Are you exfoliating your skin too often?

If it isn't glowing, you may be doing something wrong.

Harper's Bazaar India

A good buff comes with the promise of revealing a glowing, brighter complexion underneath. Exfoliating, whether it involves slathering on an active toner or using an old-school face mask, can do wonders for your skin (if done right). Suppose you’re layering on skincare ingredients only to feel like they’re not actually working, or struggling to figure out how to get rid of perpetual dullness, or find your makeup flaking when you put it on—you’re likely not exfoliating enough! It’s time to intervene and exfoliate. Scrubbing off dead skin might sound daunting at first, but it’s an essential skincare step if you're looking for that flawless glow. Though physical exfoliators have been popular for a while, their chemical counterparts are now hitting the mainstream spotlight. Moreover, the advent of milder daily exfoliants makes for an interesting addition to skincare routines as well!

However, we’ve all been victim to the nasty reactions of over-exfoliating—that drugstore apricot scrub and homemade sugar scrub you used in your teens was probably too harsh and left you with redness and breakouts. If used excessively, today’s strong, active-loaded exfoliants can harm your skin, too. So let’s decode some of our biggest questions when it comes to buffing and polishing your skin.

Why do we need to exfoliate?
Our skin cells are constantly in a state of regeneration, and exfoliating ensures that the dead skin cells are completely removed. Dead skin cells do not reflect light, so they build up on the surface and leave your skin looking and feeling dull. Stripping these dead cells away leaves your skin looking clean and bright while ensuring your elaborate skincare routine absorbs into deeper layers of the dermis—thereby improving its efficacy.

How often should we exfoliate?
Dr Madhuri Agarwal, founder and medical director of Yavana Aesthetics Clinic says, “Exfoliate twice a week for oily skin and once every ten days for dry skin. Do not overdo it as it will disturb the skin barrier and strip the skin of its natural lipids.” Overdoing your exfoliating routine can lead to excessive breakouts, redness, and damaged skin. It can also cause dryness due to loss of moisture. While daily exfoliants can be used regularly due to their comparatively mild nature, other stronger actives should be used sparingly.

Are there any things to keep in mind before you exfoliate your skin? 
“Use a chemical exfoliator instead of a physical one. Choose one according to your skin type and concern– a salicylic acid exfoliator can unclog the pores whereas an alpha hydroxy one is good for gentle exfoliation”, advises Dr Madhuri. Night-time exfoliation is recommended so the PM routine serums and products are absorbed well while the skin cells regenerate. It’s important to cleanse the face thoroughly before exfoliating and moisturise after using the chemical exfoliator.

How to treat over-exfoliated and aggravated skin? 
Exfoliated aggravated skin is tender, inflamed, and red. Overexfoliated skin requires rebuilding the skin barrier and replenishing the natural moisturising factor. Start by stopping the use of all active ingredients such as acids and retinol; switching over to a basic skincare routine with gentle products is recommended. “A hydrating cleanser, a barrier-repairing moisturiser, and sunscreen should do. Ingredients like ceramides, vitamin e, cica, and peptides should be incorporated to hasten the repair process”, suggests Dr Madhuri. In case the irritation persists, it’s best to consult your dermatologist.

Below are some of our favourite exfoliators.

Dermalogica Daily Milkfoliant, ₹5,200

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Solution, ₹1,250

Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel, ₹8,800

Pixi Glow Tonic, ₹1,550

iS Clinical Tri-Active Exfoliating Masque, ₹9,200

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 5% BHA Exfoliant, ₹3,100

La Fervance Gommage Extraordinaire, ₹10,500

Kiehl’s Turmeric and Cranberry Seed Radiance Mask, ₹2,000