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How Do I Know If I Am Over-Exfoliating?


By now you’ve surely heard that exfoliation is a good thing for your skin. If you’re like me, you’ve tried it and love the results: skin that is immediately softer and more vibrant. And if you’re like me, you love the results so much that you may exfoliate more often than your face needs.

Many brands extol the benefits of constant exfoliation but don’t mention the problems it can cause if done incorrectly or too often. So how much exfoliation is too much, and what can you do to treat over-exfoliated skin?

First, understand that your skin does exfoliate naturally. When you are younger, your skin will generate new cell growth every month — people in their 20s can exfoliate once a week and have the results hold up. As we age, the skin still sheds its top layer (the epidermis) but at a much slower rate. This increases the need and desire to exfoliate more often to keep skin healthy and glowing. It's common as you get older to see dull lifeless skin. It’s also very common to feel the need to do more. It can be almost addictive. Here's what you need to know:

The different types of exfoliation

1. Physical exfoliation: Using a scrub, a facial brush, or a washcloth to physically shed dead skin cells. These are considered the safest and easiest forms of exfoliation for those with sensitive skin.

2. Chemical exfoliation: Using enzymes and/or acids that act as a peel and remove the epidermal layer. Unless the peel is specifically formulated, this approach is often not recommended for those with sensitive skin. If you try one and have sensitive skin, it’s best to take a patch test to ensure that you will be able to tolerate the peel you are tempted to try. Test an inconspicuous part of your neck before applying the peel to your face.

Too often we see customers who have overused chemical exfoliators and end up removing more of the epidermis than they should have. How will you know if you have over-exfoliated? Your skin will look increasingly red, and you will experience bumpiness and a rash-like texture. You may also notice a dry, raw, burning, or extra-sensitive feeling where the exfoliation took place.

What happened? You over-exfoliated and actually compromised your skin barrier. By doing so, you may also have created tiny tears in your skin that now need healing. While this sounds serious, the damage is completely repairable.

So how much should you exfoliate? It depends on your skin. If you experience dullness, dry skin, or breakouts, you likely need to exfoliate. As with any of our skincare recommendations, we think you should test the waters slowly with exfoliation. Patch test before starting and only exfoliate once a week (at most) to start. If your skin tolerates that routine for a few weeks in a row, then you can increase frequency, if you feel the need. Go SLOW. For those with sensitive skin, we don’t recommend exfoliating more than twice a week. If you don’t have sensitive skin, you may be able to work your way up to three exfoliations per week — but be careful and pay close attention to what your skin is telling you.

How do you help repair skin that is over-exfoliated? First, take a break from exfoliating and give your skin time to repair itself. Wash your face only once a day (if possible) and pass on heavy makeup. Also make sure you are using skincare products that provide extra moisture and help rebuild your skin’s barrier. Hyaluronic acid can also help repair damaged skin. Three of Starling’s products — Nurture cleanser, Revive serum and Super Boost serum— will do the job.

Nurture cleanser: Formulated with humectants and anti-inflammatory, skin-healing ingredients like calendula, aloe and vitamin e, this cleanser will take care of stressed and damaged skin.

Super Boost: Specially formulated for sensitive skin, our hyaluronic acid serum is made of medium and larger molecules for more immediate healing and moisturizing results. These weights are proven to be less sensitizing for skin. It also contains several healing plant waters that are perfect for sensitive skin.

Revive serum: Full of plant-based seed oils, this serum is designed to speed up cellular recovery, heal, and gently brighten skin. It will protect your skin’s barrier with healthy fatty acids, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients. May be used as your moisturizer, or for extra dry skin, you can layer it on top of a face cream to help seal in moisture benefits.

Shop All Three Products Right Here: