Think twice before you over-exfoliate
Because you can get too much of a good thing
Are you addicted to exfoliating your skin?
Scrubbing your skin to oblivion.
You’re aiming for that lit from within glow, but all you get is aggravated skin?
The reason. Exfoliation can remove important crucial functional cells that keep your skin healthy.
It’s true. We all want that radiant, fresh look that exfoliating products bring.
But the reality is unless you have very thick skin.
So think twice before you exfoliate.
Because you can get too much of a good thing.
I’m sure it’s something we all have been guilty of in the past; I know I have.
Over Exfoliation Undermines Healthy Skin
You see, exfoliation is a sensitive business. It can yield smooth and healthy-looking skin,
But it can quickly go awry.
It can break down your protective barrier function, triggering angry-looking skin,
It can also create tiny micro tears that are invisible to the naked eye triggering breakouts, causing bacteria to seep through the cracks and undermining your skin health.
Unfortunately, because there are several high-strength exfoliators and
Lately, with the popularity of AHA’s and high-strength at-home peels, many people have been reaching out to us with seriously damaged skin.
But First, because we love clinical data, let’s dive into some skin ski essentials essential to understand how your skin is formed to protect and keep you healthy; follow this link for further reading on the skin layers.
A simple scratch can remove almost the entire outer layer off the surface of your skin – referred to as the stratum corneum.
Many of us don’t realise just how fragile our skin is – it’s two-hundredths of a millimetre thick, to be exact.
And the health of your skin is incredibly dependent on it.
When you look at your skin from this perspective, it seems almost odd how some of us are obsessive about scrubbing our delicate skin into oblivion.
I believe there is a SERIOUS and widespread MISCONCEPTION about the value of exfoliation.
Many believe that the skin’s surface is composed only of dead, useless cells, making their skin appear dull, preventing it from breathing, and clogging up follicles.
But your skin cells naturally turn over every 4 to 6 weeks; Keratinocytes continually move to the skin’s surface to create a protective film that encourages desquamation, our natural exfoliation.
Yet, in reality, those “dead” cells are the mature functional cells of your skin. They have a protective role, keeping your skin healthy and vibrant.
It makes us realise that exfoliation should be a gentle course of action to give the occasional stubborn cells a nudge to keep our skin vibrant, supple, and youthful.
It’s why you won’t find any scrubbing bubbles in our exfoliators that could potentially cause tiny micro-tears in the skin.
So let’s have a quick look at what is going on on the surface of your skin that you are scrubbing at:
What happens when we exfoliate?
The healthy, pink, moisturised cells we see on the surface after using a facial scrub exfoliator are cells that are not ready to encounter oxygen, UV and our environment.
Whilst you might like this new, pink glow, the cells are shocked by this sudden exposure to a horrible environment. They can no longer perform their actual protection function because they require protection.
More water is lost through the skin, and these cells cannot rapidly adapt to this new, harsh environment. After a few days, the skin feels dry, and the surface lacks lustre.
Bearing in mind how good the skin looked immediately after using a facial scrubber, it would seem that the obvious answer is to repeat the exfoliation and remove these offending skin cells. So the cycle repeats – a trap many of my clients and readers fall into.
What else happens during over-exfoliation?
Protective SPF diminishes: The skin is so thin that when the physical protection has been removed and the photoprotective effects reduced, the skin becomes more vulnerable to damage.
Your waterproof barrier the NMF is compromised: Did you know that your skin has skin ingredients that provide waterproofing complexes like hyaluronic and urea? Harsh exfoliation Water quickly evaporates off your skin, causing it to become dehydrated.
Chemical messages become impaired: The cells in the epidermis and your outer layer of skin are confused and start to make a thick, “horny” layer to preserve the usual degree of hydration. Chemicals from your exfoliation and environmental pollutants like UV rays and products can penetrate your skin in greater concentrations, and environmental contaminants in this layer are impaired.
Inflamm ageing: This is defined as chronic, low-grade inflammation, which is typical of ageing. Infact, as a skin aesthetician, much of what we know about “ageing” is inflammation, which happens when your skin becomes vulnerable and thin due to using too many peels is over-exfoliation.
Sensitivity: Overly aggressive exfoliation, heavy-handed microdermabrasion procedure, a peel sets off a cascade of skin inflammation.
Your skin barrier becomes impaired: We have that protective barrier function that protects against physical injury, acting as a mini shock absorber, creating a barrier. Harsh exfoliants and peels break down this barrier leaving your skin more susceptible to bacteria, breakouts and other skin conditions against water and oil-soluble chemicals.
The acid mantle becomes compromised: You can’t see them with the naked eye, but delicate micro-flora live on your skin, keeping the pH balanced and healthy. Over scrubbing disrupts the delicate microflora.
The Right way to exfoliate
- Start by offering once or twice a week, preferably at night.
- Be gentle and understand your skin type: for dry skin, be gentle, and in the case of oily skin, do not be too aggressive, but do exfoliate more frequently.
- Please keep it simple: simple routines work best.
- Always wear sunscreen in general, but especially after exfoliating.
- Discontinue the use of any products that increase skin irritation.
The Wrong Way to Exfoliate
- Don’t exfoliate every day.
- Avoid applying too much pressure when exfoliating using a mechanical method.
- Do not exfoliate irritated skin- you can do more harm than good! Also, bear in mind that waxing is a form of exfoliation.
- Do not exfoliate skin that has been treated recently with lasers, and do not go sunbathing post-exfoliation.
So when should you exfoliate?
There is no real consensus as to how often to exfoliate; There are times when a gentle facial scrub will keep cellular debris from accumulating:
We recommend listening to your skin and paying close attention to how your skin behaves.
I will cut back or stop altogether if you feel that your skin has become more sensitive or is red, flaky, tender, or breaking out with increased exfoliation.
Types of exfoliation
There are many different ways to exfoliate your skin.
Mechanical exfoliation uses friction to remove dead skin and brushes such as Clarisonic.
Chemical exfoliation is often the as opposed to exfoliating mechanically.
To peel or not to peel this is the question.
To find out more about peels check out our complete guide
Over-exfoliation of healthy skin can become addictive; it may yield smooth and healthy-looking skin, but get overzealous with your exfoliation. Despite appearances, the normal physiology of the skin is being damaged.
So harsh exfoliation should be avoided, except under exceptional circumstances. I run a skincare clinic, and we rarely perform intense exfoliation or deep peels on clients.
Why? Do we believe that>? Because everything comes back to rebuilding and maintaining the health of your barrier function, reducing inflammation which is at the route of premature ageing.,
If your skin is inflamed and the barrier impaired, it is vulnerable to extra exposure to environmental toxins and UV rays. It may become dehydrated and is more likely to become damaged, and premature ageing may occur due to inflamed ageing discussed above.
All of which goes against my role as a skincare therapist: to make my client’s skin healthier by keeping the barrier intact, well-hydrated, less inflamed, and more durable to environmental pollutants.
A sensible skincare range makes abrasive exfoliation unnecessary and instead concentrates on scientifically treating our skin to keep the epidermis as thick and smooth as it should be.
Intelligent use of exfoliation is essential but should not be an excessive part of the routine care of healthy, well-nourished skin.
This leads to a healthy barrier and microflora on the acid mantle; without both being intact, the skin will be unhealthy and open to many conditions, such as dryness, inflammation, breakouts, and premature ageing.