Exfoliation Tips to Help Acne-Prone Skin

Exfoliants
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Anyone interested in acne skin care will have heard the term exfoliation. But what exactly is exfoliation, and why is it so important for those with acne?

Exfoliation Removes Dead Skin Cells

Exfoliation is the removal of dead skin cells. An exfoliant is a product or procedure that reduces the amount of dead cell build-up on the skin. Whether your acne is mild or more severe, regular exfoliation will smooth and soften the skin and brighten your complexion.

It also helps reduce breakouts by keeping the pores from becoming clogged with plus of dead cells and sebum (skin oil).

But before you run out and buy am abrasive scrub, take the time to learn about all the exfoliating products and treatments available. Making the right exfoliant choice is essential for getting good results without irritating your skin and aggravating acne.

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

Physical Exfoliants Manually Remove Dead Skin Cells

Most of us are familiar with physical exfoliants. These are the products and procedures that use an abrasive ingredient or implement to buff away dead skin cells.

Gritty scrubs, rough cleansing pads and cloths, and professional microdermabrasion procedures are all examples of physical exfoliants.

Physical exfoliants leave your skin feeling soft and smooth, but they aren't actually the best exfoliant choice for acne-prone skin.

The friction involved in using a physical exfoliant can irritate already inflamed skin.

This rubbing and scrubbing can leave your skin looking more red, and can make existing breakouts worse by irritating and exacerbating redness and promoting additional breakouts. The more inflamed your acne, the more you'll want to avoid physical exfoliants.

Those with acne, especially inflamed acne, should avoid physical exfoliants altogether, unless otherwise advised by a doctor.

Chemical Exfoliants Loosen the Bonds between Dead Skin Cells

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

You've probably used chemical exfoliants before without realizing; they're very popular. Some common chemical exfoliants include:

Chemical exfoliants can be found over-the-counter at your local retail store, and many are gentle enough to be used daily.

Stronger daily and weekly treatments, as well as light chemical peels, are available at day spas and skin spas.

The estheticians working at these establishments can help you decide which treatments will be best for your skin.

For the most powerful chemical exfoliant products, ask your dermatologist. He or she can provide you with a prescription treatment, or perform stronger chemical peels, if needed.

Most chemical exfoliants, whether over-the-counter or doctor prescribed, will dry the skin to some degree. Incorporating an oil-free moisturizer into your daily skin care routine will help ward off excessive dryness, peeling, and irritation.

Exfoliating Safety Tips

If you need help choosing an exfoliant, don't hesitate to ask your dermatologist for guidance. Your doctor will be able to recommend a product or procedure that is both safe and effective for your skin.

Unless recommended by your doctor, avoid using several exfoliating products at the same time. Doing so may cause redness, excessive dryness, peeling, and considerable irritation.

If you are currently using any acne medications, especially Accutane (isotretinoin), retinoids such as Retin-A (tretinoin) or Differin (adapalene), or any other topical or oral medications, talk with your doctor before beginning any exfoliation treatment.

If a product causes considerable irritation or discomfort, discontinue use and consult your doctor.

Sources:

Gerson, Ph.D., Joel. Standard Textbook for Professional Estheticians. 8th edition. Albany, NY: Milady Publishing, 1999.

"Questions and Answers About Acne." National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). Jan 2006. National Institutes of Health.

Whitney KM, Ditre CM. "Management Strategies for Acne Vulgaris." Clinical Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. 2011;4:41-53.

Zaenglein AL, Pathy AL, Schlosser BJ, Alikhan A, Baldwin HE, et. al. "Guidelines of Care for the Management of Acne Vulgaris." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2016;74(5):945-73.

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