Facial exfoliation: how much is just enough?

Facial exfoliation: how much is too much?

When it comes to glowing skin, it’s clear that facial exfoliation is key. What’s not so clear is how often we should exfoliate for best results. Read on to find out how to develop the best routine for your skin.

Glowing skin is healthy skin, and healthy skin has a literal barrier to keep moisture inside your skin and bacteria out.

When that barrier is weakened, your skin becomes open to irritation, infections and breakouts.

The skin barrier can get weak from two things: not enough exfoliation, and too much exfoliation.

Why is facial exfoliation necessary for a healthy skin barrier?

Not enough exfoliation means that there is a buildup of dead skin cells, oil, dirt and pollution. The combination of old skin cells and dirt is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and other irritants, causing acne and irritation.

Dead skin cells also cannot hold as much moisture and hydration as younger skin cells, making your complexion appear dull and dry.

Exfoliation works to slough away dead skin cells and promote healthy cell turnover, improving the appearance and barrier function of your skin.

How much is too much exfoliation?

If you exfoliate too much, you start stripping away the barrier itself, irritating the young and raw skin cells underneath.

Symptoms of overexfoliation include:

  • red, dry or tight skin
  • breakouts
  • irritation, burning or peeling
  • shiny but not oily skin

Overexfoliation actually causes dry skin, making your skin appear tight and shiny or dull and flaky. This is because the compromised barrier can no longer keep moisture in your skin.

Areas of visible peeling or flaking are a sign of overexfoliation and should not occur with at home treatments. Some professional skincare treatments can cause peeling or flaking, but this is done in a controlled way to maximise the benefits.

What should my facial exfoliation routine look like?

Go slowly with facial exfoliation — it is easier to do more than it is to pull back.

Start with one product like a scrub or gentle exfoliating mask.

Use once a week at first, and then build up to 2-3 times a week as necessary.

This may be all your skin needs to stay fresh. If your skin begins to feel tight or dry, pull back and reduce your exfoliation.

If your skin does not respond to exfoliating 2-3 times a week, dial down the exfoliating products and try a gentle at-home peel to kickstart the process. Use the peel once a week for 2 weeks and slowly introduce an exfoliating scrub or mask once a week if necessary.