Are the Exfoliating Beads in My Skincare Routine Damaging My Skin?

Cleanse, tone, mois­tur­ize, spot treat… If you feel like skin­care rou­tines are only get­ting more com­pli­cat­ed, you’re prob­a­bly not the only one. From Insta­gram to Tik­Tok to Face­book, there seem to be count­less videos — and count­less steps — to help you cre­ate the per­fect skin­care routine.

One of the steps you may have seen is exfoliating.

Source: Amer­i­can Acad­e­my of Der­ma­tol­ogy Association

Exfo­li­at­ing can be a help­ful tool in many people’s skin­care rou­tines. By exfo­li­at­ing your skin, you can help oth­er prod­ucts you use work more effec­tive­ly because they can get deep­er into your skin. Exfo­li­a­tion peels which can be done by a der­ma­tol­o­gist, can help with a range of skin con­di­tions like pho­toag­ing caused by the sun, melas­ma or hor­mon­al­ly induced dark spots and dis­col­oration after acne scars.

But exfo­li­at­ing too much can rub your skin raw, cause addi­tion­al pig­men­ta­tion or cause sen­si­tive-skinned peo­ple to react poorly.

Know­ing that there are pros and cons to exfo­li­at­ing can help you make a deci­sion that works best for your skin. If you decide to add exfo­li­a­tion to your skin­care rou­tine, here are a few things to remem­ber to help you do so prop­er­ly and safely.

Mois­tur­ize After Exfoliating

If you do choose to use an exfo­li­at­ing prod­uct, make sure that’s not the only step in your skin­care rou­tine. You don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly need to do a 12-step reg­i­men, but exfo­li­at­ing can dry out your skin, and you’ll want to be sure to fol­low up with mois­tur­iz­er as well.

Now, some steps in your skin­care rou­tine may be done more often than oth­ers. Putting sun­screen on your face and body is a great habit to get into every day to pre­vent skin can­cer and pre­ma­ture aging. If you wear make­up, be sure to clean your face in the morn­ing and at the end of each day. Dai­ly mois­tur­iz­ing also helps your skin stay healthy and hydrat­ed. Exfo­li­a­tion, on the oth­er hand, doesn’t need to be done every day.

Gran­u­lar exfo­liants, like beads or even nat­ur­al scrubs, can some­times be too harsh, and using them too often can leave your skin dry, raw, or red. If you notice this, try exfo­li­at­ing less often, like every 4 days instead of every oth­er day.

Your exfo­li­at­ing rou­tine should be based on your spe­cif­ic skin type as well as the type of exfo­li­at­ing you are doing. You can exfo­li­ate with a chem­i­cal sub­stance or with a tool like a sponge, brush or device. A Duly der­ma­tol­o­gist can help you fig­ure out what com­bi­na­tion of meth­ods or prod­ucts might work best for your skin. 

Skin­care isn’t one size fits all — even if social media makes it seem that way. If you have ques­tions about your skin or skin­care rou­tine, sched­ule time to talk with a Duly board-cer­ti­fied der­ma­tol­o­gist.

Watch Out For Your Eyes

If you’ve ever got­ten soap or sham­poo in your eyes, you’re prob­a­bly famil­iar with that burn­ing sen­sa­tion. Your eyes might water, turn red, or even become itchy when you get some­thing in them that’s not sup­posed to be there.

While soap in your eyes might usu­al­ly be just an annoy­ance, it’s even more impor­tant to watch out for your eyes when exfo­li­a­tion is involved. Grit­ty, exfo­li­at­ing sub­stances — whether man-made or nat­ur­al (like sug­ar, wal­nut shell pow­der, or cof­fee grounds) — can be dan­ger­ous to your eyes.

These kinds of scrubs can scratch or tear your cornea, so take extra care when wash­ing your face.

If you do get an exfo­liant in your eyes, don’t pan­ic. Fol­low these sim­ple steps to help with symptoms:

  • Imme­di­ate­ly rinse your eyes with clean, cold water.
  • Avoid rub­bing your eyes.
  • Call your eye doc­tor if any symp­toms like burn­ing or itch­ing don’t go away.

Not All Exfo­li­at­ing Prod­ucts Are The Same

When you hear the word exfo­li­ate,” you might think about plas­tic microbeads — and you may have heard that microbeads are bad and were banned in 2015. This is not because they are dam­ag­ing to your skin, but because they are bad for the environment.

Specif­i­cal­ly, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 bans plas­tic microbeads in rinse-off cos­met­ic prod­ucts to keep them out of the water where they could be con­sumed by marine life.

Plas­tic microbeads aren’t the same as all grit­ty or chem­i­cal exfo­li­at­ing scrubs. If your face scrub feels crunchy in your hands, it won’t have plas­tic microbeads in it if it was sold after 2018. That scrub­by feel­ing can be pro­duced with nat­ur­al items like sug­ar and oth­er ingre­di­ents. If you’re wor­ried about the envi­ron­ment, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 has made it so you can exfo­li­ate guilt-free.

Rec­om­mend­ed prod­ucts and treat­ments include:

Make Skin­care Choic­es That Work For You

Everybody’s skin is unique, and exfo­li­at­ing isn’t for every­one. There’s no one sin­gle way to approach skin­care, and everyone’s rou­tine will look dif­fer­ent. Just because some­one has a mil­lion fol­low­ers on Insta­gram doesn’t mean they know every­thing about skin­care. Or they may know every­thing about skin­care, but their rou­tine still may not be a good fit for you.

The best approach to skin­care is one that fits your skin type, lifestyle, and bud­get. If you only have 5 min­utes in the morn­ing to get ready for the day, that’s okay. There are many ways you can make main­tain­ing your skin’s health a part of your dai­ly rou­tine. Talk to your Duly provider or der­ma­tol­o­gist about your goals, and they can make rec­om­men­da­tions for prod­ucts that fit them.

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  • Shraddha Desai, MD, Naperville Dermatologist

    Providing care with the utmost compassion, innovation, science, and technology. Patients are like family and I hope to create a long-lasting relationship with them.