My opinion on exfoliation is pretty clear: we don’t need it even remotely as much as the industry is saying that we do. It’s excessive, expensive, and potentially dangerous. In my eyes, over-exfoliation is an epidemic, and we need to do something about it. When your skin is red, painful, burning, and flaking, it’s very tempting to just run out and buy the next best product that promises to calm it down. Please don’t! I beg you to sit down for 5 minutes and read through my 16 tips on how to heal over-exfoliated skin.
Then, feel free to make your own decisions, but please be gentle!
1. Immediately stop using whatever was over-exfoliating your skin.
Pretty obvious, right? Throw away that Clarisonic brush, that popular scrub, that AHA peel with a cult following or whichever devilish invention you’ve been using on your poor skin. It doesn’t like it. Period. Your skin is pretty low maintenance and is crying for you to stop smothering it with all that attention. Just stop. Seriously.
2. Don’t exfoliate at all until your irritated skin heals.
Taking off all that dead skin and flakes might seem like a great idea, but that dead skin layer is there for a reason. It’s protecting the delicate brand new skin that’s growing underneath. If you take the protective layer off by exfoliating, you’ll just prolong the agony for your skin and might even end up with scarring.
3. Be very gentle with your skincare routine.
Don’t use muslin cloths, washcloths or anything that is remotely exfoliating. I find that a soft cotton pad is the gentlest thing on my skin when it’s feeling sensitive. Wash your face with cool water and tone with a bit of pure rosewater. If you find that even the cotton pad is too abrasive on your raw skin, simply get a spray bottle and spray it on throughout the day. Rosewater is so soothing, moisturizing, and healing. It’s a perfect gentle cleanser while your skin is healing.
Just make sure you get pure rosewater that is made of distilled rose petals and nothing else. There should be no rose oil, alcohol, preservatives or any other potentially irritating ingredients. I highly recommend this Moroccan rosewater.
4. Be careful putting any creams or liquid makeup on your over-exfoliated skin.
Your skin will be more sensitive to any of your regular products, so be very critical. Especially avoid anything with fragrance and alcohol, but any of your usual products might sting and irritate your irritated skin even more. Stick to natural oils for moisture and resort to mineral makeup if you’re really desperate to cover up. If you’re able to let your skin go makeup free for at least a few days, do it! Your skin will be able to recover so much quicker.
5. Beware of “hidden” exfoliation.
The Oil Cleansing Method also counts as exfoliation, so stay away. Even a gentle massage can be too much for over-exfoliated skin. It really doesn’t need any more stimulation. I know you’re desperate to fix your skin, but just let it rest for now.
6. Put away all those masks for now.
Even simple things like honey aren’t welcome during this delicate time. Some say oatmeal mask is healing, but it’s still slightly exfoliating when you apply it and wash it off, so in my books it’s a no no. Some even say that apple cider vinegar is great for over-exfoliated skin, but I strongly disagree. It’s an acid, and what do acids do? They exfoliate! So don’t fall for the hype.
7. Apply the most healing and nourishing oil you can find.
Shea butter is the most healing oil I have ever seen. it will heal even the driest, scaliest skin, and it will definitely help speed up the healing process. Remember that well-nourished skin will heal without leaving scars, so make sure you feed it well.
8. Take excess oil off if you’re worried about breakouts.
If you’re worried about too much oil clogging your pores, take your favourite oil (mine is pumpkin seed oil) and apply a generous amount on your damp face. Five minutes later, blot off any excess or wipe it off very gently with a soft tissue. Your skin will have taken whatever it needs, but there won’t be excess oil on the surface to cause you troubles.
Tired? Let’s have a little break! Here’s what Mr. Jimmy did while I was trying to take a photo for my blogpost. I think that white fluffy ball of cuteness loves my konjac sponge. 🙂
A smile is priceless, so thanks for that, Mr. Jimmy! Now let’s get back to the serious matters, shall we?
9. Don’t wash your face thoroughly twice a day.
In the mornings, stick to a quick splash with water or a quick wipe with rosewater. Let that acid mantle rebuild itself in peace.
10. Invest in a shower filter if you don’t have one already.
Or simply use bottled spring water. Tap water is full of chlorine and the deposits of hard water can also interfere with the delicate acid mantle. Even now that my skin is comfortable and nourished, it still dries up if I use plain tap water.
11. Nourish your skin from the inside out.
Provide your body with lots of protein and healthy fats – the building blocks of healthy new skin cells. Go for oily fish, pastured eggs, nuts, seeds, grass-fed butter (if you can tolerate dairy), and avocado. It might be wise to stay away from well-known inflammatory foods, such as gluten-containing grains (especially wheat), dairy, processed foods, alcohol, and of course sugar. Your skin needs all the help it can get from you. At least for those first 28 days.
12. Don’t be shy – nourish your skin throughout the day.
If your skin still feels dry, tight, and flaky, apply some oil a few times during the day and blot it off if you need to get rid of the excess shine (if you need to face people, that is). Don’t let your skin hang around feeling thirsty. Make sure you always apply oil on damp skin to seal the moisture.
13. Use aloe vera to cool and soothe your skin.
Use it either straight from the plant or pure aloe vera gel from the store. But test it on a small patch first – some people find that it dries their skin out.
14. Don’t touch your skin.
And don’t pop pimples. I know it’s easier said than done, but please try not to do it if you want to avoid ugly scars. Just get yourself busy doing something else and you won’t even remember about your skin. Read all my tips on how you can stop obsessing over your skin in this blogpost.
15. Exploit the wonderful cooling properties of the humble cucumber.
Put slices of fresh cucumber all over your face or blend it in a food processor if you prefer a purè. It’s so incredibly cooling and calming – you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Be very careful when you wash it off. Make sure you don’t irritate your skin by rubbing too much.
16. Stay out of the sun.
Strange to hear it from me, isn’t it? I know, but this is an emergency situation. Your delicate new skin is bare and it isn’t ready to face the world yet, so hide it until it heals. I wouldn’t recommend slathering chemical sunscreens either. Even a mineral based sunscreen might be too much. Just wear a wide hat and try to stay indoors or in the shade during sunny hours as much as you can.
How long will it take for my over-exfoliated skin to heal?
Skin cells regenerate roughly every 28 days, so you should definitely see lots of progress by then if you follow all of the above rules. However, it might take as little as 3-4 days for your skin to start feeling comfortable again. It all depends on how badly you over-exfoliated, how healthy your skin was in the first place, and of course how well you’re nourishing it from within.
Once you start seeing the first results, don’t hurry back to exfoliating. Don’t scrub or apply exfoliating masks for at least 30 days. Let your skin rebuild itself completely. Remember that the brand new skin cells will still be fragile and won’t be ready for harsh treatments.
Once your skin heals completely, treat it with respect. It will repay you back by feeling soft and supple, and of course by looking gorgeous! Your skin is low maintenance (everybody’s skin is like that), so treat it accordingly.
If you’d like to read more about my take on this epidemic of over-exfoliation and signs that you need to stop the torture, read this blogpost:
It’s the best-read blogpost on the entire blog, so I assume it’s good. 🙂 It also means that you guys are suffering from over-exfoliation as much as I used to, so I hope this article will be able to help.
Click here to pin it for later.
Have you ever over-exfoliated your skin? What was the culprit? How did you heal it? Let’s discuss!
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, dietician or nutritionist. This is what I have learned observing my own body and researching endlessly. So please take my words as ideas, but research, think carefully, and consult your physician before making any decisions for your own health. This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. I only recommend things that I absolutely love myself, and they’ve all been bought with my hard-earned cash.