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How to Undo Over Exfoliated Skin

How to Undo Over Exfoliated Skin

Sometimes, skin that looks too shiny isn’t actually a good thing. It might indicate that you’ve over-exfoliated your skin. The therapeutic act of buffing away dead skin cells can make it easy to over exfoliate your skin, especially when you’re using indulgent scrubs and exfoliating cleansers that leave you instantly glowing. It can feel like the more you buff, the glowier you become.

In reality, it’s quite the contrary. When you over exfoliate skin, you comprise the skin barrier — the protective barrier responsible for keeping skin healthy. This can lead to dryness, redness, and flaking — more prominently seen in those with sensitive skin. Over-exfoliated skin can even result in further breakouts when skin becomes overly dry and skin compensates by creating excess oil, leading to clogged pores and blemishes.

The good news is, you can reverse over exfoliated skin. Here’s how.


Signs of Over Exfoliated Skin

First, you should probably figure out whether or not your skin has actually been over-buffed. Here are a few signs of over exfoliation to look out for:

  • Dry skin

  • Irritation or flaking

  • Redness or burning

  • Small bumps or pimples

  • Increased sensitivity to other skincare products

When it comes to exfoliating, whether with a scrub or chemical exfoliant, it’s best to apply everything in moderation. According to dermatologists, you should only be applying acids two to three times a week, depending on how dry or sensitive your skin is. As for face and body scrubs, you should limit use to once a week to avoid damaging your skin.


How to Treat Over Exfoliated Skin

So you’ve overdone it with your scrubs and exfoliating products. Now what? Focus on soothing your sore, irritated skin with the following steps.


Temporarily Stop Exfoliating

Right now, your skin will be at its most sensitive and vulnerable. For that reason, it’s best to press the pause button on both chemical and physical exfoliation until your skin’s back to its calm and collected self. Give your skin chance to repair by taking a couple of weeks off exfoliating. If you’ve got super sensitive skin, your skin may need a longer break to fully recuperate.

As great as exfoliating is for removing the buildup of dirt, oil, and dead skin, doing it excessively can actually damage skin and leave it red and reactive. For the sake of your skin health, take some time off from exfoliating and focus on healing your skin with nourishing, cooling formulas.


Replenish Lost Moisture

To bolster your skin barrier and save your skin from surplus buffing sessions, slather on hydrating serums and creams that’ll help replenish lost moisture and rebuild that protective barrier. The derms suggest using humectants to hydrate the skin, occlusives to seal in moisture, and emollients to support the skin barrier.

Some of the best humectants include hyaluronic acid and glycerin. As for occlusives, the derm-faves include shea butter, cocoa butter, and petrolatum. And emollients? Think ceramides, squalane, and fatty acids. Ideally, you want a product that includes all three. Alternatively, make sure your skincare routine contains all three, even if they come in separate products.

We recommend Rainbow’s HYDRATE Bundle, which consists of a face mask and serum formulated with hyaluronic acid, jojoba oil, and vitamin B5.




Soothe with Hydrocortisone Cream

For peeling, red areas, hydrocortisone cream can provide instant relief. You can apply this every day until your peeling, bumps, and redness disappear. If you don’t have any hydrocortisone cream on hand, you can always apply a thin layer of aloe vera gel to raw areas. This provides fast relief to dry, itchy, flaky skin. Maybe you used it through the summer to alleviate sunburn? Well, it works just as good for over exfoliated skin.


Simplify Your Skincare Routine

Again, one of the best things you can do to heal over exfoliated skin is to not overburden it with different products and active ingredients. While your skin is on the mend, stick to a streamlined skincare routine comprising of only a mild cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. That’s really all you’ll need for the next couple of weeks or so, or until your skin fully recovers.

Whether you’ve got oily skin, dry skin, or sensitive skin, all skin types can benefit from simplifying their routine. In addition to avoiding AHAs and BHAs, you should also take a break from retinol or any type of retinoid and vitamin C, which can both irritate skin during its recovery.

Nourish your skin with soothing, repairing ingredients like vitamin E, aloe, plant oils, and plant butters, which will also contribute to strong, healthy skin.


How to Prevent Over Exfoliation

To save your skin the pain of over-buffing, get the balance right. You don’t need to exfoliate every day. According to board-certified dermatologists, twice a week should be enough. You’ll also need to check the labels of your products to ensure exfoliating acids aren’t hiding in there.

Toners, foaming cleansers, and serums can all contain the likes of glycolic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid. Check the labels and make sure you’re only using your exfoliating products two to three times a week, no more.

You can also save your skin a lot of anguish by sticking to chemical exfoliants. Scrubs do a great job at buffing your body but they tend to be too aggressive for the delicate skin on your face.

Every time you exfoliate, be sure to follow up with a moisturizer and SPF. Exfoliated skin is more sensitive to UV rays, so it’s extra important to slap on your sunscreen after a buffing sesh.


Exfoliation can work wonders for your skin. It can treat everything from acne to hyperpigmentation and dullness. Plus, it’ll instantly leave skin feeling smoother after the very first use. That said, over exfoliating skin can trigger a slew of unpleasant side effects including dryness, flaking, peeling, and burning. You can prevent these side effects from occurring simply by exfoliating less.

First, get your skin back to its full health with the tips above. Then stick to exfoliating no more than three times a week — less if you have sensitive skin.

In the meantime, avoid in-office peels and other treatments that might inflame skin. Enjoy at home skin recovery treatments instead.

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