How to Heal Your Skin After Over Exfoliating

How to Heal Your Skin From Over Exfoliating YouGlowGal You Glow Gal Esthetician Sarah Payne Hiatus Spa Dallas Skincare Blog Beauty Blogger

Let’s paint a hypothetical picture: you’ve been taking REALLY good care of your skin, you’re loving the way it looks and feels. In all honesty, you’re downright proud of all the time spent researching the perfect routine. You feel beautiful in your skin. This is what you’ve been wanting to experience and it’s in the palm of your hands.

Recently, you purchased an exfoliating serum everyone is raving about on social media. Within a week your skin seems to have turned on you, the glowing, bouncy skin you acquired has vanished out of thin air.

Maybe it’s burning, itchy, or incredibly dry and flaky. Your face feels tight after every cleanse, but not in the good way like you just had a nice firming, tightening facial. It feels more like your face could crack and fall off at any moment. Is this what California would feel like before breaking off into the ocean? You’re Googling away when you stumble upon an article and all the dots connect.

Oh, crap, what you were worried about all along is true…. you’ve been over-exfoliating the whole time!

Firstly, we’ve all been there, so please don’t feel ashamed or guilty about mistakenly abusing your skin barrier. Many of us over-exfoliate, I saw it all the time in the treatment room. We’ve been conditioned to think we need more, more, more. When actually, when it comes to using exfoliants and actives in our routines, less is more.

Even I make the mistake of overdoing it from time to time, I’m a human guinea pig and enjoy trying new products. What’s a girl to do, you know??


Here’s the reality: everyone’s skin is different, so the frequency in which our skin can tolerate exfoliation will vary from person to person.

Our skin’s condition is constantly shifting, from hour to hour, day to day, even seasonally. Some days our skin feels drier while others it seems oily. Seasonal changes, shifts in our skin, lifestyle habits and the ingredients in our skincare all play a role in how much exfoliation our skin can handle.

One thing is for sure, the majority of us cannot exfoliate every day. Our skin cell production cycles about every 28 days for the average adult. As we age, our skin’s cycle slows down to about 45-60 days as we enter our 40’s. This cell production cycle has a direct influence on how many dead skin cells are present. If you’re exfoliating too often, you’re removing living, healthy cells instead of the dead cells accumulating over the 28-day cycle.

Sensitive skin types won’t be able to exfoliate as often as thicker skin, and that is OKAY. It doesn’t mean your skin won’t receive the same benefits, your needs are just different. If you feel any symptoms of over-exfoliating, no worries! I know exactly what you need to do to heal your skin.


Before we get into how to heal our skin, we need to understand why our skin is experiencing symptoms of over-exfoliation in the first place. It all comes down to one vital feature of your complexion: the skin barrier.

You see, the problem with neglecting our skin by over-exfoliating is that it destroys our skin’s barrier. Exfoliating acids, scrubs, retinoids, and active ingredients, when used too frequently, harm our skin’s protective first layer of defense. Using products that are too strong or harsh cause the same problem.

Our skin barrier supports our skin in its day to day functions, from combating dehydration, keeping out allergens and pollutants, helping defend against free radicals, and when functioning properly can support our efforts in slowing down aging. By making the skin barrier a focus of our skincare routine, we can strengthen it, helping prevent future unwanted skin symptoms from occurring.


There’s good news! We can bring our skin back to life, we just need to give it time to heal. The way we do so is by supporting our skin in what it already knows how to do: self-heal.

First, we must step away from our exfoliants, retinoids, scrubs and all active ingredients to give our skin a break. This is a non-negotiable if you want your beautiful skin to return. Depending on how much damage has occurred, this can take anywhere from a few days up to a few weeks. However, in extreme cases, it may take longer.

Next, we support our skin in repairing, healing, and becoming stronger. Think juicy, nourishing products to replenish your skin’s essential lipids. You might have ignored these previously because they didn’t have your favorite active ingredient! Gentle, creamy cleansers and nourishing moisturizers are where it’s at.

Ideally, you’ll use a moisturizer loaded with ingredients like phospholipids, sphingolipids, and ceramides for a speedy recovery. Sarah Nicole Skincare Nourishing Cream was specifically designed for skin needing to overcome unintentional neglect, not only helping restore your skin but strengthening it to help eliminate future sensitivity and irritation from occurring.

While your skin is healing, keep it simple! Cleanse, moisturize, and in the evening apply a barrier supportive oil on top. (Did you know, not all oils are healthy for our barrier?) Doing so will act as a sealant, preventing moisture from escaping your delicate skin and keep it from feeling uncomfortable. If your skin feels exceptionally dehydrated, try adding a hyaluronic acid serum under your moisturizer.

If you’re experiencing an excess of heat, sensitivity, and irritation you may want to consider including this killer ice roller to soothe and calm your skin. Mine lives in the freezer for days my sensitive skin is acting up. It feels amazing while calming my complexion! Plus it helps with puffiness and lymphatic drainage.

Now all you have to do is sit back, relax, and let your skin do its thing. Our skin is an intelligent organ, it knows exactly how to self-heal when we don’t get in the way.

When you start back on the exfoliation grind, complete your routine with anti-inflammatory, soothing ingredients. It’s wise to continue using your barrier supporting moisturizer, further strengthening your skin while helping it look and feel its best. Proper exfoliation creates smooth, refreshed, glowing skin, and maintaining your new habits will allow your skin to flourish. If you continue to have issues re-evaluate your skincare regimen, it’s possible there’s a product you’re using that isn’t right for your unique skin! When in doubt, find an esthetician to guide you through finding the perfect balancing routine.

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About Sarah Nicole

Sarah is a Denver based expert esthetician, known for returning abused sensitive skin back to a glowing state without harsh products while boosting her client's skin confidence and self-worth. Sarah has been featured in Allure, New Beauty, Greatist, NBC News, and D Magazine among others. You can follow her on Instagram @sarahnpayne.

13 thoughts on “How to Heal Your Skin After Over Exfoliating

  1. Hi sarah, I have overexfolited my face by using home kit microdermabrasion . It’s been a year I stopped using that but still my face feel very sensitive and when I go out in sun feel hot and tight nd my face turn red, even mobile radiation also irritate my face, recently I start using creave moisturizer cream I can see some improvement but still I need help . Can I apply vitamin c or I should go to dermatologist , thanks

  2. Hi! Everytime I exfoliate my chin and nose start to become rough the very next day. No other part doesn’t it apart from those two. Do you have any idea why? I’m so stuck ☹

  3. Hii
    I think i have over exfoliated
    But in a long term..
    Becuz my skin in that part i used masks alot is red hot and dry nonhydrated and becomes redder and hotter by the stress or feelings..i dont know how to heal it
    I think it was about a year that i have overexfoliated and overmasked my face
    Would u help me?

  4. Hi. I think my face over-exfoliate. Would you suggest if I have to cut off toner such as Benton Aloe BHA toner or Cosrx Low Ph Cleanser because it contain salicylic acid?

    1. If you suspect you’re over-exfoliating cut out anything with exfoliating ingredients for a bit and gradually add them back in with less frequency

  5. Would you recommend cutting everything (the AHA’s,BHA’s, Retinols, Enzymes) completely? Or easing yourself off?

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