Are You Exfoliating Too Much?

Written by Ramya Kollipara, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist on May 13, 2020 No Comments

do you exfoliate too much

Exfoliating is an essential part of any skincare regimen. Proper exfoliation removes dead skin and debris that clings to the top layer of the skin, revealing vibrant and younger looking skin below. Regular exfoliation also helps other skincare products like serums and moisturizers to better penetrate the skin and be more effective.

However, it is possible to over-exfoliate: a point when excessive exfoliation causes a host of skin issues. It’s important to understand the process of exfoliation and be on the lookout for overdoing it.

Signs of over-exfoliation

Exfoliation removes the top layer of skin to reveal newer underlying layers.  When exfoliation is overdone it can cause a host of issues like dehydration and inflammation. Here are the common signs of over-exfoliation:

  • Skin redness and irritation
  • Overly tight feeling skin
  • Skin dryness or dry patches
  • Flaking of the skin
  • A persistent stinging or burning feeling
  • Hyperpigmentation or skin discoloration issues

What to do if you over-exfoliate

If you notice any of the above signs of over-exfoliation it is recommended to decrease your frequency of exfoliation and/or use a gentler method of exfoliating. You should also see a dermatologist, who can recommend alternate methods of exfoliation for your specific characteristics.

How often should you exfoliate?

The proper exfoliating schedule varies as it depends on your skin type and characteristics, the potency of the exfoliating products or technique used, and other skin concerns you may have like acne or rosacea. Many dermatologists recommend exfoliating once or twice per week. Daily exfoliation is not recommended.

The Hidden Issue That Could Cause Over-Exfoliation

A commonly overlooked issue that causes over-exfoliation is the potential for interference from ingredients of other skincare products used in a regimen. For example, many daily cleansers or toners contain exfoliants which when used in combination with an exfoliator pushes the limits into over-exfoliation. This is one major reason many skin care professionals recommend sticking to one single product line, where products are designed to work well with each other.

If your routine is composed of a mixture of products from various lines make sure to check the ingredients.

Other Exfoliating Tips

  • Be aware that the neck, chest (décolletage) and face require gentler exfoliation compared to the body.
  • Washcloths, loofas, and cleansing systems (like Clarisonic or Foreo) exfoliate on their own so the use of a chemical exfoliator may not be necessary.
  • When exfoliating, gently massage rather than scrub the skin. Let the product or tool do all the work.
  • Be sure to use a good moisturizer and sunscreen after exfoliation to maintain proper moisture and protect your skin from sun damage.

Ramya Kollipara, MD

Ramya Kollipara, MD is a board-certified dermatologist and fellowship-trained cosmetic dermatologic surgeon specializing in the practice of both cosmetic and medical dermatology. Dr. Kollipara completed a prestigious laser and cosmetic surgery fellowship program at Cosmetic Laser Dermatology in La Jolla, California. During her fellowship, she was involved in cutting-edge clinical research for novel cosmetic treatments involving fillers, neuromodulators and lasers.


Leave a Reply