4 exfoliating mistakes we're all making, according to a dermatologist.

Exfoliation. You've been doing it since the days of St Ives Apricot Scrub, because it's just one of those skin things you know you're supposed to do... but are you doing it right?

You might not be, you know. It's kinda tricky. 

So we thought we'd conduct a cute lesson on all the mistakes you're probably making when you're exfoliating. 

Watch: Before we reveal all our juicy secrets, check out another easy way you can improve your skin. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

Before we get into it, it's probably worth a quick refresher on what exfoliating actually is, no?

By way of introduction (in case you never properly met), exfoliating is a step in your skincare routine that involves sloughing off old skin with either a physical or chemical exfoliator. 

Or, as *actual* dermatologist Dr Cara McDonald from Complete Skin Specialists puts it, "Exfoliation will remove dead skin cells and also stimulate increased skin renewal, revealing more luminous skin."

Sounds much better when she says it, tbh.

"Exfoliation can be done physically, with a buffing mechanism, or by using a keratolytic - a skincare ingredient which breaks down the bonds between dead cells. This process, using keratolytics such as alpha-hydroxy acids, is known as chemical exfoliation," adds McDonald.

"Those with blocked pores and congestion, or those with older, dull and sluggish skin will see most benefit."

Now we're not trying to over-complicated things, but exfoliation is a little more than scrubbing your face and calling it a day.

For people of certain skin types, it can make or break their skin health - so you're going to want to make sure you're doing it right.

That's why it's important to understand not only what type of exfoliation is best suited to your skin type, but also the best way to incorporate it into your skincare routine.

Here are some common mistakes Dr McDonald said you might do when you exfoliate.

1. You're scrubbing too hard.

Your skin. She's delicate. 

While it may feel like you're doing your skin a solid by scrubbing the absolute s**t out of it, a gentle approach is best. Especially for those with younger skin (damn you, apricot scrub!). 

"Young, healthy skin needs only gentle exfoliation to improve skin texture," said Dr McDonald.

If you're going in too hard, you'll not only end up irritating the hell out of your skin, but you'll make conditions like acne, rosacea or sensitive skin a hundred times worse. Sad face.


Speaking of acne... check out this episode of You Beauty, where we find out exactly what a cystic acne sufferer puts on her face. Post continues below.

2. You're exfoliating too much.

Be warned: You can get too much of a good thing. It's true.

Depending on your skin type, you might need to cut back on how often you're exfoliating your skin. 

McDonald said if you go overboard and exfoliate your skin too much, you can end up removing too many layers - exposing new, baby layers of skin that aren't ready to be out in the world yet. 


Over-exfoliating can cause skin sensitivity and leave your skin vulnerable to redness, inflammation and the likes. 

"The problem is that too much or too harsh exfoliation can actually damage the skin and make it look angry and inflamed instead of glowing," said Dr McDonald.

Her advice? Less is more.

So what's the sweet spot? Well, it really depends on your skin type. But once or twice a week is a pretty good place to start. That way you can start slow and if you notice a change in your skin, you'll know if you need to exfoliate more or less.


3. You're using the wrong product.

If you've got sensitive skin, you need to read this. 

No skimming! We can see you.

"Those with sensitive or inflamed skin may not tolerate any exfoliation, which can cause a breakdown in the skin barrier and increased irritation and inflammation," said McDonald. "Additionally, sensitive skin may then react excessively to even normal physical stimulus, causing burning, stinging or tightness."

So you need to be aware of what kind of exfoliant you're using and pay attention to any changes in your skin. If you have sensitive skin, physical exfoliation is not for you.

"Both physical and chemical exfoliation can be too much for sensitive skin, but gentle, low-strength chemical exfoliants are usually better tolerated. It is best to start very slowly, and gradually the skin tolerance and integrity will improve," advised Dr McDonald.

"In general, physical exfoliation is best left to those with a robust, oily skin type," said Dr McDonald. "But one should be aware that even in these people, excessive exfoliation tends to trigger a protective reaction in the skin, which can clog pores and increase oil production."

Eek! That's, like, the complete opposite of what you want.

"If unsure, it’s worth seeing a highly trained dermal therapist or dermatologist to determine what type and level of exfoliation is best for you."

4. You're forgetting to moisturise.

Dude, you just sloughed layers off your skin - chuck some moisturiser on.

If you're one of the kids out there who repeatedly exfoliates without properly following up with a good moisturiser, your skin will end up looking and feeling drier than it did pre-exfoliation. 

Not fun.

As we talked about earlier, when you exfoliate you're revealing new skin underneath the surface, so you need to replenish and baby it. Otherwise, no glow. Which is what we're all here for, no?

Feature image: Getty