Imagine this: you’ve finally purchased your first at-home peel product. It’s packed with a combination of acids that promise a smoother, softer and more even-toned complexion. Who doesn’t want that right? And perhaps you got a little over-zealous with it and used it too often or left it on for too long while spiralling into the social media abyss that is Instagram. Now, your skin feels dry and tight, almost everything you put on it—even your regular skincare—stings. It looks flushed and maybe even starts to peel a bit.

You, my friend, have over-exfoliated your skin. What do you do now? Before you panic and start piling on products to salvage the situation, we asked three skincare experts what you should do.

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Know What’s Happening To Your Skin

Firstly, it is important to know what’s going on with your skin. According to Dr Gerard Ee, Managing Director of The Clifford Clinic, signs to look out for are “dryness, flaking, itching, redness and skin hypersensitivity”.

Understand The Causes

You know the saying “everything in moderation”? Well, it applies for at-home peels too. As Dr. Toby Hui, Senior Aesthetics Doctor at Freia Aesthetics, puts it, “During exfoliation, we are trying to remove dead skin cells in the most superficial layer of our skin, to allow newer and younger skin cells from beneath to show through. When you go overboard, it means you’ve gone too deep and ended up causing damage to the delicate, fresh skin cells, which explains why your skin might feel raw and tender”.

Stop Exfoliating Altogether

To prevent further irritation, Dr Ee advises to “stop using all exfoliating products for at least two weeks or however long it takes for your skin to recover.” This is especially crucial for physical exfoliants like facial scrubs because “they can cause further abrasions and micro-tears to the skin.” You can slowly reintroduce chemical and physical exfoliators once your skin has completely healed and use them in moderation.

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Avoid Warm/Hot Water

If your skin also feels warm to the touch and looks flushed, it’s best to soothe and calm it down. Avoid washing your face with warm/hot water as this may further aggravate your skin. Instead, use cool or room temperature water.

Leave Your Skin Alone

No matter how tempting it might be, you shouldn’t be touching, picking at or pulling off the skin flakes that are peeling off your skin, warns Dr Lynette Lee, Medical Director at The Aesthetics Medical Clinic. She explains that this interrupts with your skin’s natural healing cycle and may increase your chances of infection and permanent hyperpigmentation.

Stop Hitting The Gym

You should also avoid strenuous workouts, saunas and steam rooms, says Dr Lee. “Increased blood circulation to the face can intensify itching and redness. To reduce your discomfort, skip such activities.”

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Stop Using Cleansing Brushes

When your skin is already showing signs of inflammation, the best thing you can do is to keep your routine as simplified as you can. If you’re used to using washcloths or sonic cleansing brushes that can cause further abrasions to compromised skin, you should also put them on hold, says Dr Hui.

Switch To A Sulphate-Free Cleanser

You know that squeaky-clean feeling you get after you wash your face with a rich, dense foam? That’s the result of using products with sulphates. Commonly used as a foaming agent, sulphates might not have given you any problems before because your skin is usually healthy enough to replace any surface lipids it might strip off. However, when it is inflamed from over-exfoliating or peeling, its surface barrier has become compromised. This means using your regular sulphate-containing cleanser might further irritate your already fragile skin. Instead, switch to a sulphate-free cleanser for a gentle yet effective cleanse.

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Be Discerning About What You Apply On Your Skin

In its current condition, taking a less-is-more approach to your skincare is your best bet. Keep things simple for the time being and “look out for ingredients that hydrate, strengthen and repair your skin, such as hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and ceramides”, says Dr. Ee. You should also “avoid skincare products that contain any vitamin A derivatives, hydroquinone and acids,” adds Dr Hui.

Be Conscientious About Sunscreen

In case you didn’t already know, you should place even more emphasis on sun care now. Dr Lee says, “Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, reapply every three to four hours and avoid direct sun exposure. This is because your skin is more delicate now and more prone to UV damage.”

Text: Bernadette Bong-Chan
Images: Pexels, Unsplash, 123RF, Shutterstock