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  5. How Can Over-Exfoliation Harm Your Skin?

Are you exfoliating your skin more than twice a week? If yes, then you are definitely causing more harm than good to your skin.

Over-exfoliation is the biggest mistake people make in their skincare regimen. Whether you are using physical or chemical exfoliation, overdoing it can lead to dry skin, rough patches and rashes, which are common indicators of over-exfoliation.

In this article, we are going to discuss why over-exfoliating could be dangerous for your skin and how you can treat it.

What Is Over-Exfoliating Exactly?

Exfoliation is a crucial step in your weekly skincare routine. Just washing your skin with a cleanser would not clean your skin pores or remove the dead skin build-up. It requires scrubbing to eliminate extra sebum oil, dead skin cells and dirt stuck inside your skin pores. Exfoliating reduces the chance of acne breakout, dryness and dullness. It gives your skin a hydrated and dewy glow and helps skincare products get absorbed into your skin smoothly.

Exfoliation is done in two different ways categorized under physical exfoliation and chemical exfoliation. Physical exfoliation happens using water and scrubbing surfactant on your skin whereas chemical exfoliation uses acids such as BHA (beta-hydroxy acid) and AHA (alpha-hydroxy acids) [1]. Salicylic acid, glycolic acid and lactic acids are commonly used as chemical exfoliants. [2]

But both cases have a restriction on the frequency of usage. Because no matter how many benefits exfoliation offers, over-exfoliating your skin is as bad as not having a skincare routine at all.

While exfoliating once or twice a week is normal, a greater frequency can create problems. Thankfully, it is easy to identify if you are over-exfoliating your skin. Your skin will provide you with clear signs of over-exfoliation such as -

  • Skin irritation
  • Redness
  • Skin inflammation
  • Rash-like skin texture
  • Rough patches
  • Unhealthy shine on the skin

What Happens If You Exfoliate Too Much?

1. Extra Shiny Skin

Exfoliation improves the skin’s texture. It smooths your skin’s surface and gives you a glow. But over-exfoliation adds an unhealthy sheen and the facial skin, especially the T zone looks extra shiny like plastic. This is not a good sign as the overly shiny skin indicates that the upper layer of skin has been affected due to over-exfoliation.

2. Swelling

Overdoing exfoliation can also cause swelling. When you scrub your skin, the exfoliant substances hurt your skin and damage the lipid barrier. Your skin starts swelling and looks reddish. However, the problem is way deeper than it looks from the outside. When the outer layer of your skin is compromised, it becomes vulnerable to outside threats like pollutants, allergens etc.

3. Acne Breakout

Over-exfoliation can also lead to an acne breakout. At first, excessive exfoliation inflames your skin’s surface. Slowly, the inflammation escalates into an acne breakout. So, if your skin shows signs of acne after exfoliation, this indicates that you are not doing it right.

4. Skin Peeling

At times, over-exfoliation may also turn your skin dry and flaky. You may experience a few flaky patches falling off in small bits. Over-exfoliation removes a good amount of lipid barrier of your skin which leads to a lack of moisture. Your skin becomes sensitive to the sun or any harsh outside elements. As a result, it starts drying out and peeling.

5. Unusually Tight Skin

The layers of your skin consist of collagen and elastin, two extremely important components to give your skin a youthful appearance. When you damage the layers with over-exfoliation, the flexibility of your skin is also harmed. It makes your skin unusually tight and dull. You may feel uncomfortable with the rigidness of your skin.

How To Treat Over-Exfoliated Skin?

1. When your skin starts showing signs of over-exfoliation, the first thing you should do is to stop exfoliating your skin immediately.

2. Applying an ice cube on your irritated skin can bring you some relief.

3. Stop using products like foaming cleansers, retinol or anti-ageing, anti-acne creams as they can be harsh on your skin.

4. To soothe an already irritated skin, apply emollient-rich creams or gel. Aquaphor, aqua veil, hydrocortisone are great options.

5. Applying aloe vera extract is also suggested to reduce redness and irritation. You can get aloe vera gel from the market or you can take aloe vera extract from the plant directly.

6. Vitamin C on your skin is a good start for the healing procedure after over-exfoliation. Adding a vitamin C serum or using lemon juice on your face will work too.

7. Use a gentle moisturizer and chemical-free products on your skin.

8. Restrain from makeup till the irritation subsides. If your profession or lifestyle does not allow it, then please take necessary precautions.

9. Also, make sure that all the products you use are free of artificial fragrances. Such fragrances often lead to allergic reactions and it is best to avoid them.

10. Over-exfoliation makes your skin super sensitive. That’s why you must wear sunscreen every time your skin is exposed to sunlight. Otherwise, sunburn and heat rashes could occur.

11. Rebuilding your skin’s lipid barrier should be your focus. Try using products with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerine, squalane and shea butter etc.

How Long Does It Take For Over-Exfoliation To Heal?

The recovery timing after over-exfoliation depends on how severe your skin damage is. Check if your skin has recovered from visible signs like irritation, redness, inflammation etc. If yes, then your skin is ready to go back to a normal skin care regimen. But take it slow and safe after recovery. Experts recommend exfoliating only once a week for all skin types.

The maximum amount of skin exfoliation you can opt for, is twice a week. For those having faced recent skin damage, exfoliating once a week should be perfect. Be extremely careful and gentle with your skin while scrubbing. In case you have a severe reaction due to over-exfoliation, consult a dermatologist for advice.

Wrapping Up

Skin exfoliation is as essential for the skin as other skincare steps like cleansing and moisturizing. But too much of anything can never do good to anyone. Hence, keeping it within a limit is the best thing to do. As recommended by skin care experts, exfoliating once or twice a week is sufficient to maintain your skin’s health.

Choose an exfoliant as per your skin type and conduct a little trial before using the product on your entire skin. A small patch test of your exfoliant will minimize the possibilities of allergic reactions and skin burn.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin

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