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Exfoliation: How Much Is Too Much?

Posted by Dr. Kris Wusterhausen on October 10, 2019

Exfoliation is a hot buzzword right now, and for good reason! Exfoliation, when needed, can greatly improve the health and appearance of your skin. 

However, as with anything, moderation is key. So how much exfoliation is too much? Do you know what signs to look for? Follow along and make sure you aren’t doing more harm than good with your skincare routine.

woman exfoliating her skin smiling

How Exfoliation Works

Exfoliation is simply the removal of the upper layer of the epidermis or skin. Due to makeup, the weather, stress, natural oils, and the simple passage of time, dead cells build up on the surface of your skin. These dead cells make your skin appear dull, increase the visibility of fine lines, and can clog pores—causing breakouts. 

Regular exfoliation is a must for keeping your skin fresh. Scrubs and exfoliating facial washes are a go-to option, especially exfoliating mixes with natural ingredients. There are also deeper, more intense exfoliation treatments you can receive from a spa for more dramatic results. Chemical peels, microneedling, and microdermablasion are all popular options.

How Often Should I Exfoliate?

So now you understand the goal behind exfoliation. That begs the question: How much is too much? 

It is perfectly safe to use a gentle exfoliating cleanser two to three times per week. It’s tempting to exfoliate daily, especially in the summer when you have excess oils on your face, or during breakouts. However, it can actually make the problems worse by stripping away too much of your natural oils, or “lipid barrier” of the skin. 

Fight the temptation to over-exfoliate and shoot for exfoliating every other day or every couple of days. Then, schedule a more in-depth exfoliating treatment once every few months to significantly reduce signs of aging like wrinkles, fine lines, dark spots, and acne scars.

5 Signs You’re Exfoliating Too Much

Some people have more resilient skin, allowing them to exfoliate more regularly without problems. Other people, however, have sensitive skin. If this is the case for you, even exfoliating two times a week can be too harsh on your skin.

If you aren’t sure whether your skin is over-exfoliated, look out for these signs:

  1. Your skin is excessively dry. Have you noticed that your skin seems to be sucking up your face cream faster than you can apply it? Does your skin feel tight or itchy? Is any of your skin beginning to peel? If this isn’t normal for your skin, then this is generally the first sign of over-exfoliation. You’ve been stripping away your skin’s natural moisture faster than your body can replace it, leaving you with dry skin.

  2. Your skin is red or itchy. Have you been relying more on your concealer lately to cover random red patches on your face? Over-exfoliation can cause patches of skin to become red, itchy, and scaly—sometimes so much so that even makeup can’t help.

  3. Your face hurts. When you first started exfoliating regularly, it probably felt wonderful when you scrubbed all the dead skin cells off your face, revealing younger and brighter skin underneath. However, these days it seems like you have to take care not to hurt yourself when using your cleanser. Your face cream may even sting in places. This oversensitivity is an indicator that you’re doing too much exfoliation. Let your skin rest for a week or so.

  4. You’re breaking out. Everyone has breakouts from time to time. Eating certain things you’re sensitive to, using makeup that doesn’t work well for your skin, and fluctuating hormones can all cause you to have sudden acne breakouts. If you over-exfoliate, however, these random breakouts begin happening more and more. The increased irritation and inflammation, coupled with the breakdown of your skin’s natural lipid barrier, come together in the perfect storm when it comes to breakouts. Exfoliation is causing the very thing you were trying to prevent!

  5. You’ve noticed more signs of aging. We all notice when we get a new line, wrinkle, or our skin begins looking thinner. Excessive exfoliation actually increases the aging process of the skin (due to the lack of lipid barrier mentioned earlier). If you exfoliate too much, too often, you’ll end up with thin, dry skin and wrinkles will pile up faster than your laundry.


How To Recover From Excessive Exfoliation

Thankfully, your skin is an incredibly resilient organ. If you’ve been over-exfoliating, your first step is to STOP. Let your skin rest and recover. Begin using gentle creams and cleansers that will pamper your skin and allow it to rejuvenate all on its own. 

As you skip the exfoliation and focus on rehydration, your skin’s lipid barrier will repair itself. Your natural oils will return. Your skin will become supple again, the way it used to be. 

When the signs of too much exfoliation disappear, and your skin is no longer dry, red, flaky, itchy, or tight, you can resume your exfoliation routine. This time though, listen to your skin. Two to three times per week is recommended, but if you begin showing any of the above signs, simply reduce your frequency. 

Every person is unique, and every face is unique. If you listen to what your body tells you, you’ll never go wrong.

Looking For A High-Quality Exfoliating Facial Wash?

The Resurge Clinic offers four ZO Skin Health products specifically designed to gently exfoliate your skin.

  • Exfoliating Cleanser - Your go-to weekly exfoliating cleanser. This cleanser is ideal for normal to oily skin. It targets surface oil, leaving your skin feeling clean but not stripped and dry.

  • Exfoliating Polish - If you only exfoliate once a week, this is a great option for you. ZO Skin Health’s exfoliating polish contains magnesium crystals, which exfoliate dead skin cells to create a clear, smooth and even-toned complexion.

  • Dual Action Scrub - Who says exfoliators can’t do two jobs at once? This dual action exfoliation helps remove dead skin cells and the excess surface oils that can lead to clogged pores.

  • Exfoliation Accelerator - If you have extra sensitive skin, the exfoliation accelerator is a good alternative to harsh over-the-counter scrubs. The solution contains a glycolic and lactic acid complex for exfoliation and an aloe, green tea, and chamomile blend to relieve skin irritation.

Stop by either of our locations and find the perfect ZO Skin Health products for your skin needs!

Order ZO Skin Health Products Now

Topics: Beauty, Skin Care