Exfoliating at Home the Safe Way, and How to Avoid Over Exfoliation

We all want smoother, more radiant skin. But is exfoliating our faces leading us down a slippery slope to skin damage? Before you run to buy that scrub your favorite beauty influencer recommended, let's talk…

First, let’s cover some basics.

What is Exfoliation?

It’s important to know that exfoliation is a process our bodies already go through. It takes about 28 days for our skin to complete a natural cell-renewal cycle.  Shedding the old dead skin cells makes room for that “new” cells look we all want to see come through.

Over time, things like pollutant exposure, stress, and aging can slow this cycle down. How can you tell your skin is screaming for some attention (and more exfoliation)?

Signs it's time to exfoliate:

  • Skin has a dull appearance
  • Skin is dry and flaky on the surface
  • Products aren't working as effectively as they used to
  • Your makeup doesn’t look smooth anymore 

Regular exfoliation is arguably one of the most important steps in your skincare routine. Why?

Some Benefits of Exfoliation Include:

  • Stimulates blood flow
  • Reduces congestion and helps prevent future breakouts
  • Promotes collagen and elastin production
  • Reduces the appearance of fine lines/wrinkles
  • Help smooth and even out skin tone for a brighter complexion
  • Improves ingredient penetration, allowing your products to work better

Ready to incorporate exfoliation into your routine? Let's look at the options.

Types of Exfoliation

There are two categories of skin exfoliation: physical exfoliation and chemical exfoliation. They both share the same goals and benefits, but just have a different way of getting there.

#1 Physical Exfoliation

Let's get into the nitty-gritty, literally. Physical exfoliation starts with a tool or product containing small particles.  With gentle friction, dead cells are loosened from the uppermost layer of skin, encouraging new cell turnover.

Common Physical Exfoliating Tools/Treatments:

  • Facial scrubs
  • Cleansing brushes
  • Dry brushes
  • Washcloths
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Dermaplaning

Physical exfoliation can provide the instant gratification that most are looking for. A good physical exfoliation reveals beautiful, even-looking skin that feels soft and supple to the touch. But is it possible that the “rosy” glow you obsess over is actually a sign of irritation?

Are Face Scrubs Bad for Your Skin?

It's important to mention though the rough side of these exfoliators. Many ingredients on the market are too abrasive and can unknowingly cause micro-tears in the skin. These are tiny, microscopic tears on the surface of the skin that cause irritation and can even encourage breakouts and uneven skin texture in the future - yikes! So, it is important to do your research and be selective when choosing a facial scrub. 

The following are simple guidelines for you to watch out for when selecting your next face exfoliate. 

Things to avoid:

  • Plastic microbeads (not only are causing damage to your face, but also harming our cute animal friends of the sea [1])
  • Abrasive ingredients like nut particles, fruit pits, or volcanic rock
  • Providing too much pressure and vigorous friction (overzealous scrubbing is a thing!)

Things to look for:

  • Clean beauty: products using safely sourced ingredients
  • Fragrance-free products to avoid unnecessary irritations
  • Gentle plant fibers like jojoba beads, oats, or luffa fruit that are finely milled
  • Always test products between your fingers, if at all too scratchy, it's not the one for your face! 

Select products with gentle plant or fruit fibers that won't aggravate your skin. Although few and far between, finding a gentle manual exfoliator can be a great compliment to add to your regimen 2-4 times a week. But go easy! You're exfoliating your face, not sanding wood.  

PRO TIP: Use MALIBU BLUSH | GENTLE EXFOLIATING SCRUB  to prep skin before waxing to prevent ingrown hairs, remove clogged pores in oily skin and to refine skin’s texture in normal – dry skin.

#2 Chemical Exfoliation  

The most common forms of chemical exfoliators use hydroxy acids, AHA’s (alpha hydroxy acids), and BHA’s (beta hydroxy acids). Despite how they sound, these acid acronyms are no joke and work even deeper than manual exfoliators. Alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids both pack a punch in sloughing off the glue-like bond between dead skin cells that hold them together. Breaking down this bond allows the nasty stuff to break free.

Main Differences between AHAS/BHAS:

  • AHAs are water-soluble fruit acids often derived from sugary fruits. Since they can be hydrating, common AHAs— like glycolic, and lactic acid— are well suited for aged and dry skin.
  • BHAs— the oil-loving acid has the unique ability to cut through oils making it ideal for oily- acne-prone skin. Salicylic acid is the most commonly used BHA and has been often used to treat acne due to its antimicrobial properties.

No wonder there is so much hype around acids in skincare. But be careful, these benefits can turn into burns.  Over-exfoliation can cause the skin issues that got you exfoliating in the first place, and should not be done more than four times a week. 

 ..“You can absolutely overdo it. Too much of a good thing – like over-exfoliating your skin with multiple acids ..– can result in redness, irritation, dryness, and worsened breakouts." -Dermatologist Jeneate Graff

Signs you need to slow your roll on the acid exfoliators:

  • Redness and inflammation
  • Breakouts of tiny pimples
  • Increased sensitivity to products you used to tolerate
  • Dry flaky peeling
  • Irritation and burning 

So as it turns out, too much of a good thing can turn into a bad thing. But does it have to be?

Enter enzymes, the safer way to exfoliate.


Enzymes are the kind correctors in the chemical exfoliator world. Unlike other exfoliators, these enzymes can be used daily, suiting even the most sensitive skin types. Remember that glue-like substance that sticks to all the dead skin cells? Enzymes actually digest them vs shedding them away. Imagine Pacman on a feeding frenzy – that’s enzymes eating your dead cells and proteins.

Famous Fruit Enzymes to look out for:

  • Papain- from pineapple
  • Bromelain- from papaya
  • Cucurbita Pepo- from pumpkin
  • Caviar Lime-from a citrus vitamin C rich fruit 

Why are enzymes game-changers? They allow you to gain all the benefits of stronger acids without any of the irritating side effects. No matter what skin type you have— period. Say goodbye to any fears of self-inflicting burns or damaged skin!

In Conclusion

Skincare doesn't have to be complicated! A simple routine incorporating gentle exfoliation can reveal beautiful results. The best way to exfoliate your skin is using the slow and steady approach. Stronger treatments can have their place when monitored by an esthetician, but as far as home care less is more.

SHOP CLARISMA's Fruit enzyme-based skincare line below: 


Reference articles

Skin health, the environment, and micro beads — Plastic Free Phillip Island & San Remo [1]

Using Too Many Skin Care Products (insider.com

Dual Effects of Alpha-Hydroxy Acids on the Skin (nih.gov)


Properties and Therapeutic Application of Bromelain: A Review (nih.gov)

Applications of bromelain from pineapple waste towards acne - ScienceDirect





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