These Exfoliating Mistakes Are Secretly Sabotaging Your Skin

Updated 06/14/19

We're told time and time again that we need to be exfoliating; it gets rid of dead skin and pore-clogging gunk and gives us that healthy glow we so often strive for. However, sometimes as much as we scrub, our skin just doesn't have the vibrancy we'd expect. Are we being too abrasive? Are we not using the right formula? We have so many burning questions about exfoliation (including why some exfoliators literally burn) that we turned to two skincare experts to find out what we need to stop (and start) doing. Keep scrolling to learn more!

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Have you ever thought you were doing extra for your skin by putting an exfoliating face scrub on your Clarisonic and going to town? (Guilty). According to celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau, turns out you're actually doing extra harm. "The action that occurs when the bristles are oscillating over the face is that of an exfoliant—they physically lift off dry skin cells, removing dirt and makeup in the process. To then add a facial scrub directly to the brush and use both on the face will no doubt cause irritation and redness since too many skin cells are being removed in the process." Yikes! On top of not pairing the two together, Rouleau also warns against overusing the brush in general. Easy does it!

2. Scrubbing Acne-Prone Skin

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According to Heather Wilson, esthetician and director of brand development for InstaNatural, scrubs will just make breakouts worse: "Scrubs are not recommended for acne-prone skin due to the risk of spreading bacteria. Instead, try gentle cloths or brushes to lightly exfoliate the skin."

3. Skipping the Eye Area

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We've been told countless times not to scrub our eye area since the skin is so delicate, so we usually dodge it like the plague when exfoliating. However, scrub-free exfoliants will actually do your under-eye area a world of good. "When it comes to the eye area, most people rely exclusively on eye cream. While it’s important to use eye cream, most people don't know that gentle exfoliation around the eyes can make a significant improvement in reducing the appearance of lines and wrinkles." Rouleau suggests using acid serums along the outer corners of the eye where crow's feet normally appear and to use eye cream on top of the serum to seal it in and add moisture.

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4. Using Too Many Products

"These days, I've noticed the trend when using skincare products is to say, 'If it's not burning or stinging, it's not working,'" says Rouleau. Unsurprisingly, this is actually the opposite of what you want, since that notion could lead to damaged, overworked skin. Don't do too many exfoliating treatments one after the other in the quest for smooth skin, and limit the number of days you exfoliate (more on that below).

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5. Exfoliating Daily

Is your daily face wash also a scrub? Put it down, take a step back, and tell it you'll see it in a few days. Says Rouleau, "Exfoliating is an essential part of a skincare routine, but doing so daily—for most skin types—is too much. Exfoliating the skin daily with various types of exfoliants can cause several issues: a stripped moisture (lipid) barrier layer resulting in dehydration, flaking, redness, and inflammation; dryness; aging due to chronic and prolonged inflammation; destruction of healthy cells; stimulation of melanin activity possibly resulting in an increase of hyperpigmentation (brown spots and patches); and stinging and irritation of the skin. (Ed note: Ah! The answer to our "burning" question.) Exfoliating takes a toll on your skin—give it a rest between treatments so you're not causing unnecessary damage. 

6. Only Using Scrubs

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Acidic and enzymatic exfoliators remove dead skin and impurities just like scrubs, but without the abrasive texture. They're much gentler, especially for sensitive and broken out skin. This particular mask from Herbivore is infused with cooling blue tansy, so not only are you unveiling brighter, healthier skin, but you're also providing calming relief in the process.

Now, what's your favorite exfoliator? Please share with us below!

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