A warm shower using our favorite products is an ideal way to start the morning or to de-stress after a hectic day. But while they may provide a luxurious touch to our daily bathing experience, the way we are using our products may cause over exfoliation, which can result in body acne and dry skin.
First for Women spoke with board-certified dermatologists Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand, MD and Leslie Baumann, MD to learn more about how over-exfoliation can negatively affect the skin’s surface and how to avoid it.
How does over-exfoliation lead to body acne?
Exfoliating is an important step in any beauty routine that removes dead skin cells and leaves your body soft, smooth, and healthy. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) highlights the two main ways to exfoliate at home: mechanical and chemical. Mechanical exfoliation involves using a tool like a sponge or brush to scrub away the dead skin from your arms, legs, and back when you’re in the shower. If you chemically exfoliate you would use a body wash or scrub that includes chemicals like alpha and beta hydroxy acids that carefully dissolve the dead skin cells on the surface.
While exfoliating is a great way maintain the skin’s health, Dr. Houshmand notes that overdoing it can lead to dryness and body acne: “If you are exfoliating the skin too often, the skin’s barrier function can become compromised, skin can become dehydrated and capillaries can become damaged.”
Dr. Houshmand adds that products containing chemicals such as salicylic, glycolic, or mandelic acids along with scrubbing the skin too hard with grainy brushes or sponges often lead to over-exfoliation. Dr. Baumann too recommends being careful about exfoliating with products that have hydroxy acids and retinoids because they might disrupt the skin’s natural desquamation (or shedding) process leading to clogged pores, pimples, and sensitivity.
Now that you know what causes body acne, there’s two things you should keep in mind so that you can avoid over-exfoliating in the shower and get your skin’s health back on track!
Don’t Double Up
If you’re looking to add an exfoliating product to your hygiene routine, Dr. Baumann suggests allowing your skin to get used to it before adding another. “When beginning an exfoliating product, make sure you only have one in your regimen,” she explains. “Once you get used to it, only use two exfoliating products at a time in one day.”
So if you’re using a body scrub to chemically exfoliate, allow your skin to get used to that product before using a brush or sponge to physically exfoliate as well if your skin needs it. Essentially, taking a less is more approach is the way to go for better looking skin.
Timing is Key
The AAD also encourages everyone to find the right exfoliation schedule that works best for their skin type (dry, oily, combination, normal, or skin) and the method they prefer (chemical or mechanical). They note that the more aggressive the exfoliation is, the less often it needs to be done. Dr. Houshmand says that exfoliating one to two times a week is a safe amount to avoid stripping the skin’s barrier resulting in over-exfoliation. From there, you can see your skin’s response to exfoliating this often and consult a board-certified dermatologist if you feel like your skin isn’t clearing up as it should.
Look Out for the Signs
Paying attention to when your skin looks over-exfoliated can help you restore it back to its normal state. Dr. Houshmand mentions that signs to look out for are redness, dryness, tightness of the skin, bumps, and burning. To reverse this, she says to use moisturizing products with hyaluronic acid and ceramides after exfoliating. A product like CeraVe Moisturizing Cream (Buy on Amazon, $16.08) is an easy-to-use daily body cream that contains both hyaluronic acid and ceramides to keep your skin hydrated and nourished.
Also, a simple option that you can start doing to avoid these signs altogether is by being more gentle with your skin. The AAD points out that using short, light strokes while scrubbing your skin in the shower still gets it clean while retaining its moisture-sealing barrier. Plus, they note that soft washcloths (Buy at Walmart, $8.88) instead of a hard brush or sponge may be a better option for people with dry, sensitive, or acne-prone skin to avoid over-exfoliating and irritation.
As you can see, taking some time to rethink the products and tools you use while showering can make a huge difference for making sure your skin stays healthy all the time!
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