Although exfoliating is a vital step in your weekly beauty regime, OVER exfoliating can seriously damage your skin. Done too often, or too vigorously, you won’t just end up removing dead skin, you could also take off the top layer. This means leaving your skin open and inflamed, and exposed to bacteria and irritation, not to mention it’ll make breakouts more likely too. We know there’s no better feeling than putting your foundation on extra smooth skin, but you do need to control the amount you exfoliate. But don’t avoid the process completely, not exfoliating enough allows dead skin cells to build up, making your complexion look dull and increasing the risk of breakouts. It’s all about getting the right balance, as proper exfoliation boosts the overall health of your skin and helps your other products to be absorbed more effectively.

Our Guide To Exfoliating

There’s no definitive answer when it comes to how often you should exfoliate because it really depends on your skin type and daily routine (check your skin type here). For most people, twice a week is perfect, although if you’re a gym bunny or have more mature skin, you could exfoliate as often as four times a week. Another factor you need to consider is which type of exfoliator you use; there are two, but both work in very different ways:

Mechanical Exfoliator: A mechanical or physical exfoliator uses a formula containing beads or grains that buff away dead skin cells – this is the most common type of exfoliator. The key thing to remember is to use light pressure, otherwise, you could remove healthy, active skin cells leaving your skin exposed. We love the Neals Yard Remedies, Honey & Orange Facial Scrub, $25, as it’s free of abrasive microbeads making it gentler and less likely to irritate your skin.

Chemical Exfoliator: We promise this isn’t as scary as it sounds! A chemical exfoliator (AHA’s or BHA’s) is an enzyme or acid-based formula, which penetrates your skin, dislodging and dissolving dead skin cells while promoting skin regeneration, leaving your skin clean and radiant. The difference between AHA and BHA exfoliators is that AHAs (like glycolic, lactic, or citric acid), are water-soluble whereas BHA’s (like salicylic acid) are oil-soluble. This means a BHA exfoliator has a smaller molecular structure so it can reach deeper into the pores and is an anti-inflammatory as well as an antibacterial – so if you’re oily or acne-prone look out for salicylic acid. Our fav dual chemical exfoliator is The Ordinary’s, AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution, $12.

How To Identify Over Exfoliated Skin And How To Fix It

If your skin is feeling really tight and irritated or looks red and dry, chances are you’re over-exfoliating. Although, the biggest giveaway is when your face stings when applying another product after exfoliating. The most common cause of over-exfoliation is actually the granule scrub exfoliators, which can be really harmful to your skin when they’re overused, resulting in enlarged pores and even breakouts.

Don’t worry though, this doesn’t mean your skin is ruined forever! To rebuild your natural epidermal barrier, avoid exfoliating for two to three weeks and make sure you use a gentle cleanser that’s exfoliant-free – many now contain a very low percentage of chemical exfoliators, like 5% glycolic, lactic, citric or salicylic acid. If your skin has reached the stage where there’s open pus or even bleeding, try a topical antibiotic, although an appointment with your dermoltoligst is probably the best idea!

Our Favorite DIY Exfoliator

This is a natural exfoliator that’ll give you a stunning glow. Cook together 1/2 cup hot water and 1/3 cup oatmeal. Leave it to cool and then mix in 1 tablespoon of plain yoghurt (packed with lactic acid, an AHA), 1 tablespoon of honey, 1 teaspoon of turmeric, (an awesome antiaging and antibacterial powerhouse), and an egg-white for a hit of zinc and vitamin B. Apply a thin layer of the mask to your face for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse with warm water.

What’s your fav exfoliator? Let us know in the comments.