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What Are the Best Tips for Exfoliating Acne?

By S. Gonzales
Updated May 17, 2024
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Exfoliating acne-prone skin is a fundamental activity when trying to keep outbreaks under control. The process of exfoliation removes dead skin cells that pile up on surface of the face and contribute to the problem of acne. The best tips for exfoliating acne often include advice on what exfoliating products or techniques to choose. Generally, those who want to exfoliate acne should choose gentle products, avoid irritating active acne during exfoliation, and engage in the process regularly.

Those who want to exfoliate acne should be careful not to choose a product with harsh irritants. It's easy for acne sufferers to think that using harsh anti-acne products on the face will result in clearer skin, but the opposite can be true. Harsh ingredients in exfoliating products can actually irritate the skin, causing more acne. These harsh ingredients often include high doses of anti-acne medication, such as salicylic acid or benzyl peroxide.

Acne sufferers should avoid using an exfoliating product with physical components on active acne. Exfoliating acne using products with abrasives in them can puncture active acne and result in bleeding and pain. It can also result in scarring from the trauma to which the acne has been exposed. In addition, exfoliating acne should be avoided if acne sufferers are already taking anti-acne medications prescribed by doctors. Combining acne medications and treatments can have deleterious effects on the skin.

If acne sufferers intend to use exfoliating product regularly, they should choose a product that is gentle enough to be used daily. A benefit of regularly exfoliating acne-prone skin is that it will soften and smooth the skin, improving texture and complexion. Caution should be exercised, however, as regularly using exfoliating products that should only be used once a week or less often can result in additional skin problems. Acne suffers should try selecting products that have been tested by dermatologists and that are designed to be used on delicate skin. Products created for delicate or sensitive skin can be appropriate for all skin types, including those with problems like acne.

There are other tips that can be followed when exfoliating acne, including water temperature and medical procedures for acne. The process of exfoliating should always be undertaken using lukewarm water, as using water that is too hot can irritate the skin and exacerbate acne, while water that is too cold can close the pores and make exfoliation harder. For a more intense exfoliation experience, acne suffers can look into microdermabrasion, which is a medical-grade exfoliation process that can be performed at a dermatologists' office. Patients will likely have to proceed through several sessions before seeing results.

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Discussion Comments
By ddljohn — On Feb 22, 2014

@burcinc-- I use both types of products to keep my acne under control. I use a toner with salicylic acid every day, twice a day after washing my face. I also use a face scrub once or twice a week.

Before I discovered exfoliation, I was trying to treat my acne only by washing my face and using acne creams. But it was not enough. Unless the dead skin is routinely removed, it's difficult to get rid of acne. Acne treatments work best when skin is exfoliated.

By burcinc — On Feb 21, 2014

@turquoise-- Great questions.

There are two types of exfoliating products-- physical exfoliants and chemical exfoliants.

Physical exfoliants are ingredients such as sugar, salt, ground coffee, corn meal, etc. These are generally sold in the form of face scrubs. They exfoliate skin as you rub the scrub into your face. The abrasive ingredients cause dead skin to come off in the process.

Chemical exfoliants are products that exfoliate with the use of acids like salicylic acid and glycolic acid. Both of these are very safe and mild exfoliants that you can use for your acne.

Physical exfoliant products can be bad if you have open sores on your face from pimples because they will irritate them more. You have to be very gentle with your skin if you have an ongoing breakout.

By turquoise — On Feb 21, 2014

I'm a bit confused about what type of exfoliating product I should use on my acne prone skin. What does an exfoliating product with physical components mean? How do I tell what type of component an exfoliator has?

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