How Should I Exfoliate My Skin If I Have Acne?

Exfoliation is essential to helping reduce your incidence of acne. If you suffer from this skin condition, there's one kind of exfoliant you need to know about. This ingredient not only exfoliates but also helps to reduce the bacteria and inflammation commonly associated with acne.

If you have acne, you may think exfoliation isn't for you. It's true that scrubbing away at skin that's already inflamed is not wise.

However, one method of exfoliation is safe for and effective on acne-prone skin. In fact, one exfoliating ingredient in particular is perfect for treating acne.

How to Choose the Best Acne Skincare Creams and Treatments for Dry Skin - Alpha-H Gentle Daily Exfoliant - young woman has her eyes closed and is gently applying exfoliator to her cheeks and forehead using her fingertips - 1200 x 800How to Choose the Best Acne Skincare Creams and Treatments for Dry Skin - Alpha-H Gentle Daily Exfoliant - young woman has her eyes closed and is gently applying exfoliator to her cheeks and forehead using her fingertips - 1200 x 800

Why Exfoliate Acne-Prone Skin?

Exfoliation is extremely important in the treatment of acne. That's because acne-causing bacteria actually thrive on dead skin cells. The more sustenance is available, the easier it is for the bacteria to populate. The easier they find it to populate, the more acne lesions form.

Exfoliation limits both the number of dead skin cells that remain on your skin and the amount of time they remain. Both of these benefits help to remove a key factor in the cause of acne.

What Type of Exfoliation is Best for Acne-Prone Skin?

When most people think of exfoliation, they think of physical exfoliants: products such as facial scrubs, konjac sponges, and cleansing cloths. If you have acne-prone skin, you should avoid these items all costs, because they:

  • Are breeding grounds for spot-causing bacteria

  • Can inflame your skin through excessive scrubbing action 

  • Can push acneic papules and pustules into the deeper layers of your skin

Instead of using physical exfoliants, acne-prone skin types should always opt for chemical exfoliants. Chemical exfoliants use acids or enzymes to dissolve the glue that holds dead skin cells together —without any irritating scrubbing action.

The outermost layers of skin are already dead, so they're more resistant to pollution and invaders. The challenge comes when these layers stick around for too long. Slow cell turnover is especially problematic for acne-prone skin. The excess sebum production associated with this condition contributes to the delay.

 

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Chemical Exfoliants Include Ingredients such as:

  • Glycolic acid

  • Salicylic acid

  • Lactic acid

  • Papain (enzyme derived from papaya)

  • Bromelain (enzyme derived from pineapple)

One of these ingredients outperforms all the others when it comes to exfoliating acne-prone skin. This makes choosing an effective product for your skin type easy!

Which Type of Chemical Exfoliant is Best for Acne-Prone Skin?

When exfoliating acne-prone skin, you want an ingredient that can reach deeply into the pores of your skin. This is where problematic, acne-provoking areas of dead skin can collect.

While all chemical exfoliants can penetrate the deeper layers of skin, only one is perfectly formulated to reach within your pores: salicylic acid. Because salicylic acid is most soluble in oil, this ingredient can easily travel deep into pores that are coated by your skin's natural oil: sebum.

Most people who suffer from acne also exhibit an increased rate of sebum production. This makes salicylic acid ideal for treating the condition.

In addition, salicylic acid offers a variety of additional benefits for acne-prone skin types, including:

  • Antibacterial

  • Anti-inflammatory

  • Anti-redness

  • Increased collagen production (which helps to defend against acne scars)

Some of our favourite acne-fighting salicylic acid exfoliants include:

When used regularly, skincare products containing salicylic acid help reduce dead skin, sebum production, and inflammation. Salicylic acid tackles the acne cycle from multiple sides, which is why this ingredient is so effective.