Is Your Skin Shiny? Over-Exfoliation May Be The Problem

Renee Rouleau examining a client face

Updated 12/1/17. For those that produce oil, shiny skin comes with the territory.  If you use the right products formulated to get your skin to produce less oil, your skin will be less shiny. However, what if your skin is shiny, yet you don’t really produce much oil? Could it be from something else?

Many people notice will notice their skin looking shiny in photos and find it to be bothersome. Applying powder to the skin may reduce shine, but it’s important to look at the possible underlying causes. In the photo above, this is a client who experiences exactly this. Shiny skin, not from oil production, can be very common in fair skin types as you’ll learn why in this post.

Are you exfoliating too much? While regular exfoliation with the use of facial scrubs and acids, along with retinol and prescription retinoids is certainly very beneficial to the skin, over-exfoliated skin removes so much of the surface skin cells that it loses the layers of the skin that give it texture. The skin then appears shiny since light reflects off the skin easily. Also, when the skin has been exfoliated too much, powder and liquid foundations may not stick very well since there is less surface cell texture to attach to making it harder to keep the shine down. Those with fair, thin skin with virtually invisible pores will experience this a lot—especially if they are using prescription retinoids for many years. The skin almost takes on a waxy look. I’ve heard some people refer to it as “barbie doll skin.”

What is the right amount of exfoliation? When it comes to acids, enzymes and scrubs, the general rule is five times a week. Read the Beginner’s Guide To Using Retinol Or Prescription Retinoids and the Beginner’s Guide To Exfoliation to learn more about how to safely use these type of active products.

A professional chemical peel should be performed every other month and an at-home professional-strength peel should be used once a week.

Of course, every skin is different so it’s important to use the right exfoliating products for your skin type. Look at these nine skin types or take the Skin Type Quiz.

How do you know if you’re over-exfoliating? Aside from the skin appearing shiny, if you’re experiencing redness, tightness, dryness and the skin gets easily irritated, these all might be signs that you’re over-doing it.

Is your skin dehydrated? When the skin cells don’t have the water they need, dehydrated cells can appear shiny. Watch this video to see how dehydrated skin gives off a shine. Note: Dehydrated skin is very, very different from dry skin and each require special treatment. Read here to learn more.

Tips to reduce shine:

  • Don’t exfoliate too much. Your skin needs those protective layers to keep moisture in. Again, read the beginners guide to using retinol or exfoliants for the proper usage.
  • Acid serums (that get left on the skin) should not be used daily. Instead, they can be used every other night or preferably three nights on, three nights off alternating with a hydrating serum.
  • Use mild, soap-free, sulfate free cleansers that don’t leave your skin feeling tight or dry. Bar soaps are an no-no. See my sulfate-free cleanser recommendations.
  • Always use moisturizer. Never skip it thinking that your skin will “breathe.” Respiration doesn’t happen in the skin. The concept of your skin breathing is false. Your skin cells always needs water and without moisturizer, the skin will instantly dehydrate which will certainly lead to more oil-induced shine.
  • Always use an alcohol-free toner after cleansing, but be sure to leave it damp before applying moisturizer to seal in the hydrating benefits it offers. See my alcohol-free toners.
  • Use a gel based mask the night before a special event to reduce shine in photos. This gives your skin cells intensive water-based hydration to prevent shiny, dehydrated skin.

Bottom line: Don’t think that shiny skin needs to be treated with products formulated for oily skin because as you now have learned, the shine doesn’t always come from oil!

Read: Are you falling for these 35 common skin care myths?

Which skin care products are best for you? See our nine skin types or take the Skin Type Quiz and get products recommended.

Need expert advice from a licensed esthetician? Schedule a virtual consultation to get customized advice in person, over the phone or online via Skype or FaceTime.

For more expert advice check out the blog. Also, sign up for our skin tip e-newsletter, follow Renée Rouleau on Twitter and Instagram and join the discussion on our Facebook page. You’ll be your own skin care expert in no time. Get the #ReneeRouleauGlow!

Disclaimer: Content found on and, including text, images, audio, or other formats were created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website or blog.


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  1. Thank you for answering some questions that people may not know. This is a perfect guide for people who love exfoliation, yet too much is not advisable.

    Posted By: Four SeasonsLaser  | 


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