3 Ways You Might Be Over Exfoliating

Are we obsessed with exfoliation? Scrubbing the skin and running your fingers across a smooth-feeling face can definitely be addictive. So, naturally, the demand for exfoliation products is among the fastest growing in the skincare industry. North America has the fastest-growing regional market and is expected to exhibit a yearly growth of 5.6% until 2025. The global exfoliating brush market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.0% from 2021-2030.  The global  microdermabrasion devices market size is expected to reach USD 984.7 million by 2030, registering a CAGR of 8.6%, according to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc. 

There’s no denying that we live in an over exfoliation nation. But, what are the risks for our skin barrier? Plant and fruit-based body scrubs, such as those with cocoa, apricot, walnut, and almond are the most increasingly popular among customers, but scrubs like these, especially when used every day, can really damage the skin barrier. In turn, the growing cases of over-exfoliation related conditions are a major factor in driving the market growth of these exact products. The skin may breakout or become rough, and in turn, people are buying more exfoliation products to treat this. To save money and your skin barrier, it’s important to have awareness about the proper way to exfoliate. Here are 3 tips about using some of the most popular methods of exfoliation. 


1. Textured scrubs like walnut, apricot, or microbeads. 

These scrubs can create microtears in the skin. Micro-tears gradually weaken the skin's barrier, making skin more prone to dry, flaky patches, redness, and signs of sensitivity. With daily use, especially if you're zealously scrubbing with these ingredients, skin loses its ability to restore itself and look healthy. 

For example, microbeads are plastic, and even though walnut and apricots are “natural,” they are rough while the skin is soft. Rice starch, hydrated silica, and monocrystalline cellulose are much better than microbeads because they ball up on the skin, and create a smooth physical exfoliant. 

Peach and Lily KP Bump Boss -$28


Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant - $58

HaruHaru Black Rice Soft Peeling Gel -$27


Physical scrubs that are less gentle have the potential to break out the skin and to compromise its barrier. When the skin’s top layer is not strong enough, it has a hard time keeping out irritants and holding onto moisture.  All of this can lead to inflammation, acne, dark spots, dryness, and dullness. 

Thus, when you apply a textured scrub, you don't need to rub it in thoroughly. Although it’s suggested that scrubs should be rubbed for 30 seconds to a minute, a few circular motions before rinsing it off is fine for rougher scrubs used 2- 3 times per week. At any rate, many cleansers, have exfoliating components as well. So, you don’t have to scrub vigorously, meaning you don’t have to create a lot of friction on the skin for the product to work. Just move the hands in a circular motion.


2. Cleansing brushes

So, even soft bristle brushes can be a bit harsh on the skin, and facial wash brushes are not really necessary. Cleansing brushes, especially when used with another exfoliating product, can over exfoliate the skin and cause irritation. Secondly, cleansing brushes are more of a treatment. They don’t need to be used every time you wash your face, and there’s nothing about them that kill acne bacteria. If used at all, they are best used maybe 1-2 times per week. 

For regular use, soft microfiber face cloths will do just fine.  You can soften cleansing brushes by wetting them first and cleaning the brush properly. Your brush head should be cleaned after every use or you run the risk of introducing bacteria to your skin. Rinse it under warm water, and use a makeup brush cleanser or unscented soap to clean the bristles. Make sure you allow it to dry before storing it.


3. At-home microdermabrasion tools

Firstly, microdermabrasion is a dermatological process, meaning it’s normally done by professionals. In-clinic microdermabrasion is a dermatological procedure that gently removes the top layer of skin, the stratum corneum, but it does not exfoliate deeply into the skin.  Microdermabrasion can be coupled with certain chemicals. It is used to even out skin tones, fade acne scars, anti-age, and brighten a dull complexion. However, it is temporary and needs multiple treatments.

It is not the best idea to use a chemical peel or a retinoid along with an at-home microdermabrasion tool by yourself. While it is more gentle than most micro-needling treatments, it is still a physical exfoliant treatment that can disrupt the skin barrier. At-home microdermabrasion treatments are supposed to remove dead skin from the top layer, but the caveat is that you’re using a quick-fix solution. There are better products such as chemical peels, salicylic acid, and retinols that actually go into the skin to build collagen and reduce sebum. The skin turns over every 28-40 days so if you’re just chipping away at the top layer of skin to get a glow, you’re not really treating your skin or getting to the root of the problem. For example, if you’re sucking out sebum or sucking away dead skin, it will just come back. Likewise, you might use a microdermabrasion tool more and more, which in the end, might not be so good for the skin barrier.

Thus, focus on ingredients during your skincare routine that will build the skin not “make the bad stuff go away.” It’s all your skin so remember to treat it with kindness, acceptance, patience, and SPF. 

Coverphot cred: Vivo per Lei