Exfoliation vs Overexfoliation

Exfoliation vs Overexfoliation

Why do we Need to Exfoliate

Is your skin looking dull, rough and bumpy like a citrus peel? If so, exfoliation may be the answer to your problems!

Our skin cells have the amazing capability of self-renewal and rejuvenation. A full skin cycle from the generation of new skin cells to maturation and finally the shedding of skin cells take anywhere between 4- 6 weeks.

However, as we age, our cell cycle slows down, and it needs that extra push to renew itself. The truth is, the dead skin cells are ready to leave our faces, but it’s just hanging around a touch too long. And when dead skin cells stay on your face for too long, it actually clogs up your pores, causes acne and inflammation, dull skin, or even wrinkles.

To help speed up the process of skin renewal, exfoliation is now an essential step in our skin care regime.

Exfoliation Methods: Physical vs Chemical

Physical Exfoliation

Physical exfoliators are anything that contains little bits in them or gels that ball up which you can then gently massage all over your skin.

We can also use facial brushes like the Clarisonic and the Foreo or konjac sponges that can provide a nice gentle scrub and help to remove dead skin cells.

Do not use body scrubs on your face as your skin on the face is more delicate than your body and this will increase the chances of microtears.

Chemical Exfoliation

Chemical exfoliators contain a low amount of acids such as Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) or Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA).

AHAs, such as glycolic acid or lactic acids, are great for sensitive or dry skin as it focuses on the top layer of the skin. It also helps with brightening blemishes.

BHAs, like salicylic acid, are oil-soluble acids and can penetrate deeper into the skin thus clearing the pores. They also have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties so they are great for people with acne prone or oily skin.

Dangers of Over Exfoliation

Sounds like exfoliation is the key to all our problems right? After all, there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing, isn’t that so? WRONG!

The rule of thumb with exfoliation is to always be gentle!

You should only exfoliate no more than 3 times a week. When in doubt, stick to chemical exfoliation twice a week, and gentle physical exfoliation once a week.

If you overdo it, you risk doing more harm than good.

  1. Damage our delicate moisture barrier
  2. Irritate our skin leading to more dry patches and flakiness

Signs of Over Exfoliation

Proper exfoliation should leave you with brighter looking, healthy, soft skin, but if you are experiencing any of the signs below, chances are, you’ve overdone it.

  1. Overly shiny or waxy looking forehead even just after washing your face
  2. Your breakouts aren’t getting better but seem to have spread to other areas
  3. Patches of dry, flaky skin
  4. Skin is tight and sensitive to touch
  5. Pores become larger and develop an ‘orange peel’ texture
  6. hyperpigmentation

How to repair over exfoliated skin

The first thing to do is to stop all exfoliation immediately. Our skin needs time to heal, and our damaged skin cells need time to renew itself. Give it 2-3 weeks to repair itself.

If your skin is red or inflamed, you can help the process by doing a cold compress with a wet washcloth in the morning and evening to soothe the skin.

  1. Use a gentle oil-based or cream cleanser and glide it on your skin. Wash it off gently with just water to prevent causing more micro-tears.
  2. Avoid anything with fragrance or alcohol
  3. Use products meant for sensitive skin which contains ceramides


Once your skin completely heals, you might want to introduce exfoliation back into your routine again. Ease into it by using one product at a time no more than 2 times a week at first. With patience, you’ll be right on track to finding that glow.


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