoms of over exfoliation:
- Your skin feels and looks tight or stretched out.
- Your skin looks shiny even though it is completely dry.
- Your face feels sensitive and itchy.
- Your skin looks red and/or dry.
4. You aren’t wearing sunscreen.
You should be wearing sunscreen every day, but it is extremely important to include in your skin care regimen if you’re routinely exfoliating. Exfoliants can make your skin thinner and more sensitive, which can result in a weaker skin barrier.
Sunscreen also helps to reduce hyperpigmentation and acne scars. When scars are exposed to UV rays, melanin production increases which, in turn, causes your acne marks to darken.
Aside from preventing darker scars, a good sunscreen can also make them less visible. You can apply it on your bare skin or under your makeup before heading out.
5. You’re using a harsh scrub.
Scrubs that contain microbeads and fruit pits are likely to cause micro-tearing on the skin. While they can make you feel “cleaner”, the truth is, they can actually make your skin extremely prone to infection and inflammation.
Here’s a list of scrubs you should avoid:
- Fruits pits, such as apricot
- Sugar which has harsh edges
- Baking soda which can disrupt the skin’s natural barrier
6. You aren’t following up with moisturizer after your routine.
Exfoliating can disrupt your skin’s natural oil production and potentially cause it to overcompensate by producing more oil. This can result in acne breakouts.
To prevent stripping and dryness, be sure to always follow up your exfoliation routine with a quality moisturizer.
7. You are using the wrong tools to help with physical exfoliation.
There are only a few tools which you can safely use for physical exfoliation at home. Your choices include:
- Washcloth, preferably microfiber or 100% cotton
- Konjac sponge, which is particularly good for acne
- Face brushes
Loofas are often too harsh for your skin, so it’s best if you can skip them. Sponges can also help, but they are hard to keep clean and free of bacteria.
It is extremely easy to over exfoliate, so starting off slowly is key to preventing irritation and redness.
Begin by identifying your skin type and conditions that you want to solve. From there, you will be able to properly choose the physical or chemical exfoliant that is right for you.
Don’t forget to invest in a good sunscreen and moisturizer! These products will protect your skin after exfoliating to reduce the chances of redness and irritation.