8 Tips on Exfoliation for Acne-Prone Skin

a woman exfoliating her face using coffee face pack

Acne-Prone Skin 

If you're interested in skincare, you probably have heard the term exfoliation. Exfoliation is beneficial for all skin types. But what is exfoliation? Can exfoliation remove acne?

What Exfoliating Does for Your Skin?

Well, exfoliation is the removal of dead skin cells. An exfoliant is a product or ingredient that minimizes the amount of dead cell build-up on the skin.

Your skin naturally sheds dead cells, by a process called desquamation. This natural process doesn't work as effectively as it should in people with acne.

Whether your acne is mild or more severe, regular exfoliation can help to smoothen and soften the skin and make your complexion brighter. It also helps reduce breakouts by reducing clogged pores filled with the pus of dead cells and sebum (skin oil).

Making the right exfoliant choice is vital for getting good results without harming or irritating your skin and worsening acne.

There are hundreds of exfoliating products and procedures available in the market, but all are found in one of two forms: physical or chemical.

Physical Exfoliants

Physical exfoliants manually remove dead skin cells by use of an abrasive component. Gritty scrubs, rough cleansing pads and cloths, and professional microdermabrasion procedures are all used as physical exfoliants.

Physical exfoliants make your skin feel soft and smooth, but they aren't the best exfoliant choice for acne-prone skin. The friction involved in using a physical exfoliant can irritate your already inflamed skin.

This rubbing and scrubbing can make your skin appear redder and can make existing breakouts worse by irritating and exacerbating redness. You need to avoid physical exfoliants if you have more inflamed acne.

Chemical Exfoliants

Chemical exfoliants work without abrasive agents. Instead, they dissolve or loosen the bonds that hold dead cells on the skin's surface by using an acid or enzyme.

Some common chemical exfoliants include:

  • Alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic, lactic, and tartaric acid
  • Beta hydroxy acids like salicylic acid
  • Topical retinoids, including adapalene, retinol and Retin-A 
  • Chemical peels to deeper TCA, carbolic or phenol peels
  • Over-the-counter chemical exfoliants can be found at your local store, and many are usually gentle enough to be used daily. OTC glycolic peels are very popular at-home chemical exfoliants.

Tips to exfoliate

  1. Stay away from rough or gritty scrubs: If you have acne-prone skin, it’s necessary that you stay away from harsh exfoliators. While choosing a scrub, make sure it is gentle and made with mostly natural ingredients. You could also make your own DIY face scrub at home using gentle and effective kitchen ingredients.
  1. Use exfoliators that contain salicylic acid: When it is about scrubbing or exfoliating acne-prone skin, you want to look for products that contain skin-clearing ingredients like salicylic acid. Cleansers and scrubs that contain salicylic acid go that extra mile to combat and heal the acne on your skin while keeping it clean for longer.
  1. Use facial brushes or exfoliating tools: Another good option for acne-prone skin is to use a very gentle cream or oil-based cleanser depending upon your skin type along with a facial cleansing brush or tool. The aim is to scrub your face in a very gentle and controlled manner so as to avoid worsening the acne.
  1. Go for chemical exfoliators: An alternative to physical scrubs and exfoliators for acne-prone skin is a chemical peel or exfoliator. These products don’t just work on the skin’s surface, but work at a deeper level to exfoliate the skin, get rid of any dead cells, and rejuvenate the skin deeper.
  1. Apply a deep cleansing face mask: Using a deep cleansing face mask is an amazing way to scrub and exfoliate the skin, especially with acne-prone skin. These face masks contain powerful components that allow the skin to heal. While removing these face masks, you can gently massage them and exfoliate the skin in the process which allows the face mask to work even better on the skin.
  1. Follow up the scrubbing with toner and moisturizer: The most essential thing to keep in mind when it comes to scrubbing acne-prone skin is what you do after exfoliating. It’s necessary to soothe, fresh and moisturize the skin once you have exfoliated. This is a crucial step that prevents acne from getting worse. Use a good toner, a refreshing face mist, a rejuvenating skin serum or oil, and a deeply restorative moisturizer just after you have scrubbed and cleaned the skin.
  1. Glycolic-acid Based Product for Gentle Exfoliation: Glycolic acid is a great component for all skin types as it loosens up the bonds that hold dead skin cells together and clears up the gunk and oil from pores and as a result, you will be free from clogged pores and breakouts in the future.
  1. Oats and Turmeric Scrub: Oats act as a gentle cleanser that also treats acne and pimples. It helps to remove dryness and patchy skin leaving your skin soft and smooth. Oats also help to brighten up the skin and make it fresh and glowing. Make a mix of 1 tbsp of yoghurt and 2-3 small spoons of Oats mixing both of them properly. Add 1 spoon of honey to it and combine properly. Add ½ spoon of turmeric powder to the bowl and mix them to make a smooth paste. Apply this mask to the face and neck for around 20 minutes and rinse off with normal water.

Take Away

Exfoliation is a beneficial part of any skincare regime. Regular exfoliation will make your skin look brighter, and feel softer and smoother. It can also help clear out your clogged pores, reduce breakouts as well as improve signs of ageing too.

If you are using any acne medications, especially isotretinoin or topical retinoids, consult your healthcare provider before starting any exfoliation treatment.