Are you over-exfoliating? These are the signs and tricks to reverse the damage
June 10, 20224 min read
Has your skin suddenly become super sensitive, red, or itchy? Are persistent breakouts and flaky skin causing you grief?
You could be dealing with the results of over-exfoliation. While exfoliation plays a key role in a healthy skin routine it’s very easy to go overboard and wind up doing more harm than good.
If your exfoliation habit has gotten out of hand, fear not, the damage can be reversed. Let us show you how!
What happens when you over-exfoliate?
Over-exfoliation damages the skin barrier.
The surface of the skin has a protective layer of oils and fats, which, along with the dead cells, help seal moisture into the skin and keep irritants out.
When these protective properties are stripped away with excessive exfoliation the result is a weakened barrier. While the thought of dead skin cells might sound unappealing, in reality without this barrier the skin becomes vulnerable to water loss and attacks by allergens and bacteria.
Signs of over-exfoliation
Sensitised skin. You feel a burning or stinging sensation when applying your regular skincare products.
A tight, uncomfortable feeling
Dryness and dehydration
3 steps to reverse the damage of over-exfoliation
Feeling a little (or a lot) over-exfoliated? Time to show your skin barrier some serious TLC.
STEP 1. Get back to a basic, gentle routine
Sounds obvious, but the first step to tackling damage is to stop using any exfoliating products.
Next, strip your skincare routine right back to the basics. Focus on three simple steps - non-stripping cleanser, moisturiser and /or facial oil, and SPF.
STEP 2. Pause the actives
Skip any products with active ingredients such as retinol, Vitamin C or glycolic acid.
Scrubs, peels, and masks aren’t the only products with active exfoliating ingredients so check all your products. Even low percentage actives should be avoided during the healing phase.
STEP 3. Focus on barrier repair ingredients
Choose skincare with barrier repair heroes that work to attract and retain moisture, calm, and strengthen the skin. These ingredients include:
Natural oils that boost skin barrier function such as jojoba, argan, and coconut oil
Humectants - particularly hyaluronic acid
SEEH Daily Routine to restore a damaged barrier
We’ve got you covered for the ultimate repair mission with our super nourishing, yet simple daily routine that is perfect for sensitive skin.
Tips for reintroducing exfoliation into your routine
When your skin has bounced back to health you can reintroduce exfoliation - yay!
But this time let’s go about it the right way. You’ll enjoy all the benefits of exfoliation without the damage.
Balance is better: Physical vs chemical exfoliation
There are two types of exfoliants - chemical and physical. An effective routine is about using the right balance of both for your skin type and concerns.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs), Beta hydroxy acid (BHA), polyhydroxy acids (PHAs) and fruit enzymes are all chemical exfoliants. They work by dissolving the ‘glue’ that binds dead skin cells and debris together on the surface to reveal fresh cells beneath.
Common acids include:
Glycolic Acid (AHA): A good all-rounder for many skin concerns
Lactic Acid (AHA) and Lactobionic acid (PHA): Ideal for sensitive skin
Salicylic Acid (BHA): Suits acne-prone, oily and combination skin
AHAs target mild hyperpigmentation, fine lines, uneven skin tone and enlarged pores while BHAs are recommended for acne and more serious sun damage.
Physical exfoliation involves using a product, like a scrub, with fine granules that physically slough away dead skin cells when massaged into the skin.
Exfoliating tools (like a sponge, cloth or brush) are also forms of physical exfoliation.
Physical exfoliating ingredients include:
The above examples are gentle on the skin. Some scrubs contain crushed walnuts and salt which can cause micro-tears in the skin. These are exfoliants to avoid!
Contains gentle physical exfoliants apricot seed powder, rice powder, calendula oil, and jojoba oil. Shop here
CLARIFY Matcha Clay Mask
This detoxifying, brightening mask includes chemical exfoliants AHA fruit acids and white willow extract which contains salicylic acid. Shop here
Know how often to exfoliate
Daily exfoliation is a recipe for damage but most skin types can still exfoliate multiple times a week. When using SEEH Skincare, we recommend the following frequency:
SMOOTH Exfoliating Facial Polish: All skin types: Use 2 - 3 times per week. For a deeper exfoliation, sprinkle on more SMOOTH. For really inflamed and irritated skin, sprinkle on less SMOOTH for a gentler exfoliation and use twice per week.
CLARIFY Matcha Clay Mask: All skin types: Use up to 2 times per week and for the best results apply to freshly cleansed and exfoliated skin.
Important: If you’re using the CLARIFY Matcha Clay Mask and SMOOTH Exfoliating Facial Polish in your routine, we recommend only 1 application of each per week.
Don’t miss out on the benefits of exfoliation. With the right routine, you’ll be rewarded with a clearer, brighter complexion. As always, let me know if you have any questions!