Fact: Exfoliating is one of the very best things you can do for your skin.
We’re probably biased (Alpha-H is the exfoliating acid authority, after all!), but we believe almost everyone should have a chemical exfoliant in their skincare routine.
There are so many exfoliation benefits for the skin - increased collagen production and skin cell turnover, smoother and clearer-looking skin texture, and an instant radiance, just to name a few.
That said, things can go wrong if you’re not quite sure when or how to exfoliate.
No stress - that's why we're here!
From using the wrong exfoliating products for your skin, to over-exfoliation (yep, it’s a thing) and forgetting a crucial step in your skincare routine, here are five of the most common exfoliation mistakes you could be making.
Plus, our skin experts explain how to avoid these exfoliating errors, and crucially, what to do instead.
1. Not Exfoliating... At All.
Wondering, why should I exfoliate?
Aside from the instant radiance and next-day glow, Alpha-H's Clinical Training and Education Manager LeeAnne Leslie says:
“By the time we reach our mid 20s, our skin’s ability to exfoliate naturally starts to slow.”
“This leaves a buildup of dead skin cells on the surface, causing skin to appear dull, textured and more prone to breakouts.”
Try this instead:
If you’ve never exfoliated your skin before, now is an excellent time to start.
We’ll touch on the best exfoliating products for your skin concerns and comfort levels below, but pick one and add it into your routine tonight.
2. Over-Exfoliating (Exfoliating Too Often).
It’s true. As much as we love exfoliating, there is such a thing as too much exfoliation.
Over-exfoliating is actually super common, because there are so many products to try, but we only have one face to try them on.
And we get it! Skincare products are shiny and exciting and sell us the dream!
But applying too many products, too often, can break your skin barrier.
Hang on… I have a skin… barrier?
Yes! Short version: Your skin barrier helps the skin to function optimally by keeping good things like water in, and bad things like environmental aggressors and irritants out.
Over-exfoliating can impair this barrier, causing skin to look and feel:
- Congested/more blemish-prone than usual
- Tight or stripped
- Flaky or textured
- Dull or dehydrated
Try this instead:
Resilient skin-havers and seasoned skincare users might be able to tolerate exfoliation every day, but for many, more exfoliation doesn’t equal better results.
The smarter option? Finding a consistent exfoliation schedule or 'rhythm' that works for your skin.
If you’re not sure, start by using a chemical exfoliant like Alpha-H's Liquid Gold, Midnight Reboot Serum or Generation Glow Daily Resurfacing Essence once or twice a week, before building up to twice weekly or every other night.
And if you’re experiencing any of those skin symptoms above, stop what you’re using and go back to just good ol’ cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen for a few weeks.
3. Using Too Many Exfoliating Products At Once.
So you’re using an exfoliating cleanser.
And a scrub.
And an exfoliating serum.
And a liquid exfoliant, all in the one routine.
Or *shudder* all in one night.
This kind of over-exfoliation error is another easy one to make because while all the products are probably great in isolation, you might be doubling or tripling up on exfoliation.
Try this instead:
Go to your bathroom cabinet and grab all your night-time skincare products.
Then, have a look and suss out what purpose each product serves (i.e. why am I putting this on my face?).
If you come across multiple exfoliating or resurfacing products, pick one and stick with it until the bottle is finished before moving onto the next.
Advanced skincare aficionados with way too many favourite skincare children could try alternating different exfoliants (i.e. a glycolic acid exfoliant like Liquid Gold and an anti-ageing resurfacing serum like Midnight Reboot Serum) on different nights throughout the week.
But the average person only needs one exfoliating product at a time.
4. Choosing the Wrong Exfoliating Product for Your Skin.
Ever bought a skincare product because your friend - or a stranger on the internet - raved about it, only to find it irritated your skin, or felt like it did nothing at all?
That’s because we all have different skin types and concerns, and what works for someone else might not work for you.
At best, you’ll end up spending your time, money and energy on an exfoliating product that won’t deliver the results you want.
Worst case, you’re doing that while also nursing a broken skin barrier and navigating unwanted side effects like irritation, inflammation, texture and/or breakouts.
Try this instead:
Forget about what everyone else is using and the products following you around on Facebook and Instagram.
Rather, think about your primary skin concerns, skin goals and lifestyle, and pick an exfoliant to suit.
Here are LeeAnne’s expert suggestions:
Best for sensitive skin-havers, anyone who hasn’t exfoliated before (and is a bit nervous about it!), or those who prefer using a gentler exfoliant, more often.
2. Liquid Gold
Suitable for all skin types (particularly from age 25+), great for those wanting instant radiance along with an improvement in the look of fine lines and wrinkles, dullness and pigmentation over time.
A one-and-done age management serum for all skin types, especially beneficial for mature skins over 30, and anyone after visibly smoother, plumper, glowing skin, but doesn’t have the time or patience for a 12-step skincare routine.
Best for experienced exfoliators and resilient skin-havers after a punchy multi-purpose leave-on mask that’ll exfoliate and stimulate collagen production, while hydrating at the same time.
This one’s for those with normal, oily, combo, thickened or mature skin who want the benefits of chemical exfoliation and the feeling of a manual face scrub.
Best for balancing and decongesting combination and oily skin types, and managing the look of blemishes, breakouts, oiliness and shine.
5. Not Wearing Sunscreen Every Single Day.
Finally, according to LeeAnne, “if you exfoliate and don’t wear SPF, you’re asking for pigmentation.”
“Exfoliation removes that outer layer of dead skin cells to expose fresher, brighter skin underneath. However, if you don’t protect those lovely new skin cells, you’re back to square one.”
In other words, you might as well tip your Liquid Gold down the sink if you’re not wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen every single day.
Try this instead:
Find a sunscreen so good, you'll want to wear it as the last step of your morning skincare routine - or the first step of your makeup routine.
Like a moisturising sunscreen?
Daily Essential Moisturiser SPF 50+ is basically a dewy moisturiser, primer and SPF in one, with added hydration and moisture from pro vitamin B5, silica and vitamin E.
Those who prefer a more matte, dry touch finish sunscreen might vibe better with Protection Plus Daily Moisturiser SPF 50+.
The non-greasy, lightweight and fast-absorbing cream has a matte finish, and makes an excellent base for makeup.
And there you have it!
Now all that’s left to do is pick your product and start exfoliating tonight.