5 Tips By Experts to Exfoliate Without Damaging the Skin Barrier

5 Tips By Experts to Exfoliate Without Damaging the Skin Barrier

The correct exfoliation regimen can be an effective technique for developing softer, more even-toned skin that is also smoother. Exfoliants can damage your skin’s natural barrier if misused or overused, which can cause irritation, flaking, or redness.

Not sure which exfoliant can help you achieve your skin objectives without damaging this vital layer of protection? The fundamentals of exfoliating your face, ingredients to look for, and expert advice from Dr. Tiffany Clay on how to exfoliate gently and efficiently are all covered in this skin care solution guide.


By eliminating dead skin cells and accelerating skin cell turnover, exfoliating frequently can make your skin look better overall.

Exfoliants target a variety of common skin issues, including acne, wrinkles, rough, bumpy skin (also known as keratosis pilaris), uneven texture, and the scaling that is sometimes linked to psoriasis.

In popular skincare products, chemical exfoliation (using ingredients like salicylic acid) and physical exfoliation are the two primary exfoliating techniques (such as jojoba beads).

Exfoliating too often or improperly can damage the skin’s protective layer and cause irritation, flaking, or redness. Always carefully follow the directions on the label and ask a dermatologist for assistance if necessary.

How can I exfoliate without damaging my skin’s protective layer?

The protective outermost layer of your skin is called the skin barrier. It serves as the primary barrier between your skin and the outside world, which makes it crucial for safeguarding your skin from environmental stresses and moisture loss. Therefore, it’s essential to safeguard your skin’s natural barrier with the appropriate products, applications, and techniques in order to enjoy the full benefits of exfoliation and have healthy-looking skin.

Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Tiffany Clay offers her expert guidance on how to exfoliate your skin gently and efficiently without damaging its protective barrier in the paragraphs below.

Tip 1: Determine which exfoliation technique is best for your skin.

According to an online paper published in the Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, exfoliation can disturb the skin barrier even though it can be quite useful. Dr. Clay advocates selecting an exfoliation technique based on your skin type and needs when creating an exfoliation routine because of this. Here are some of the key differences to take into account while choosing between chemical and physical exfoliation, the two main forms.

Chemical Exfoliation

Products with exfoliating acids can be used for this kind of exfoliation. Chemical exfoliation removes dead skin cells with the use of enzymes or acids rather than by manually washing the skin. Beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) like salicylic acid and alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) like lactic acid and glycolic acid are the most often utilized chemical exfoliants in skincare.

AHAs and BHAs are included in many well-known skincare brands along with strengthening elements like ceramides to assist preserve your skin’s natural moisture barrier.

Physical Exfoliation

This method of exfoliation, also referred to as “manual” or “mechanical,” removes dead skin cells using physical tools (such as scrubs, brushes, or gloves). Use only a little pressure and soft, small circular motions to exfoliate when employing this technique. Avoid over-scrubbing because this can damage your skin’s protective layer. If you have specific skin disorders, open sores, a sunburn, or active acne lesions, you should stay away from this kind of exfoliation.

Professionals advise using verified SA Cleanser Bar, a dual exfoliation method that combines chemical and physical exfoliation, for skin that is rough and bumpy. Salicylic acid and spherical jojoba beads are in this mild, soap-free body bar to help remove dead skin cells and smooth down rough, bumpy skin.

Tip 2: Pick the Proper Ingredients for Exfoliation

Make sure you select the best exfoliating ingredients for your skin type and objectives when selecting a chemical exfoliator for your skincare regimen. Dr. Clay advises consumers to search for substances that exfoliate, such as retinol, beta-hydroxy acids, and alpha-hydroxy acids. Here is a useful explanation of the three chemical exfoliants offered by a well-known brand, CeraVe, to get you started.


Alpha-hydroxy acids, usually referred to as AHAs, are chemical exfoliants that are water soluble and contain substances like lactic and glycolic acids. AHAs are present in treatments that exfoliate, such as our Skin Renewing Nightly Exfoliating Treatment.

A 5% blend of glycolic and lactic acids is used in this anti-aging AHA serum to gently exfoliate the skin and help decrease the look of wrinkles, dullness, dark spots, and enlarged pores without causing peeling or irritation.


Salicylic acid is one of the chemical exfoliants known as beta-hydroxy acids, or BHAs. When it comes to improving the general texture of rough, bumpy skin, which can occasionally resemble “chicken skin” or “strawberry skin,” BHAs are especially helpful.

In addition, salicylic acid is particularly well-suited for focusing on blackheads and assisting in the prevention of acne outbreaks because BHAs may enter into pores to help dissolve dead skin cells. Numerous popular skincare product formulations, such as our SA Body Wash for Rough & Bumpy Skin, Acne Control Gel, and Acne Control Cleanser, contain BHAs.


Although technically not an exfoliator, the vitamin A derivative retinol can aid in the promotion of your skin’s normal exfoliation process. As a result, retinol is frequently present in treatments that are intended to reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone.

Tip 3: Seek Out Exfoliating Products With Ingredients That Hydrate and Strengthen the Skin Barrier

Dr. Clay emphasizes the significance of restoring the skin barrier when exfoliating. In order to maintain and repair the skin barrier, Dr. Clay advises choosing exfoliating products with ceramides for Rough & Bumpy Skin.

Ceramides act as the “glue” that holds your skin cells together. According to research, these lipids make up around 50% of your skin’s protective layer and are essential for keeping moisture in and harmful substances out. Almost all popular skincare products contain three ceramides that are skin-identical to help you maintain a healthy and undamaged skin barrier while exfoliating.

Dr. Clay further asserts that after exfoliating, your skin needs to be moisturized and nourished. Look for exfoliating products with moisturizing components like hyaluronic acid and niacinamide that are designed to be gentle enough for regular use. When used as part of your regular skincare routine, products containing these components can help to moisturize and relax your skin.

Tip 4: Treat your skin gently

In order to avoid over scrubbing your skin, Dr. Clay advises using a physical exfoliator with extra caution and delicate application while commencing an exfoliation practice. Finally, she stresses the importance of including sun protection in any skincare regimen, especially if you’re exfoliating. This is due to the possibility that some exfoliants, such as glycolic acid, may enhance photosensitivity and raise your risk of sun damage.

According to Dr. Clay, who advises using a non-comedogenic facial sunscreen, “you want to make sure that you are applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen each and every day.” This daily facial tinted sunscreen gives your skin a healthy glow while protecting it (without any white cast).

Apply this lotion liberally 15 minutes before exposure to the sun and reapply at least every 2 hours (or more frequently as necessary) while going outside for a lengthy period of time.

Tip 5: When Needed, Seek a Dermatologist’s Assistance

In some circumstances, it may be necessary to seek the opinion of a licensed dermatologist because exfoliation is not advised for people with specific skin problems, such as rosacea. If your skin gets red, irritated, or inflamed while using exfoliating products, it is recommended to stop using them and seek the best recommendations from your dermatologist.

Any queries you have about exfoliation can be answered by a board-certified dermatologist, who can also advise you on the best skincare products for your skin’s requirements.

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