Once you’ve witnessed the glowing results of a good exfoliation routine, it’s hard not to become instantly obsessed. But when it comes to exfoliating your skin, there can definitely be too much of a good thing. Knowing the right way to incorporate exfoliation into your regimen—and using the right products—can mean the difference between skin that feels baby-soft versus aggravating redness and irritation.
Recommended by many dermatologists and skincare experts, it’s no secret that regular exfoliation is a super important skincare step. Kavita Mariwalla, a board-certified dermatologist and IT Cosmetics Advisory Board Member agrees, saying, “As a dermatologist, I know exfoliation helps achieve smoother-looking skin.”
But how so, exactly? Well, exfoliating products can help buff away dead skin cells that build up on your skin’s surface over time. This can result in clearer pores, visibly refined skin texture, and a more radiant-looking complexion.
Here’s where exfoliation gets a bit tricky. Exfoliating products are no longer the overlooked middle child of the skincare world—they’re found in everything from physical exfoliants via facial scrubs to face cleansers, toners, and serums.
When skincare shopping, it’s important to look for supremely gentle exfoliators, such as Hello Results Baby-Smooth Glycolic Acid Peel + Caring Oil. This exfoliating product is so gentle, in fact, that you can use it every night to achieve beautiful-looking skin! The formula is also suitable for sensitive skin types.
If you’re not sure if you’ve been over-exfoliating, be aware of the following signs.
Visible Signs You May Be Over-Exfoliating Skin
Good news! Exfoliation doesn’t need to be complicated. Thankfully, your skin will let you know when it’s time to take a break for some extra TLC. Check out these five signs that point to a little too much exfoliation, and learn how to give your skin a radiance boost without going overboard.
Irritation and Visible Redness
Usually, the first warning sign of over-exfoliation is when you spot ongoing redness and irritation. Over-exfoliation occurs when you strip your skin’s protective barrier. Applying exfoliating products in excess—like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as glycolic acid—can remove too many healthy skin cells, leaving your skin raw and sensitive to the environment. A hint of visible redness after exfoliation can be perfectly normal, but if your skin is still aggravated and visibly irritated hours later, it may be wise to cut back a little.
Our Pro Tip: Reach for your Bye Bye Redness Neutralizing Color-Correcting Cream to help soothe skin. This tinted cream is infused with skin-loving colloidal oatmeal, peptides, aloe, and collagen. This cream helps visibly calm facial redness.
Increased Oiliness and Shine
Over-exfoliating skin causes dehydration which can show up on your face in the form of excess oiliness. It sounds totally counterintuitive, but when your skin’s surface is stripped of too much oil, it sometimes tries to overcompensate by producing even more oil in an effort to balance sebum levels. Contrary to popular belief, both blemish-prone and oily skin types needs hydration! While we all strive for that dewy-looking glow, if you start to notice excessive shininess then it may be a sign that you’ve been over-exfoliating.
Here’s the question of the day: Can over-exfoliating cause pimples? Short answer: Yep. Believe it or not, over-exfoliating can lead to stubborn breakouts that just won’t seem to go away. These may sometimes show up as small, red, bumpy blemishes that give the appearance of an uneven, rash-like texture. When used in moderation, exfoliating products—especially chemical exfoliants—can actually help smooth pores and keep pimples at bay by fighting blemish-causing bacteria. When you go overboard, though, your skin barrier can become compromised, which may make it more difficult for your skin to defend itself. In short, over-exfoliating your face can aggravate breakouts and worsen uneven skin texture.
Flakiness and Dry Skin
If you’ve been going heavy on the exfoliating products lately, you may notice that your complexion has become pretty flaky and dry. These dry flakes or patches are definitely your skin’s way of asking you to reel it in. Since dry skin is a common sign of over-exfoliation, it’s important to always use an ultra-hydrating moisturizer. We recommend Confidence in a Cream Hydrating Moisturizer, which provides an impressive continuous 24-hours of hydration.
Similar to your favorite Hello Results Wrinkle-Reducing Daily Retinol Serum-in-Cream—exfoliants can cause your skin to become more sensitive to the sun and other products. (The fancy pants word for this is “photosensitivity.”) If the rest of your skin suddenly starts burning, peeling, tingling, or cracking, you’ll definitely want to pedal back on your exfoliation routine. This might mean ceasing exfoliation while your skin recovers, or reducing the number of times a week you exfoliate.
How to Exfoliate Without Negatively Affecting Your Skin
If you’ve overdone it a bit in the exfoliation department, don’t sweat it! Lots of us have been there. Exfoliation routines can often be a trial-and-error process that takes time to perfect. Now that you know how to spot the warning signs, here’s how you can prevent over-exfoliating in the future.
Give Your Skin a Break
Scale back to give your skin a break from exfoliation. It may be worth consulting with a dermatologist, as well, for the best professional advice. Try a patch test the next time you exfoliate to see if the type of exfoliant you are using is too aggressive for your needs.
Reassess Your Current Routine
Since exfoliating products can increase your skin’s sensitivity, it’s a good idea to have a close look at your current skincare routine. Are you following the instructions on the label closely? Which active ingredients are you pairing together and when? Check out this helpful guide to learn more about how to layer your skincare products, once and for all.
Choose the Right Product for Your Needs
Remember, your skincare regimen is only as good as the product you choose! Here are a few of our favorites.
Pores: Bye Bye Pores Glycolic Acid Serum
A real game-changer, Bye Bye Pores Glycolic Acid Serum helps provide gentle exfoliation and moisturization. It can also help visibly refine texture and minimize the look of large pores. In our clinical studies, 98% of participants said their pores appeared smaller after using Bye Bye Pores for four weeks.*
Radiance: Confidence in a Cream Rosy Tone Moisturizer
Quick-absorbing and gentle, Confidence in a Cream Rosy Tone Moisturizer helps create beautiful-looking skin in a few key ways. First, it's formulated with rosy tone pigments to visibly revitalize skin. Second, with consistent use it boosts natural skin surface turnover, which helps smooth uneven skin texture and helps revive your complexion for a lifted, less tired look.
Wrinkles: Hello Results Wrinkle-Reducing Daily Retinol Serum-in-Cream
Seeking a gentle retinol formulation? Hello Results Wrinkle-Reducing Daily Retinol Serum-in-Cream boasts a dual-retinol formula with both free and encapsulated retinol. It's suitable for daily use on all skin types, and with consistent use can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and dark spots.
If you're on the prowl for the right moisturizer for your skin needs, check out this handy guide on 8 Different Types of Moisturizers to Know and Try.
*Based on a 4-week consumer assessment.