Over-exfoliation. An epidemic that has to stop!


Let’s destroy a delicate yet equally complex, intricate and incredibly well-organised ecosystem. One that is designed to protect you.

Next, let’s attempt to rebuild that ecosystem using ineffective methods and protocols, products and ingredients.

Now let’s do the entire process again.

And again. And again. And let’s keep doing it daily, weekly, monthly… for years!

This is over-exfoliation – an epidemic that needs to stop.

Corneotherapy principles

Whether it’s acne, pigmentation, aging, dry/flaky skin, pores, black heads, congestion – you name it, and exfoliation of some sort will be the go-to protocol prescribed.

Exfoliation forms the basis of a huge percentage of treatments and products on the market today. This ‘over-exfoliation’ can encourage premature aging, dry, dull, lifeless skin; your skin can become sensitized and more susceptible to skin cancers – exactly the kind of thing you’re trying to avoid.

It’s a ‘destroy and rebuild’ model that has turned individuals and companies alike into millionaires, possibly billionaires. It’s a model in high demand because of false and misleading marketing and the ability to get visible results, fast. That fast result you seek will most certainly be doing far more harm than good – especially in the long-term.

While there are many different variations, the basic principles are still the same. Destroy and rebuild. Destroy the skin, strip it away, along with the incredible intelligent and well organised ecosystem that works to protect you – then throw a few creams and serums on top to rebuild it – until next time.

Further down the line the long-term consequences will start to show. You’re all good though because another product or treatment will be waiting for you in an effort to fix what has been damaged all too many times.

Whether it’s chemical peels, micro/hydro/hydra-dermabrasion, dermal planning, derma sweep and many more – these all share the same simplistic, common approach: exfoliation.

When you’re prescribed home care products, there will be more exfoliants and depending on who prescribed them to you, you’ll probably be advised to exfoliate 2-3 times a day, morning and night, in addition to whatever in clinic treatments they’ve got planned for you. It’s simplistic, it’s basic, it’s unintelligent, it’s poor skincare advice – overall just poor skincare.

No special training or knowledge is required to perform any of them. Simplistic in nature, delivering quick, cheap results.

They work by ablation.

Chemical Peels

Performing a peel for example, results in inflammation. That inflammation induces plumping which in turn provides an immediate reduction of fine lines and wrinkles. You’ll also see and feel much smoother skin because you’ve just stripped away that top layer of skin, revealing skin that isn’t ready to be revealed yet. You’ll probably be provided with home care products that contain plumping agents and ingredients to prolong the effects.

There is nothing magical or even remotely amazing about this approach. It’s superficial, the results don’t last, your skin gains nothing advantageous from it, and you as a client learn nothing about skincare.

Dermabrasion (pick your poison)

Which ever variation you choose it is often touted as being the go-to treatment for clogged pores and general skin maintenance; and you may even be told it’s great for anti-aging as well.

Yes, it may unclog pores and you may even see a slight reduction in fine lines and wrinkles but this is once again attributed to inflammation and plumping. It does absolutely nothing to address why you have clogged pores to begin with nor does it serve your skin in a beneficial way.

You may be told that using Hydro/Hydra-dermabrasion is the best because it resurfaces the skin and then hydrates and infuses the skin with moisturisers. If you didn’t strip away the skin in the first place, along with all the natural moisturising factors, then you wouldn’t need to re-hydrate it. In addition, what good is hydration if your barrier is impaired an unable to maintain it?

Home care acids and scrubs.

These are generally well tolerated when used very infrequently in mild concentrations, in conjunction with great home care. Unfortunately, much of the home care out there is garbage and the over-prescription of home based acids and scrubs just adds insult to injury.

Anyone using the words ‘skin health’ when referencing peels, dermabrasion or any other form of harsh exfoliation is seriously misleading you.

These treatments aren’t even remotely related to skin health. Just because your skin is smooth and glowing after a treatment doesn’t mean it’s ‘healthy’. It doesn’t mean a good result. It doesn’t mean it’s beneficial in anyway whatsoever.

It doesn’t mean your skin is in better condition than what it was prior to the treatment. It certainly doesn’t give you any long-term benefits nor do they address the source of the concern. In fact, the more you get these treatments done, the more reliant you are going to become on them. In turn, the more long-term damage is created.

Over the years we’ve seen Chemical Peels become Clinical Peels. Clinical Peels become “insert fruit name here” Peels. Manufacturers and clinics alike try and convince us that because it’s natural, it’s better for us. Clever marketing try and convince us that using a fruit acid is going to be better then using a synthetic one. At the completion of the treatment, the end result is still the same.

Here’s a thought – if you didn’t rip the skin away in the first place along with all the natural moisturising factors and microbiome of the skin barrier but instead supported your skin correctly under the guidance of a skincare professional, you probably wouldn’t need any kind of peeling or dermabrasion at all.

Cheap advice will always equate to cheap results.

So, what happens when you remove these so called ‘dead skin’ cells?

dry skin flaky skin do not exfoliate

The effects can be devastating.

The philosophy behind exfoliation was to remove what was considered ‘dead skin’ – revealing the fresh, smooth underlying layers of skin. It was meant to make your skin look and function better.

There is, and always has been a major flaw in that philosophy. What was once considered ‘dead skin’ is not actually ‘dead’ at all, and the process of removing it almost ‘always’ results in the disruption and damage of a delicate ecosystem known as your Skin Barrier Defence Systems. Damage to this top layer of skin (the Skin Barrier or Stratum Corneum) can affect every single cell (skin layer) below it.

The skin barrier is designed to keep water/moisture in and environmental toxins and pathogens out. When it becomes damaged or disrupted, it fails to perform – just like any defence system. This can lead to an array of skin issues including accelerated aging, dry, flaky, scaly skin as well as skin that can become itchy and irritated. Over time, especially when using poor quality products, sensitized skin is also highly likely.

Although initially your freshly exfoliated skin may look healthy, it is just that – looks. It has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on ‘real’ healthy skin nor can it really be considered ‘skincare’ – because it’s not really caring at all.

The net effect will catch up with you!

You need to keep in mind that the Skin Barrier (stratum corneum) is the primary link from outside world to the amazing inside world of the adaptive innate immune system.

Which brings us to those who perform these treatments.

Are they doing it because it’s easy. Because it’s what they’ve always done. Because it’s what they’ve been told to do. Because there is little to no training required. Because there’s demand.

Based on what we see all over social media, the way treatments are described, what those treatments do – there is a huge lack of even basic knowledge and understanding of the skin. Therapists are still using the terms like ‘dead skin’ when referring to chemical peels and dermabrasion. Worse still, how they explain the benefits of these treatments and even the most basic fundamentals of skin function is clearly indicative of that lack of knowledge and education.

In the quick 10-15 minute chat you might get with a therapist, the quickest approach possible is usually prescribed. Say you have clog pores – the go-to will be a dermabrasion, home care scrubs and acids, and of course the moisturisers and anti-oxidants – to stop your skin feeling like it’s just been ripped from your face. Oh wait… it has!

In terms of anti-aging – the same simplistic approach is applied again – exfoliation. Peels, micros, scrubs, acids and moisturisers.

Acne – yep, exfoliation again.

Why do you have clog pores? Why are you aging? Why do you have acne? Why do you have peri-oral dermatitis?

WHY? This is the question that should ‘always’ be asked.

If they truly understood what they were doing, the damage they were causing and the ecosystem they are destroying, would they still do it? We would truly like to hope that the answer would be ‘No’. But therein lies a major issue within this highly unregulated, marketing and sales driven industry – a huge lack of quality education and training. There is plenty of training – but it’s all based around the quickest, most simplistic approach possible and it’s delivered by the very people who want you keep coming back for more.

Someone who offers peels and dermabrasion are going to talk up how effective they are at getting results. They certainly aren’t going to tell you about the damage they are causing to the skin barrier, the stratum corneum, the microbiome and so on (and they probably don’t know any of that anyway). They are playing on the fact that the top layer of skin is ‘dead’ – a very common misconception that a huge percentage of the population still believes. It’s not needed, so lets get rid of it.

We’ve seen therapists and fresh graduates with nothing more than a Diploma of Beauty calling themselves ‘Skin Experts’. It’s highly unlikely (possible) but highly unlikely. To our knowledge, nothing in a Diploma or any basic beauty training even remotely prepares you for addressing skin concerns at a cellular level. Just because they’re performing a peel or two or working with dermabrasion certainly doesn’t qualify either.

A client walks in the door and without so much as a second thought, virtually any treatment on the menu will be performed. The client wants it, the therapist can deliver it, so ‘why the hell not’ is the general attitude. Skin consultations are severally lacking – usually free and only taking 10-15 minutes (maybe 20 minutes if you’re lucky). Not nearly enough time to properly gather all the information required to deliver a professional, holistic, all inclusive approach.

So why get these treatments done?

It’s quick, easy, can be performed by anyone with little to no experience. It costs both you and the clinic virtually nothing except time and almost ALWAYS gets a visible result, fast, if not immediately!

It’s called ‘instant gratification’ – and we are all guilty of it. Whether it’s skincare or something else, we normally want to see a result for the hard earned money we’ve just parted with.

While we get the instant gratification of seeing immediate results, you must ask yourself a very important question –  at what long-term cost? If you had to spend 2-3 times as much right now but knew that long-term, you’re going to save yourself significantly more time and money, would you do it?

Most people I’d imagine would.

It’s called investing – and like all good investments, it’s very rare to get a return immediately. Long term, a good investment always pays for itself.

This is the difference between long-term, quality results provided by skin experts that understand your skin, what it needs and doesn’t need, and can educate you so you can make better and more informed decisions moving forward – and those who simply offer a quick-fix to ensure you get that ‘instant gratification’.

There is a place for these modalities in the industry – we know that. But for the vast majority of clients they are completely unnecessary and over prescribed, performed by therapists who shouldn’t be performing them at all and don’t understand why and/or when to use them.

Talking to the right therapist who can educate and prescribe you products (ingredients) that are suitable for your skin type and skin condition – helping you to correctly care for your skin – could eliminate these kinds of treatments from your life indefinitely. Imagine the time and money saved. Imagine a simpler, more effective skincare routine. Imagine overall much better, longer lasting and above all, healthier results and healthier skin.

Let’s look at this entire scenario another way.

Roof Removal

Say you wanted to paint the internal walls of your house and fix up a couple of small issues. I can’t imagine you ever removing the roof to do so unless it was imperative. For 99% of people, it’s not imperative – they’ve just been misinformed.

Ripping the roof off is going to put the house under a lot of unnecessary stress and expose it to elements which it would otherwise be protected from. Depending on how long the roof is removed, the damage will increase significantly.

Your Skin Barrier is the roof and for the vast majority, it’s completely unnecessary to be removing it. In fact, you could almost call it negligence.

If such a task is going to be performed, then it requires someone with a specific sets of skills. Someone who understands the structural integrity, the internal components, how to protect the internals while the roof is being replaced and so on. An apprentice or someone just out of trade school wouldn’t be the best person for the job. It is no different when it comes to the correct and proper care of your skin.

There are much better ways to paint the walls. You just need to speak to the right person.