Over Exfoliation

Over exfoliation can occur if you aren’t careful with your skin care routine.  The symptoms include redness, itchiness, and irritation.  In extreme cases, over exfoliating can result in burns and scarring.  Most people who run into problems have used too strong a product without giving their skin time to adjust to the technique or acidity.  It’s also a result of using too many exfoliating products in your regimen.

If you over exfoliate, let the skin heal naturally and don’t use any form of exfoliation until it has completely healed.  You may want to use natural skin care products with soothing botanical ingredients, like aloe and chamomile.  A cool shower or oatmeal bath can also be very soothing.  If your skin is peeling, let it slough off naturally.  Do not pick at the flakes and scabs.  Avoid strong skin care products like Vitamin C and retinol serums.  These can have an exfoliating effect that will irritate your damaged skin.  A mild Vitamin C cream or lotion may be soothing and help the skin heal better, provided the pH is not to low and the concentration is only around 5%.  You will also need to use sun protection for at least a few weeks.  Avoid sun exposure when possible, and be sure to use sunblock daily even if it is cloudy or you are only going to and from the car.  Over exfoliated skin is more prone to sun burning and discoloration than normal skin.

You can avoid over exfoliating by introducing new processes and products into your routine slowly.  There are two main types of exfoliation, a process that removes dead and sometimes live skin cells in order to expose healthier skin.  Manual or mechanical exfoliation uses an abrasive exfoliator to polish away old skin.  A microdermabrasion treatment or facial scrub is common way to mechanically exfoliate.  Most people don’t run into serious side effects with this type.  Chemical exfoliation uses a chemical, typically an alpha hydroxy acid, to dissolve both dead and live skin.  There is a wide range of products that exfoliate chemically, from mild glycolic acid lotions to strong chemical peels.  You are more likely to over exfoliate using this form.

Exfoliating too much with mechanical treatments usually results in redness and irritation that lasts for a few days.  It isn’t very serious and will heal itself.  Sometimes it isn’t obvious that you’ve over exfoliated until a few hours afterward.  It’s important to learn how to exfoliate properly.  Many people use too much pressure.  It’s better to use a less pressure for longer time, polishing each area gently, but thoroughly.  If you have sensitive skin, or haven’t exfoliated for a long time, use less time and pressure in the beginning and gradually work your way up.

Over exfoliation is common for people who have just started using at home chemical peels.  They often start off using a strong peel because they are looking for quick results.  These peels are very powerful and are sometimes just as strong as a professional product.  To avoid negative chemical peel side effects, you need to give your skin time to adjust to the acidity of peels by using mild products in the beginning.  If you have already made the mistake of over exfoliating, you need to let the skin heal naturally.  Picking at scabs or flakes can result in scarring.  It can takes weeks or months to fully heal, depending on how badly you’ve damaged you skin.  Use natural ingredients to help sooth the skin and hopefully heal it faster and with less damage.  A honey oatmeal mask, aloe gel or juice, Vitamin E oil, or lavender tea/hydrosol are good options to use.  Don’t use makeup for at least a few days.  One risk many people overlook is burning and discoloration.  Use sunblock several times a day, every single day, especially when it is first beginning to heal.  You are much more likely to develop dark spots on your face from sun exposure with chemical peels, especially if they have gone wrong.

Be careful when using multiple products or treatments that exfoliate.  Vitamin C serums and retinol serums have an exfoliating effect, and can cause irritation if used soon after a chemical peel or microdermabrasion treatment.  Don’t be unrealistic with your skin care goals and expect full results quickly.  You get the best results from exfoliation by using it consistently over time. You can’t rush the process of restructuring the skin matrix.  Being too aggressive is very likely to lead to over exfoliation.