Understanding (Over) Exfoliation

Exfoliation is very beneficial as it removes the dead skin cells on the top layer of the skin, which will reveal a smoother looking complexion. As we age the rate that the cells turnover slows down, so we need to help that turnover rate out by exfoliating. Exfoliating the skin will allow your products to penetrate deeper, therefore making them more effective. If you suffer from acne-prone skin then exfoliating (properly) can help to keep those pores from clogging, which in return helps keep the skin more clear.

Exfoliation is probably one of the most common ways that most of us have used to achieve that quick ‘glow’ before a big event or date. But, most of us have also probably unfortunately gone a bit too far with exfoliating and were left with irritated and damaged skin.  It can be very easy to over-exfoliate your skin, especially if you have sensitive skin to begin with.

Before exfoliating you should be aware of very clear signs that your skin is being over-exfoliated so that you can lay off until your skin has had time to heal and adjust. I truly believe that when it comes to exfoliating, less is more. Here are a few signs that you might be over-exfoliating your skin:

Redness- Probably the most common and noticeable is redness. Your skin will appear inflamed and red.

Hot/Irritated Skin- If you feel your skin is hot to the touch, this could be a sign of irritation from over-exfoliating. You might experience a stinging sensation upon applying products from this.

Flakey/Dry Patches- Over-Exfoliating the skin can actually cause dryness because you are stripping the skin’s protective barrier from the excessive exfoliation.

If you are suffering from over-exfoliated the skin you will want to take your routine back to basics ASAP. Use a gentle cleanser (preferably non-foaming) and products that are hydrating and nourishing such as a basic oil/moisturizer. As always, make sure you are using an SPF during the daytime, especially during this time as your skin’s barrier could be compromised and you will need the extra protection. I would also suggest steering clear of any products containing any forms of alcohol as that could not only sting the skin but also cause more damage to the skin cells. Splashing your face with cool water will also help to ease the irritation and redness, I would avoid usage of warm water as that could aggravate the skin even more.

There are many forms of exfoliation and deciding which is the best for your skin is important. You will need to determine your skin type and skin concerns before deciding which exfoliation method is the best for you.

Physical Exfoliation- A manual exfoliant can come in the form of a physical grain/powder or a device with a bristle brush head or silicone brush head. Be sure if you are going to go with a physical exfoliating product you find one that is formulated properly to avoid micro-tears to the skin. This is probably one of the most common ways that we can over-exfoliate and damage our skin.

Fruit Enzymatic Exfoliation- Enzyme exfoliation is derived from fruits typically such as; mangos, pineapples, papayas, apples, and even pumpkins. This is a great natural alternative for exfoliating. The enzymes will basically eat away at the dead skin cells to reveal a smoother looking complexion. Many of these exfoliators contain forms of AHA/Lactic/Glycolic acids.

Chemical Exfoliation- This is probably my guess at the most popular exfoliation method. You will probably find the most common BHA to be Salicylic Acid, which is really great for acne prone skin.

To avoid over-exfoliating your skin I would recommend looking into a product that is formulated to be a weekly treatment/mask. I would suggest if you are going to go a different route to start with a weekly exfoliation and you could see how your skin responds and go from there. You will find what works best for your skin and the frequency in which you can tolerate exfoliation. You will need to take into consideration if you have any skin conditions (eczema, rosacea, etc) and consult with a professional before proceeding with any types of exfoliation.

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