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Exfoliation for Acne

author image Stephanie Crumley Hill
Stephanie Crumley Hill is a childbirth educator who for more than 20 years has written professionally about pregnancy, family and a variety of health and medical topics. A former print magazine editor, her insurance articles for “Resource” magazine garnered numerous awards. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Georgia.
Exfoliation for Acne
A woman having a facial at a spa. Photo Credit DragonImages/iStock/Getty Images

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, acne is the most common skin disease. Acne usually affects the upper parts of the body: the face, chest, neck, back and shoulders. Acne is caused by the skin's oil glands producing too much oil or sebum, which clogs pores and provides a perfect growing medium for acne-causing bacteria. Exfoliation removes dead surface skin cells, giving the skin an improved appearance and helping to minimize clogged pores.


Exfoliation may be chemical or physical. Chemical exfoliation involves the use of chemicals, such as glycolic acid, to dissolve and remove the top layer of dead skin cells. Chemical exfoliation may take the form of chemical peels. Physical exfoliation involves the use of a physical agent, such as sugar granules, to remove the top layer of dead skin cells. Avoid natural physical agents that may scratch the skin, such as apricot kernels.


If you have acne, exfoliate gently. This means avoiding chemicals that are too harsh for your skin or physical agents that can cause your skin to become inflamed and irritated. Exfoliation that is too intense, either in strength of frequency, can exacerbate acne. More is not better in this case.


Moisturize the face after exfoliation. Failure to replenish the skin's natural oils removed during cleansing may increase natural oil production. Choose a moisturizer designed for your skin type, and one that's oil-free and designed not to clog pores (non-comedogenic). Only use products designed for the face on the face; do not, for example, use body lotion on the face.


When using a topical product that contains exfoliating ingredients such as citric acid or alpha-hydroxy-acid, avoid adding additional exfoliation to your skin care treatment plan. Pat your skin dry rather than rubbing. Use topical products as directed, in terms of frequency and amount applied.


Use an exfoliant, such as peels, professional scrubs or microdermabrasion, to lift dead skin cells that can block pores and cause acne flare-ups. More serious or resistant cases of acne should be treated by a dermatologist.

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