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Signs of Over Exfoliation and How to Heal Over Exfoliated Skin

Over Exfoliated Skin: How to Identify and Treat It

Exfoliating skin is an essential part of any skincare routine, as proper exfoliation can help actives penetrate the skin, get rid of dead skin cells, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and overall lead to healthier, brighter skin. But for most people, it’s often neglected, as it’s considered an “extra” step that they don’t really make time for on a regular basis.


We all know exfoliating skin is important though, as getting rid of skin impurities on a regular basis is good for our skin. But, it’s important to maintain a balance as exfoliating too often or too aggressively can result in over exfoliated skin causing redness and irritation. 


So how do you find the perfect balance? Keep reading to find out exactly how you should exfoliate and how to identify when you’ve over exfoliated.

What Is Exfoliating?

Your skin is comprised of five layers. While the last layer of your skin has the healthiest and youngest skin cells, the outer layer is composed of dead skin cells. By exfoliating, you’re removing the dead skin cells from the outer layer to reveal the younger-looking skin cells underneath it. Skin exfoliation can be done in a number of ways either at home or the spa using physical scrubbing, chemical peels, or exfoliation tools.

What Does Exfoliating Do?

Skin exfoliation essentially reveals the healthy, youthful skin cells that are hiding underneath your skin’s top surface. Not only does this result in a radiant complexion, but it also allows your skin to better absorb skincare products. 


Aside from clearing away dry and dead skin, a regular exfoliation habit increases your skin’s clarity and youthfulness, and that’s only the beginning. Exfoliating can also help to diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, even out skin tone, and unclog pores. In other words, skin care exfoliation is kind of a big deal.

Unclogs Pores

Exfoliating your skin helps slough away dry skin, dead cells, or debris that may be sitting on your skin. Exfoliating can effectively unclog pores as well as prevent your pores from clogging in the first place by stopping debris from settling into your pores.

Prevent Acne

Regular exfoliation and cleansing will help to keep your skin clear and prevent acne. Exfoliating can effectively get rid of acne-causing bacteria, particularly through chemical exfoliation with a gentle AHA, like glycolic acid. Exfoliating your face will also help prevent acne caused by oily skin and clogged hair follicles.

It Can Help Actives Penetrate Deeper

By exfoliating dead skin cells on your face, actives will be able to penetrate your skin deeper. Without dry, dead cells on the surface of your skin, any actives that you apply will have fewer barriers to getting into the skin - and that's exactly what you want. When something that is rich in nourishing ingredients penetrates your skin deeper, it’s able to work more effectively for a longer period of time.

Boosts Cell Turnover

Exfoliating is the key to glowing skin by helping to improve the regenerative cycle of skin cell renewal. We’ve already covered this, but exfoliating on a regular basis helps to keep your skin looking its best by getting rid of your dead dead cells which in turn stimulates cell turnover. This increased cell turnover is the primary reason why exfoliating dead skin can help you achieve a more healthy, dewy complexion.

Evens Out Skin Tone

Worried about dark spots, dry patches, hyperpigmentation, or other texture and pigment concerns? Skin care exfoliation smooths your skin’s texture, which means your skin will appear more uniform over time. The uneven tone can be caused by dead skin cells, so exfoliating dead skin can bring newer skin to the surface. This will allow for glowing, smooth skin that pushes impurities out.


Skin care exfoliation is especially important for dry or flaky skin. And while you might be tempted to exfoliate dry skin mechanically, it's actually best to avoid doing so as the process can be drying and lead to microtears. Instead, opt for an exfoliator with AHAs like glycolic acid. This will help remove dead skin cells sitting on the surface of your skin and encourage new healthy skin cell turnover.

Stimulates Collagen

As you age, the amount of collagen that you naturally produce starts to go down. Collagen is essential for keeping skin looking plump, tight, and young. Exfoliation creates mild trauma in your skin that triggers it to start back up, ultimately helping to plump skin, tighten, and decrease fine lines.


Exfoliating your skin on a regular basis can help to stimulate collagen synthesis providing you with anti-aging benefits in the long run. As your skin produces more collagen, your skin will appear more firm with reduced fine lines and wrinkles. Your skin will also be more likely to bounce back and protect itself from outside barriers such as environmental elements like pollution and tobacco smoke. The end result is youthful-looking radiant skin.

Boosts Circulation and Lymphatic Drainage

Exfoliation isn't just good for your skin—it's good for your whole body. When you scrub away dead skin cells, you're also stimulating the lymphatic system, which helps to filter out toxins and regulates tissue fluid levels. 


This stimulation results in oxygen-rich blood nourishing your skin’s surface as well as providing skin detoxification. And since the lymphatic system works closely with your immune system, keeping it healthy is essential for overall health and well-being.

Ingrown Hairs

Exfoliating not only removes the unnecessary layer of dead skin cells, it can also prevent ingrown hair. The main culprits of ingrown hair include exfoliating too hard, exfoliating every day, or using the wrong method. But with proper exfoliation, you can get rid of ingrown hair. 


The key to getting rid of ingrown hair is to exfoliate with the right pressure (not too hard), using the right products and method, as well as exfoliating enough.

How Often Should You Exfoliate Your Face and Body?

We recommend exfoliating your face once or twice a week. Chemical exfoliation is typically a little more gentle on the skin than physical exfoliation for beginners. See how your skin reacts and adjust accordingly.


As previously mentioned, you have five layers of skin. The goal of exfoliation is to help slough off that outer layer so new, healthier skin cells can come to the surface. Exfoliating every day can work against your efforts and irritate your skin.

5 Signs You Need to Exfoliate

Before exfoliating skin, you need to understand how your skin will react as well as how often you should exfoliate. Does your skin appear clogged? You may need to exfoliate more. Getting red or irritated skin after exfoliating? Consider exfoliating less. Here are five signs you need to exfoliate.

1. Your Products Aren't Absorbing into Your Skin

If you’re seeing a residue of skincare products on your skin, you need to exfoliate. Dead skin cells can build up on the top layer of your skin, creating a barrier that prevents your skincare products from penetrating it. As a result, your skincare product sits on top of your skin rather than being absorbed into your skin. Exfoliating can remove this dead skin cell barrier, allowing your skincare products to more easily penetrate your skin.

2. Your Skin Looks Dull

If your skin looks dull, you may have dead skin cells. Dead skin cells can build up over time, creating a thick layer that can make your skin look lackluster. By exfoliating your skin, you’re removing this tough outer layer to reveal the healthier, younger live cells beneath it. These skin cells are more vibrant and reflective helping you to have that youthful glow.

3. You Have Breakouts or Your Pores Look Clogged

If you’re having more breakouts than usual, this may be due to clogged pores. Having clogged pores means you’re more likely to have whiteheads and blackheads. It also means your skincare products may not be able to be absorbed into your skin leaving it with a residue. 


Using a facial cleanser daily is not enough. Exfoliating your skin regularly will remove debris your facial cleanser may have missed as well as prevent your pores from clogging.

4. You Have Scaly Patches or Bumpy Skin

If your skin is feeling rough and scaly or you’ve noticed some small bumps beginning to appear on your skin, you may have flaky dry skin. These are signs you need to exfoliate. Exfoliating helps to remove the build-up of dead skin cells that can cause your skin surface to be uneven and dry. Exfoliating will leave you with clear, unclogged skin that is more likely to be smooth and radiant.  

5. You’re Getting a lot of Sun

If you’ve been spending more time outdoors, you may have noticed your skin feels a bit thicker than usual. That’s because sun exposure can thicken your skin, making it less smooth and even-toned. Exfoliating can help to even out your skin tone and give your complexion a boost. Just be careful not to exfoliate when you have a sunburn. Wait until the burn has healed before scrubbing away at your skin.

Over Exfoliation: How Much Is Too Much?

Exfoliating is important for keeping your skin looking and feeling its best. But, how do you know when you’re overdoing it? Whether you have oily skin, dry skin, or a combination of both, there is such a thing as exfoliating too much. For example, you should exfoliate more often if you have oily skin but not every day. 


And it’s not just about frequency - certain products can be too harsh, stripping away natural oils that can leave your skin feeling dry and irritated. This can damage your skin’s barrier, leaving you vulnerable to all sorts of problems like sensitivity, redness, and breakouts.

Signs of Over Exfoliation

As a general rule, exfoliate once or twice a week until you understand how your skin will react. Proper exfoliation should expedite skin cell turnover without damaging your skin. The problem comes when you’ve over-exfoliated. 

 

Over exfoliation can actually remove too many skin cells stripping away your skin’s natural barrier responsible for maintaining proper hydration and balancing lipid levels.


Severely over exfoliated skin can create concerns that proper exfoliation is supposed to help with such as rash-like texture, acne, breakouts, and dry or flaky skin. Here are some warning signs to look out for when it comes to over exfoliation.

Redness

Slight redness or pinkness is perfectly normal, particularly after physical skin exfoliation. But if your skin remains red for an extended period of time or you experience itchy skin or burning after exfoliating, then your exfoliator may be doing some damage and harming your skin’s natural barrier.


If this is the case, reconsider the product you're using or the frequency with which you exfoliate.

Dryness and Flakiness

Some of the signs of over-exfoliated skin include dehydration, flaking, and dryness. Over exfoliating can lead result in dry skin leading to flakiness. And if you already have dry skin, the worst thing you can do is to exfoliate every day as this will only irritate (and therefore dry out) your skin more. If you start to notice patches or flakes after exfoliating, cut things back.

Acne

Over exfoliation can weaken the skin so it can’t defend itself against bacterial infections. This makes it much easier for pimples and congestion to form on your skin.


Plus, physical exfoliation over active acne can spread any active bacteria around your skin. Exfoliating dead skin on your face helps you to have clearer, brighter skin, but extreme over exfoliation will cause pimples and acne that is an unwanted result. If you notice new breakouts developing after exfoliating this may be the problem. Cut back on exfoliating.

Increased Oil Production

If you strip away your skin’s natural barrier or deplete your skin’s natural oils, it will respond by overproducing oil to try to balance itself and rehydrate. This is why even oily skin types need proper hydration and why we always recommend you steer clear of really harsh, detergent, and chemical-heavy products.


While there are many possible culprits here - overly hot water, harsh products, environmental stressors - keep in mind that if the rest of your skincare routine is gentle and you’re not mistreating your skin, your exfoliator may be to blame for severely over-exfoliated skin.

Shine

Everyone wants that dewy, shiny, fresh-from-a-workout glow - and the right exfoliant should help deliver that. But if you’re noticing an unnatural, saran wrap-style sheen after you exfoliate, it’s a sign (once again) that your skin is being stripped away. If you see this type of shine, then, it’s time to cut back because it’s over exfoliation damage.

Why You Should Pay More Attention to Over Exfoliation Damage

The problem here is that over-exfoliation can actually remove too many skin cells and strip away your skin’s natural barrier - which is essentially a wall of dead skin cells held together by lipids. 


It functions as a security guard, protecting what’s inside and preventing any “bad guys” - like uv radiation, pollution, bacteria, dirt, and toxins - from passing through.


The barrier also maintains proper hydration, balances lipid levels, and maintains your natural moisturizing factor. If you over-strip that barrier through exfoliation, you can create a lot of concerns that proper exfoliation is supposed to help with; things like pimples after exfoliating, acne, flaking, over exfoliated skin burn, and dry skin.

How to Heal Over Exfoliated Skin

First thing’s first: if you notice any of these signs of over exfoliation, you should stop for about a week to allow your skin to recover. Once you resume, stick to about 2-3 times a week, and consider more gentle exfoliating products to stop over exfoliation damages.


Next, add some restorative and repairing skin products to your routine. Look specifically for ingredients that repair your skin’s barrier, deeply hydrate, and protect the skin from any external aggressors.


This includes:

Hyaluronic Acid

This ultra-effective moisturizer is a powerful humectant that can help hydrate the skin and resolve any tightness, flaking, or irritation that over-exfoliation may have caused. Consider taking your moisturizing up a level with our Night Shift Hydration Gel - a deep hydrating hyaluronic mask - and our Daydreamer Natural Face Moisturizer. You may be able to soothe an over exfoliated skin rash with the help of the right moisturizing cream.

Face Oils

You’ll also need occlusives that will form a protective barrier on the skin, keep the moisture in, and help restore your natural barrier. We use oils that are similar in composition to your own sebum in our High Society Face Oil - like jojoba, marula, and squalane - as they're less likely to cause acne or irritation. These oils will help severely over exfoliated skin to restore the protective barrier.

Peptide

When applied topically, peptides can not only boost collagen in the skin but also decrease inflammation and boost moisture retention in the skin. In the big picture, this can help soothe and restore over-stripped skin.

MSM

A compound found naturally in our skin, MSM is known for inhibiting the breakdown of collagen, reducing inflammation, and making the cell wall more permeable, thereby helping vital nutrients flow through. This can help restore damaged skin back to health.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants can combat oxidative stress, which is huge. That stress (and the free radicals that follow) breaks down collagen and gets in the way of the skin’s natural repair process, triggering inflammation, fine lines, loose skin, and more. You’ll need lots of antioxidants in your skincare - like vitamin C and vitamin E - to keep that from happening. That's why you'll find them in our Cloud Whip Face Cream.

Final Thoughts

Exfoliating is key to keeping your skin looking healthy--but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. If you're experiencing itchy skin after exfoliating body or other signs of over exfoliated skin, take a step back and reassess your exfoliation routine. You might need to cut back on how often you exfoliate or switch to gentler products. 


Want a comprehensive post-exfoliation rehab kit? You can find three all-star products that contain all of the above ingredients to get you started (and help you fight fine lines while you're at it) in our Complete Anti-Aging Routine.