Exfoliating Mistakes That Can Be Dangerous For Your Skin

by Stephanie Montes
Ivan Lattuada

As you know, too much of a good thing can actually be bad for you, and that includes exfoliating your face. While we recommend (and fully encourage) scrubbing twice a week, we also warn you to proceed with caution and avoid some common complexion-harming mistakes. Ahead, the faux pas you’re likely making when sloughing off dead skin and tips on how to do it correctly. You only get one face, so treat it nicely.


Do It Right

The main goal of exfoliation is to remove dead cells, which accumulate daily. However, aside from sloughing off dry skin, scrubbing can also stimulate collagen production, help firm the skin and keep it bright and plump. As long as you're not overdoing it with an overly aggressive scrub (and you're not on a prescription retinoid), daily exfoliating is actually okay.

If you experience redness or stinging after exfoliating, you're doing it too often—cut back to twice a week. Too much can strip your face of moisture and lead to dehydration, flaking, redness and inflammation. Chronic and prolonged inflammation can even cause early signs of aging or an increase of hyperpigmentation. Read your skin, and give it a rest if needed.

What works in high summer may not work in the dead of winter. Our skin is constantly changing, and so should our exfoliation routine. If your complexion is looking dull and lackluster, switch to something a bit stronger. If you're flaky, red, irritated or experiencing a burning sensation, switch to a gentler formula.

If you're prone to breakouts, refrain from using scrubs at all to avoid spreading bacteria and breeding more breakouts. Instead, use a cleansing cloth to gently exfoliate—and wash it regularly.

You've been told time and time again to stay away from your delicate eye area, but you would actually benefit from gentle exfoliation here. Not only can it reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles, it can also get rid of milia (those tiny white bumps around the eyes). Opt for a gentle enzyme peel instead of an abrasive scrub.

There's a difference between a scrub and a peel. Both exfoliate, but in very different ways. Acidic and enzymatic exfoliators, aka peels, remove dead skin and impurities just like scrubs but without the abrasive texture. They're also more powerful (they reach deeper layers) while still being gentle enough for sensitive skin. Use a peel a couple of times per month and scrub in between sessions to maintain your glow.

We love a good spinning cleansing brush, but you shouldn't use it every day. Once a week is the goal, three times a week max. Remember, overindulgence can cause inflammation, redness and early aging.

After every exfoliating session (scrub or peel), it's so important to moisturize. This hydrates and heals the skin—after all, it just went through a lot.