5 skincare treatments that can damage skin

I think I gave you the wrong impression.

I’m a skincare geek with a beauty blog. That sort of means I try every lotion and potion under the sun, have a 10 step skincare routine, and go for facials every other week.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

I’m very selective of the skincare products I use. My skincare routine rarely features more than 4 steps. And facials are a rare treat before a special occasion.

Because, as much as I love skincare, I think we’re overdoing it. Skin needs tender loving care. The more stuff you do to it, the higher the chance you’ll upset it.

Sure, there are times when you need to bring in the big guns. But I see so many women with great skin who go to extreme lengths to prevent sun damage when simply wearing sunscreen would do. Or women who are OCD with cleansing and then complain their skin is dry as sandpaper.

The truth is, even the best skincare treatments can ruin your skin if you abuse them. Here are the worst culprits:

1. Chemical Peels

Chemical peels are exfoliating treatments on steroids. 

They use acids, like glycolic and lactic, to remove the top layers of your skin, which are tarnished by dark spots, wrinkles and other imperfections. Without them, skin looks more even-toned, smoother and brighter.

Peels are great every now and then. If dark spots are starting to make an unsightly appearance on your face, I’d go as far as to say they are a must. Under medical supervision.

Don’t even try to buy one of those 50% glycolic acid peels you can find on Amazon or Ebay. Those are dangerous and the people selling them completely irresponsible.

Beware of facials, too. These days, chemical peels are often parts of facials. Before a big occasion, that’s cool. But if you go for a facial every few weeks, you’ll soon find yourself with paper-thin skin. Let me explain.

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Here’s the deal. Those dead cells on the surface of your skin are there for a reason. Their job is to protect the new and raw skin underneath that’s not ready to come to the surface yet.

Remove one layer too many and your skin will become all red and inflamed. It’ll hurt like hell, too. For weeks, if not months. This kind of damage heals SLOWLY.

But you don’t need to go that far deep to do some serious damage. If you go for a peel every month, you never give your skin the time it needs to heal itself and recompose those layers of dead skin.

The result? Your skin becomes so thin, it’s practically transparent. You can actually see what’s under it.

There’s worse.

Your skin is your first barrier against the outside world. Against bad weather, germs and all that stuff that can hurt you. When skin is so thin, you’re practically left unprotected.

And don’t get me started on sun damage. It’s no secret peels increase skin’s sensitivity to the sun. When your skin is that thin, sun damage is a done deal. And then, you’ll have to have more peels to get rid of the dark spots and wrinkles that causes. It’s a vicious circle.


You can still have a peel done every now and then. I have a mild glycolic acid peel done two or three times a year.Ā 

If I had dark spots, I may have them done a bit more often, if my doctor agreed that’s a good idea.

My point is, don’t have chemical peels done for the sake of it. If you want to prevent premature aging, there are better ways to do it.

Related: TCA Peel VS Glycolic Peel: Which One Is Better For You?

the ordinary glycolic acid toning solution

2. Overexfoliation

This is related to chemical peels, so I’ll be brief.

Chemical peels are the quickest way to remove enough layers of dead cells to cause some serious damage. But, anything you use to exfoliate your skin can do the damage if used too often.

That includes milder concentrations of lactic and glycolic acid, scrubs, the Clarisonic, microdermabrasion

In moderation, they give you brighter, smoother, even-toned skin. In excess…

Related: Does The Clarisonic Help Or Harm The Skin?


Again, it exposes raw skin, which is ugly and painful. And it makes skin more prone to irritations and sun damage.


Exfoliate in moderation. Some experts say you can exfoliate daily if you’re gentle enough but I’m not a big fan of that.

What I recommend is between one and four times a week, depending on your skin type:

Dry: Twice

Oily/combo: Three or four

Sensitive: Once

Related: What’s The Best Exfoliator For Your Skin Type & How Often Should You Do It?

goldfaden md doctor's scrub

3. Scrubs

Ok, ok, you got that exfoliation can be dangerous business if done too often. But, scrubs do deserve a special mention. Because they’re bad. Period.

So, what’s a scrub?

Anything that uses small particles to exfoliate. For example, apricot kernels or walnut shells.

Related: Physical Vs Chemical Exfoliation: Which One Is Right For You?


Those little natural exfoliating particles often have ragged and jarred edges that can scratch and tear the skin.

That’s not good. Especially when germs and bacteria use them to find their way inside your body. Need I say more?

P.S. Have you heard? St Ives is being sued for its famous apricot scrub for this very reason!


Use a gentler exfoliant. But which one? That depends on your skin type, too:

Dry skin: Glycolic acid

Oily skin: Salicylic acid

Sensitive skin: Lactic acid or washcloth

Related: Glycolic VS Lactic VS Salicylic Acid: Which One Is Right For You?

eucerin dermopurifyer oil control cleansing gel

4. Overcleansing

Ok, I’m done with overexfoliation. Promise. Now, let’s talk about overcleansing.

We’ve become obsessed with cleansing. It’s not enough to cleanse once anymore. Now it’s all about double cleansing.

Wait, that’s outdated, too. The latest Korean craze is triple cleansing. And, frankly, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard in a long while.

Triple cleansing starts with using a cleansing wipe to get rid of eye makeup. Because we all know how good those are at removing stubborn makeup… All that rubbing to remove next to nothing is oh so good for the delicate eye area… I’m being sarcastic, obvs.

I’m not saying cleansing is bad. Of course, you want to get rid of the dirt and makeup on your skin. And I do like double cleansing – when done right.

But, it’s one thing to cleanse the skin. It’s another to make it squeaky clean.

Related: Triple Cleansing Is A Thing: Should You Do It?


You know sebum, that little thing we all love to hate?

Turns out, it’s pretty useful. It’s your skin’s natural moisturizer. If your skin doesn’t make enough of it, it becomes dry. And when skin is dry, irritations are just around the corner.

When you overcleanse, you get rid of too much sebum. That leads to dryness, flakiness and irritations. 

But how do you know when you’ve gone too far? Your skin will tell you.

You know that tight feeling you sometimes get after washing your face? That’s your skin’s way of telling you “Stop using that bloody cleanser so often. You’re stripping me naked and I don’t like it!”


Use a gentler cleanser. If you have oily skin, go with a foaming cleanser. Everyone else, use something creamy or oil-based. Those cleansers replenish the moisture they strip away, keeping your skin happy and balanced.

Doesn’t matter what skin type you have. Never cleanse more than twice a day. Never.

Related: How To Choose The Right Cleanser For Your Skin Type

5. DIY Skincare

I’m not saying DIY skincare is bad. A lot of it is pretty good.

You just need to take the time to learn how to formulate products properly. Scouring the internet for random recipes may do you more harm than good.

Auntie Google is pretty crazy. She’ll rave about how good exfoliating with baking soda is, recommend you pop that pimple with toothpaste, and forget to warn you about the dangers of using honey in your DIY lotions and potions.

All things that spell bad news for your skin.


Baking soda and toothpaste are really harsh on the skin. They could seriously irritate it. Burn it even. And, with all that sugar, honey can turn your cream into a playground for bacteria.

And don’t get me started on DIY sunscreen. Without proper testing, how do you know it even works?

There’s a lot more to DIY skincare than mixing random stuff in a bowl. You need to know what pH an ingredient has, how it plays with other ingredients, how well it can penetrate your skin…

Ignore even one of these things and you risk doing some serious damage to your skin.


I’m not saying you should avoid DIY skincare. I know some of you love making your lotions and potions.

But, please, take the time to learn how to do it properly. Get help from an expert, take a course, double check your sources, get the right equipment.

Don’t simply trust everything Auntie Google tells you.

The Bottom Line

Skincare is like everything else. Good in moderation. But even the best treatments can turn into a nightmare if you abuse them. Be safe!