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Does Exfoliating Dry Out The Skin? Not If You Do It The Right Way!


Exfoliators can be really effective at removing dead skin cells on the skin’s surface. But certain exfoliating products can also dry out your skin if you don’t use them properly. Luckily, there’s a way to get the positive skin results of exfoliation without the harsh side effects.

“The skin plays a critical role as a barrier to keep water in and prevent irritating chemicals and organisms out,” says Dr. Bradley Bloomdermatologist at Skin Laser and Surgery Specialists (SLSS) in New York City. “To do its job the skin has a top layer of dead skin cells which are continually shed and replaced.”

For healthy skin the rate of exfoliation has to be just right. If it’s too rapid, it impairs the barrier function of the skin. If it’s too slow it results in a flaky rough texture and can lead to clogged pores and acne. When dead skin accumulates we also lose a youthful glow.

But be aware: “More is not always better,” Dr. Bloom says. “You have to take into account how oily or dry a person’s skin is, but also what other products they are using.” There are many products that exfoliate the skin, and sometimes people don’t realize they are using multiple products that are all exfoliating agents and this leads to dry irritated skin.”

What about scrubs and brushes? Dr. Bloom says both work well. He also likes laser micro-peels and chemical peels. “The key here is to stick with one method before adding and combining too many together which would over-exfoliate the skin,” he says. “You also need to take into account what other products you are using [like retinoids and retinols]. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to combining things.”

While using an exfoliant can be great for treating acne, it’s important to know that some scrubs can actually make you break out. “Many oil-based products can make your acne worse,” notes Dr. Bloom. “Anti-aging scrubs could make acne worse. Also, if your skin becomes too dry, you will have the skin trying to moisturize itself by increasing that oil production. Choose a scrub designed for sensitive skin. Unless your dermatologist has instructed you to use something stronger, that would be the way to go.”

If you do find yourself battling some dry skin after an exfoliating regimen, make sure you are picking a moisturizer that helps your acne. “Moisturizing the skin is critical,” adds Dr. Bloom. “In acne-prone skin I recommend a gentle moisturizer that is oil-free, fragrance-free, and importantly non-comedogenic. You don’t want anything too heavy. I really like a moisturizer with hyaluronic acid because this attracts water, making you feel extra-hydrated without feeling oily.”

Lastly, if your skin is extremely dry to begin with, you should avoid all exfoliants and scrubs altogether. Instead, replenish moisture first.


These three products will ensure a perfect balance of skin exfoliation and hydration!

1. Proactiv+ Skin Smoothing Exfoliator

The Skin Smoothing Exfoliator is Step One of the Proactiv+ 3-Step System. It’s a 4-in-1 daily face wash with a medicated treatment for killing acne-causing bacteria, a glycolic-acid toner, and a mild exfoliator for renewing and smoothing the skin’s surface. Bonus: This product contains a moisturizing complex designed to leave skin feeling soft, supple and hydrated.

2. Proactiv Deep Cleansing Body Brush

This cleansing brush adds a little oomph to your exfoliation routine and was designed specifically for acne-prone skin. It features soft, tapered bristles to gently sweep away impurities without irritating skin.

3. Proactiv Green Tea Moisturizer

This lightweight, non-greasy formula contains green tea to help fight free radicals. It’s also rich in mineral and botanical extracts. It has been designed to help soothe dry skin without clogging pores and is the perfect moisturizer for blemish-prone skin.