How to Know if You Overexfoliated Your Skin


Sometimes enthusiasm gets the better of us. It is easy (so easy!) to get carried away when it comes to skincare.

You find the right cleanser and moisturizer. A million YouTube videos and blog posts later and you realize your routine is missing a whole bunch of things. You are convinced that if you don’t include acids/retinols/vitamin C in your routine, your face will fall off (fyi – it won’t). You purchase more products, your skincare stash takes over your bathroom and you start using all of it at the same time. Meanwhile your skin is begging for mercy. Overexfoliation can happen to all of us (and that is why we harp on about starting things slow).

What is overexfoliation?

In simple terms – you messed up your moisture barrier. Stratum Corneum protects your skin from outside stressors. The top part of Stratum Corneum is the acid mantle. It keeps your skin hydrated, protects it from environmental stressors, regulates sebum production and minimises the risk of infection. The pH of skin ranges between 4.5 and 6. Once you overexfoliate, your acid mantle is out of whack.

Signs of overexfoliation

Dry and dehydrated skin

How it looks like – your skin feels dry to the touch, looks crepey and fine lines and wrinkles are more prominent. It can also feel extremely tight and uncomfortable (especially after cleansing).

Increase in sensitivity

How it looks like – redness, itchiness, burning sensation. Your skin might start to react to skincare products that have never bothered you before.

Increase in oiliness

How it looks like – your oil production was in check. All of sudden you get oily all the time, makeup keeps sliding off and you need to blot your skin throughout the day.

Increase in breakouts

How it looks like – your acne is not getting better, in fact you are more prone to breakouts than before.

Skin looks waxy

How it looks like – it happens gradually, but all of a sudden your skin looks waxy, plasticky (yes, it’s a technical term) and very shiny (not oily, just shiny).

Rough, peeling, flaking skin

How it looks like – skin feels rough to the touch, there might be peeling and/or flaking.

How to fix it

Stop all actives immediately (acids, retinols and vitamin C) and give your acid mantle a chance to recover. Use gentle (almost bland) cleansers that will nourish the skin. Look for products that include ingredients such as Ceramides, Urea and Hyaluronic acid. Think about including a facial oil in your routine. Nourish, soothe, restore. How long it takes depends on your skin, so monitor it closely.

Once your skin has recovered, introduce your actives gradually. Once or twice per week should be enough in the beginning. Keep pampering your skin in the meantime. Yes, gentle cleansers and rich moisturizers aren’t the most exciting thing in the world. But with time and patience your skin will get better.

Roberta Striga