A Complete Guide to Exfoliation for Acne Prone Skin

complete guide to exfoliation

Acne is formed when the pore gets blocked and the oil or sebum is trapped in the pore. The sebum getting trapped creates a perfect environment for the acne bacteria to survive. Once infected the pore swells up to create a red bump. So what causes the pore to get blocked? Well, dead skin cells. So why is it that your dead skin cells hang around on your face while those of your clear skinned friend don’t? That’s because in acne prone skin cell turnover is not efficient. Acne-prone skin produces much more dead skin cells than normal, and these cells are not shed properly. They tend to stick to the surface of the skin. In normal skin, excess dead skin cells are constantly being sloughed away on their own.

The dead skin cells hanging around on your face will give it a dull look. This is also the reason some people with acne, especially adult women, tend to have this very weird combination of oily but flaky skin. This is why people with acne-prone skin should exfoliate regularly. Exfoliation is the removal of dead skin cells. Regular exfoliation reduces the amount of dead skin build-up on your skin. This prevents the pores getting clogged and reduces breakouts. Regular exfoliation will also make your skin smooth and soft and your face will appear brighter.

Exfoliants fall in 2 categories, physical and chemical. Physical exfoliants use something rough which you then manually use to remove dead cells. Scrubs and microdermabrasion fall in this category. Chemical exfoliants work by dissolving or loosening the dead skin cells by using an acid or an enzyme. Chemical peels fall into this category.

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However, how do you exfoliate when you have active acne on your face? Say you have active, red and angry acne. Try exfoliating your skin when it’s in this state and you will be asking for trouble big time. The simple answer is you don’t. You use diet and face masks with honey to heal your acne. I generally recommend leaving your face completely alone when you have bad to severe acne. No touching or feeling, no applying harsh ointments, no washing constantly. Every time I have left my face well and truly alone my acne has healed well.

I know this is scary, as you feel that if you don’t do something or apply something to your face, your acne will get worse. Telling someone to leave their face alone is much easier said than done. Only someone who has suffered will understand how difficult this actually is. The constant fear is that you need to control your acne all the time or else it will control you. However, do understand that by constantly touching your face and by applying ointments or whatever you are irritating your skin and the acne. Irritation will lead to further acne and the existing acne may get infected and take longer to heal. However, once it starts to heal you can start using an exfoliant.

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So what exfoliants do you use on acne prone skin?

The key here is something gentle. Things like sugar and salt should be saved for your arms and legs. Make sure the exfoliant grains are tiny, soft and preferably round. Sugar and salt are not round, not tiny, quite hard and this can be quite abrasive if used on your face. The best natural exfoliants for acne prone skin are green tea, ground oatmeal, cinnamon powder, coffee grounds and almonds. Use green tea or oatmeal for the first time. These are added to a medium such as honey or oil and used as a scrub. If using honey apply the mixture gently to your face and leave it for half an hour.

Use warm or room temperature water to wet your hands. Then using only your fingertips gently move the grainy particles around on your skin. Do this only on the parts of your facial skin that have no acne. Use a light touch to feel the breakouts. Make sure you are not pulling the skin. The trick is to gently roll the particles around on your skin. Avoid areas that have acne.

How often should you exfoliate?

You should exfoliate skin ideally just once a week. More than that your run the risk of irritating your skin.

If you do not want to use a physical exfoliant you can consult a dermatologist about a mild peel. Most dermatologists do recommend peels for acne, but they may not work unless combined with modifications in diet. Chemical peels may be a better option for skin having active acne as the physical exfoliant may be too irritating.

Regular exfoliation will make your skin smoother and less prone to breakouts. Also if done regularly it helps reduce the appearance of scars.

WARNING : If you are on Accutane or any other medication please DO NOT exfoliate your skin. Also if you have active acne DO NOT exfoliate. 

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