Should You Use an Acne Scrub for Your Acne-Prone Skin?

What to Use on Your Skin Instead of Harsh Acne Scrubs

Exfoliating Scrubs
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If you're using an abrasive scrub to clean your skin, you may not notice any positive effect on the appearance of your acne blemishes. Despite the clean feeling your skin has after a good scrubbing, it's not an effective way to treat acne. In fact, it may be making it worse, not better.

Why Acne Sufferers Use Facial Scrubs

Facial scrub products are a common type of exfoliant that manually removes dead skin cells by means of an abrasive ingredient.

 But scrubs can be very harsh, especially on skin that is already inflamed due to acne breakouts.

Acne sufferers often want to scrub at the face, thinking the scrubbing really helps to cleanse out pores and reduce breakouts. In actuality, vigorous scrubbing can increase irritation and redness, aggravate already inflamed skin, and exacerbate breakout activity. Those with acne, especially breakouts that are inflamed, crusting, oozing, or open sores, should avoid scrubs altogether.

This doesn't mean acne-prone skin shouldn't be exfoliated regularly. There are other ways to exfoliate the skin without resorting to an abrasive, and potentially irritating, product.

How to Exfoliate Your Skin Without Harsh Acne Scrubs

For mild inflammatory acne, including whiteheads and blackheads, there are several over-the-counter product ingredients that the National Institutes of Health recommends for treatment.

For instance, benzoyl peroxide is known to reduce oil production. Resorcinol helps reduce and break down blackheads and whiteheads. Salicylic acid and sulfur are also effective against common types of acne. 

Most of these products will have a drying effect and not every patient can tolerate each one.

Patients should consult with a physician, preferably a dermatologist, to ensure they're using the acne treatment regimen that is best for them. 

Products with these ingredients aid in the removal of excess dead skin cells, help keep pores clear, and inhibit the formation of comedones. Remember, regular exfoliation is an important step in treating acne. It's just all a matter of how you do it.

When Drugstore Products Aren't Cutting It

If over-the-counter treatments are not having an effect or if the acne is severe, there are many prescription skin care and acne treatments to try. Antibiotics can help stop or slow growth of bacteria that causes acne and reduce inflammation. Many retinoids, which are vitamin A derivatives, are used to clear up comedones or small whiteheads and allow other medications to be more effective overall. These prescription acne treatments may be applied to the skin via a cream or gel, or taken orally as a pill. 

For severe or cystic acne, a dermatologist may prescribe isotretinoin, an oral medication that reduces the size of oil glands and inhibits bacteria growth.

This is a treatment that has to be carefully supervised by a dermatologist and is only prescribed for the most severe cases of acne. 

Finding the Right Acne Treatments for You

For the most part, prescription products that can be used in conjunction with over-the-counter varieties. But before you combine any skincare products, it's best to consult a physician or a pharmacist to get a good idea about any interactions that may occur. 

It's also important to remember that It's not uncommon to try several medications before finding the one that works. It can be a frustrating process, but just know that each treatment you try will ultimately get you closer to your goal of clearer skin.

United States. NIAMS/National Institutes of Health. "Questions and Answers About Acne." Bethesda, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2015.

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