Are you over-exfoliating?

Our skin has the ability to naturally exfoliate itself through two processes; cell turn over and desquamation. Cell turn over is the cycle and production of skin cells in our epidermis. New cells (think young baby cells) are produced in the basement layer of our epidermis, the stratum basal. These cells mature and migrate through the layers of the epidermis until they 'die' becoming keratisnised dead skin cells that form our surface layer; the stratum corneum. Once ready, these cells desquamate off of the surface to complete the cycle.


So to simplify, this is the process of shedding dead skin cells and replacing them with younger cells. In a healthy skin this process should take approximately 28 days, but can be slowed with age, sun damage, genetics, skin disorders and poor health/lifestyle. When dead skin cells build up on the surface of the skin we can see dullness, texture, fine lines and in some cases pigmentation.

In an oily or acne-prone skin, there is often an over-production of dead skin cells but an inhibility to desqumate these cells out of the pores and off of the surface (retention hyperkeratosis). This can result in congestion and breakouts.

Using exfoliants 2-3 times a week (dependant on skin-type) can be beneficial for the skin by encouraging cell turnover and aiding desquamation. When performed correctly it can also improve skin conditions such as congestion, acne, hyper pigmentation and ageing. HOWEVER, we need to be careful when exfoliating! The stratum corneum is the last layer of defence. We NEED this layer to act like a roof on a house and protect against dirt, excess sweat, pollutants, bacteria and makeup.

There are two categories of exfoliants we can use. Chemical exfoliants containing enzymes, hydroxy acids and retinols. My favorites include Cosmedix Pure Enzymes, Aspect Fruit Enzyme Mask, Cosmedix Define and Cosmedix Refine. Or physical exfoliants such as scrubs, cleansing brushes and facial cloths.

I prefer chemical exfoliants over physical exfoliants, and let me tell you why… Chemical  exfoliants not only exfoliate the surface, but can penetrate PAST the stratum corneum (dead cells) to reduce congestion within the pores and increase cell turnover. Hydroxy acids and retinols also have other benefits like brightening pigmentation,  promoting collagen synthesis and normalising cell functions.

Physical exfoliants like scrubs, contain beads that are generally NOT SPHERICAL but jagged at a microscopic level. This means they are scratching and scraping cells off of the surface that aren’t ready to be removed and  exposing immature cells the surface. 

What does this do? 

  • Impairs our barrier function
  • Create sensitivities and inflammation
  • Weakens skin immunity and ability to fight bacteria
  • Reduces moisture retention

What does over-exfoliation look like? 

  • Dryness/flakiness
  • Texture/need to exfoliate again not long after
  • Redness
  • Itchiness/increased stinging upon application of products
  • Breakouts
  • Increased oil flow through t-zone 

What should you do if you have over-exfoliated? Stop use of ALL exfoliants for 2-3 weeks and focus on rebuilding your skin barrier! This means incorporating oil cleansing, humectants like hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, vitamins b/c/d and products with probiotics to repair the skins immunity. 

Here are some of my recommended products to normalise the skin barrier: 


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published