What Happens If You Exfoliate Too Much: Side Effect and Best Solution


Discovering the delicate balance in skincare is crucial, and understanding the impact of over-exfoliation is key to maintaining a healthy, radiant complexion. Exfoliation, when done correctly, can unveil fresh, vibrant skin by removing dead cells and promoting renewal. However, what happens if you exfoliate too much?

Exfoliation is a good practice for the skin. It makes our skin clean and fresh from dead skin cells and stubborn dirt. But, it is also true that excess of anything is bad. However, over-exfoliation can bring disaster to your skin instead of betterment. Excessive exfoliation can cause redness, irritation, dryness, and sensitivity, and damage the skin’s protective barrier, leading to further issues.

Being aware of the dangers of over-exfoliation will enable you to make wise choices for the health and appearance of your skin. In this article, I will tell you what happens if you exfoliate too much and how to recover from it.

What is Over Exfoliation

The term “over exfoliation” describes the over-removal of the epidermis, which is sometimes brought on by severe or overly frequent use of exfoliating equipment, chemical peels, or physical scrubbing. The skin’s natural barrier may be compromised, resulting in symptoms such as redness, irritation, heightened sensitivity, dryness, or peeling.

What Happens If You Exfoliate Too Much

It might eventually lead to more serious problems including irritation, pimples, or a damaged complexion. To keep skin healthy and ensure that it stays balanced, protected, and capable of retaining moisture, it’s important to detect these indicators and adopt moderate exfoliating practices.

How Over Exfoliation Happens

Firstly, over-exfoliation occurs when you don’t get a satisfactory result from regular exfoliation. And once a sudden you decided to remove all the residue from your skin whatever it takes. And this unplanned exfoliation brings disaster to your skin.

One type of over-exfoliation gives you quick damage like inflammation, redness, rashes, etc. It happens because you rubbed your skin aggressively.

Another type doesn’t give you any notice, just slowly damages your skin. It happens when you exfoliate every day but not the gentle way that your skin deserves.   

Remember, both types are dangerous for your skin.

The second reason for over-exfoliation is the use of cheap and harsh exfoliators. It could be loofah, shower pouf, exfoliating brush, scrub, etc.

Your skin is the largest organ of the body. You should spend some bucks to give it special care. Buy exfoliating tools from a renowned brand that cares about your skin as well as exfoliate properly.

If you use a cheap exfoliator, it will give you uneven exfoliation and damaged skin.

What Happens if You Exfoliate Too Much: Side Effects

There are several side effects of over-exfoliation from acute to chronic. You should know them well to treat as early as possible. Some of them are easily curable and some need special care. Let’s see in detail.

What Happens if You Exfoliate Too Much

Inflammation and Swelling

When your skin gets damaged, it tells you through inflammation. It is the response of the body’s immune system to repair the damage. Over exfoliation buffs away the skin layer that should not be removed. Even it could create nicks and cuts responsible for long-term skin damage.

One of the major signs of inflamed skin is swelling. It happens when the inflammation is severe. Swelling can appear if your skin is super sensitive.


Redness is common in exfoliation. After every exfoliation, your skin color may change to reddish or pinkish shade. It is not a problem anymore. It is a quite natural response of skin to exfoliation. Your skin will turn to normal after a moment, 10-20 minutes max.

But, the problem arises if your skin’s redness lasts for hours. That means you have done over-exfoliation to your skin. If the situation worsens with time, consult with a dermatologist.

Extreme Dry and Flaky Skin

Over exfoliation breaks the natural barrier of the skin. It not only removes the dirt but also washes away skin oil that is essential for skin health. Over-exfoliation exposes immature skin cells to the outer environment. And these skin cells lose moisture due to damage to the skin’s protective barrier.

Finally, you will get extremely dry, flaky, and lifeless skin that makes you look dull. If you neglect it, you could experience several skin problems caused by skin dryness.

Feeling of Tightness

It is a co-problem of skin dryness caused by over-exfoliation. After over-exfoliation, your damaged skin layer starts losing moisture leading to dryness. This dryness gives a tight feeling that you experience naturally in the winter.

If you feel tight after exfoliation, surely you do it in the wrong way.

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Excessive Oil Production

Besides making skin dry, over-exfoliation also makes your skin overly shiny through excess oil production.

I already said that over-exfoliation makes skin dry which isn’t a good experience for your skin. Naturally, skin tries to escape from this situation.

Skin produces excess oils to recover from the dryness which makes you look oily, a kind of plasticky appearance.


Exfoliation prevents acne and over-exfoliation exacerbates acne. Sounds crazy?

One of the main reasons behind acne is the blockage of skin pores by dirt and dead skin cells. The skin oil (sebum) cannot get to the surface, and thus the acne forms. Exfoliation removes the impurities and frees the skin pores to prevent acne formation.

On the other hand, over exfoliating skin makes your skin extremely dry. To recover this skin produces an excess amount of oil which triggers the breakout. If your skin is acne-prone or has existing acne, over-exfoliation will do huge damage to it.

Increased Sensitivity to Other Products

We use various products to care for our skin. They are made to use on damage-free skin. But our skin cannot tolerate them if we use on overly exfoliated skin.

Over exfoliating skin damages our skin and exposes those layers which should remain under the protective barrier. Without this barrier, skin shows sensitivity to almost everything.

If your regular skincare products create sensitivity after exfoliation, maybe you have exfoliated your skin aggressively.

Develops Aging Signs

One of the major reasons behind premature aging is over exfoliation. It brings many problems like inflammation, dryness, skin damage, etc. Moreover, it makes your skin thinner than usual.

Together all these make your skin weaker and develop aging signs. Major aging signs caused by over exfoliation are wrinkles, fine lines, and saggy skin.

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Slows Down Cellular Turnover

Exfoliation promotes cellular regeneration by removing dead skin shedding from the topmost layer of the skin. But over exfoliation does the opposite thing.

Over-exfoliation creates various types of skin damage. And if your skin goes through repetitive damage, it slows down the cellular regeneration process. And finally, it leads to premature aging.

Can You Heal Over Exfoliated Skin?

Yes, you can heal over-exfoliated skin. Begin by stopping all exfoliation and giving your skin a break from harsh products. Switch to gentle, hydrating cleansers and moisturizers to soothe and repair the skin barrier. Ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and aloe vera can help restore moisture and reduce inflammation.

Avoid direct sunlight and always use sunscreen to protect the vulnerable skin. Patience is key, as healing may take time. If irritation persists or worsens, consult a dermatologist for a tailored treatment plan. Remember, gentle care and time are your best allies in healing over-exfoliated skin.

How to Fix Over Exfoliated Skin Damage

First of all, stop doing exfoliation right now. Stop using foaming cleansers, retinol products, and chemical or physical exfoliators. Let your skin heal by itself.

You should follow some procedures based on the symptoms you have. If your skin shows a burning sensation, give it a cold compress with an ice bag. It will give you quick relief from a burning sensation or itching. Natural and raw aloe vera gel also works well on inflamed skin.

If your skin is severely damaged, you may use some medicated ointment and cream. Buy an OTC cream or ointment and apply it to the inflamed area. But, in extreme conditions, it is better to take suggestions from a dermatologist.

Time to Start Exfoliation Again

The cellular lifecycle of skin cells is 2-3 weeks. So, your skin would take a maximum of a month for a complete recovery.

If your skin damage isn’t so severe, you could start exfoliating after a week. But, use a soft exfoliator and rub on your skin very gently. Keep the frequency once a week for a month then return to your regular exfoliation routine. And never repeat the mistake you made before.

Wrap Up

In summary, although exfoliation is a useful component of a skincare regimen, moderation is essential. Excessive exfoliation can cause a variety of skin problems, such as redness, irritation, sensitivity, and a weakened skin barrier that leaves the skin more vulnerable to environmental harm. It’s critical to identify over-exfoliation symptoms and modify your skincare regimen accordingly.

Choose mild exfoliants, apply them in moderation, and put skin protection and hydration first at all times. Consult a dermatologist for help if your symptoms are severe or persistent. You may preserve the health and shine of your skin without the negative consequences of over-exfoliation by being aware of and mindful of its boundaries.