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Should you exfoliate if you have acne?
When you use the best exfoliators and scrubs for acne-prone skin, you’ll prevent breakouts.
You’ll get rid of pimples and enjoy healthier skin.
Any skin type can benefit from exfoliation.
It removes dead skin cells and pores clogging impurities.
The complexion becomes more radiant with a more even tone and fewer blackheads.
If you have sensitive skin, you could benefit from chemical exfoliators like alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids. These include glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acid. They peel the dead skin away and unclog pores without the need for scrubbing.
In fact, most skin care specialists would recommend chemical exfoliation as opposed to mechanical scrubs. That’s especially true when you have dry skin because it’s more fragile.
You can always use a clean washcloth for a little extra power.
But if you overdo it with the scrubbing, you can hurt your skin. It becomes prone to infection and overproduces sebum.
You could try a liquid cleanser with alpha hydroxy acids along with a Clarisonic or Konjac sponge for a happy balance.
The most important thing to remember is to be gentle.
Don’t exfoliate every day unless you have naturally oily skin. Three times a week is enough for most people, with once a week for those who have sensitive skin.
The next most vital step is to follow up with a moisturizer (1).
Even oily skin needs hydration.
If your skin looks puffy, irritated, extra dry, or too shiny, you’ve probably exfoliated too much (2).
You might also end up with more acne.
Too much exfoliation gets rid of healthy skin cells.
Take a break for a few days until things get back to normal.
Also, be careful to limit exfoliation if you’re currently taking acne medication or using benzoyl peroxide or retinol (3).
Now, let’s look at the best scrubs and exfoliators to care for acne-prone skin.
One of the best face scrubs for acne-prone skin is this one from Neutrogena. Rapid Clear contains salicylic acid that decreases inflammation and redness while it clears out congested pores.
Neutrogena has clinically tested this product to fine-tune it. It contains their MicroClear technology that’s proven to work.
Happily, if you follow directions, it usually doesn’t overdry the skin.
Neutrogena also created this daily scrub to keep acne at bay.
Again, it has salicylic acid to prevent clogged pores.
Other ingredients fortify the skin’s natural defenses against infection.
Use it each day to prevent breakouts.
Proactiv’s creamy cleanser uses glycolic acid and tiny crystals of benzoyl peroxide to wipe out acne.
It deep-cleans combination, oily, and even dry and sensitive skin.
In the process, it gets rid of blackheads and makes pores less noticeable.
Another highlight is that it’s free of both sulfates and parabens.
AcneFree produces this scrub so that you can get rid of blackheads and prevents pimples.
Regular use of it shrinks pores and helps your face feel like new. It can also help diminish acne scars.
Its effectiveness depends on 2% salicylic acid and jojoba oil. Jojoba is a plant derivative that’s very close to the skin’s own sebum. It moisturizes without clogging pores.
If you’d like your complexion to have less shine but more radiance, try this scrub from The Body Shop.
The secret to its effectiveness is tea tree oil. It kills the bacteria that cause acne.
When you wash with it, the scrub foams away impurities to leave your skin feeling soft and smooth but not tight or dry.
Also, the formula is vegan. It’s made with Community Trade ingredients that support the well-being of small independent farmers in Africa.
Here’s another tea tree oil scrub that you can use anywhere on your body.
It might be a little too harsh for your face unless you have oily skin, though. It contains micro-volcanic pumice to remove dead skin and charcoal powder to absorb impurities.
Then, there’s also white willow bark, which is like salicylic acid, plus tea tree oil.
Perhaps the best drugstore exfoliator for acne-prone skin is Bioré’s charcoal cleanser.
It has Japanese Skin Purifying Technology to make a difference after only one use.
Within two days, acne and blackheads should be less noticeable.
As you continue to wash with it day after day, it naturally purifies your complexion and leaves your skin silky soft.
The best exfoliator for oily skin might be the charcoal lemonade scrub from Acure.
It’s made for normal to oily and acne-prone skin.
It exfoliates and rejuvenates dull skin with lemon peel, blueberry, and charcoal plus plant cellulose crystals.
Moreover, it’s 100% vegan and free of parabens and sulfates.
The Acnedote scrub is based on 2% salicylic acid with willow bark. That’s the most potent over-the-counter concentration you can get.
It cleans pores to prevent pimples. Meanwhile, the astringent witch hazel tightens those pores to make the skin less oily.
The creamy scrub also has walnut shell powder, aloe, and citrus to even out the complexion.
And since Alba Botanica makes it, it doesn’t have artificial fragrances, dyes, phthalates, or parabens.
Body Merry blends glycolic acid with willow bark and jojoba beads for the ultimate exfoliation experience. It reaches deep into clogged pores and washes away dead skin and dirt.
Those jojoba beads are kind to the environment as well as your complexion.
If you have dry skin, you’ll appreciate the cucumber, organic rosehip, and olive oil that soften the skin and add extra moisture.
If you’re a mom, you might already be familiar with Belli’s products. They make an excellent cream for stretch marks.
Their anti-blemish face wash is worth trying if you’re dealing with pregnancy acne.
It contains lactic acid, the most gentle alpha hydroxy acid. It’s hydrating and mild, yet still effective over time.
Massage it into your face for up to a minute, then rinse thoroughly and pat dry. Use it twice a day.
It’s free of harsh chemicals that can cause allergic reactions, dryness, or irritation.
Burt’s Bees is specifically for oily, acne-prone skin.
It has 99% natural ingredients and no parabens or artificial fragrances. Even the 1% salicylic acid is naturally derived from willow bark.
This product was also tested and proven by dermatologists to prevent blemishes.
Neutrogena is no slacker in the natural products department. It also makes acne scrub out of 93% naturally-derived ingredients.
The salicylic acid in it comes from wintergreen leaf, not willow bark.
There are no sulfates, parabens, petroleum products, phthalates, or artificial dyes. The formula is hypoallergenic, too.
Use it each day to foam away impurities to keep pores clear and the skin healthy.
What would an article about facial scrubs be without St. Ives?
Their classic apricot scrub is designed to defeat acne. It has natural exfoliants like apricot, corn kernel, and walnut shell powder. But it also has 2% salicylic acid.
It’s so powerful that you’ll only want to use it three or four times a week.
For daily maintenance of healthy skin, use Cetaphil’s extra-gentle scrub. It has tiny granules and no harsh chemicals to resurface your complexion.
It won’t dry out your face. Instead, it’s packed with skin conditioners and vitamins to protect it.
Aveeno’s scrub has sulfates, artificial fragrance, and parabens, so why would you want to use it?
On the upside, it also has soy, jojoba, and castor oil to even out skin tone and condition your face. The result is a more radiant, brighter complexion.
This natural face scrub is designed to be used up to three times a week. It has a neutral (natural) scent so that both you and your partner can enjoy it.
It gives your face a microdermabrasion treatment to reduce blackheads and prevent breakouts. At the same time, it uses chlorophyll and fruit extracts to purify the skin.
Try it for up to a year and get a full refund if you’re not satisfied.
Paula’s Choice made the Clear Exfoliator as a leave-on solution. There’s no need for scrubbing or rinsing.
Throughout the day, salicylic acid unclogs and shrinks pores and fades red marks from previous breakouts. It also helps reduce blackheads and milia.
When tested in a clinical trial, 88% of the users said they had less severe acne.
Like with other products from this company, there are no artificial fragrances or parabens.
One of the best exfoliators for acne scars is this peel from Cane + Austin.
It blends 5% glycolic acid with 2% salicylic acid to cover all the bases.
Both are exfoliants. The first moisturizes, while the second reduces oiliness.
Together, they improve texture and appearance without causing dryness. Acne and acne scars alike fade away.
Furthermore, the formula is free of artificial fragrances and parabens.
To protect your skin while using this product, please remember to wear sunscreen.
Have you ever tried a Konjac sponge? It’s an excellent natural exfoliator made from an Asian type of potato.
This particular sponge is impregnated with charcoal for extra power on oily skin. It removes impurities and helps the complexion become less greasy.
Each sponge lasts up to three months before you’ll need to replace it.
If you have sensitive skin or you’re currently using acne medication, try this Konjac sponge instead.
Once you soak it in water, it becomes very soft. But don’t let the softness deceive you – it’s still an effective exfoliator.
Interestingly, Konjac powder is also rich in minerals and vitamins that fortify the skin.
For a reusable solution, try a silicone scrubby.
It’s made of food-grade silicone that won’t tear the skin.
Even though it’s very soft, it’s really durable.
Use the scrubby with your favorite face wash. It’s easy to grip and control while you massage away makeup and dirt.
You can use Olay’s ProX cleansing brush in the shower. It has two speeds and runs on two AA batteries.
The exfoliating head is gentle yet thorough. When combined with the Olay Renewal Cleanser, it lathers away waterproof makeup and dead skin.
Clarisonic’s Mia is tested to be safe for sensitive skin. It provides a host of benefits besides reducing acne.
You can use it anywhere on your body to create firmer texture, shrink pores, and reduce wrinkles. It can even minimize puffiness under the eyes and blend makeup!
The company says this one device cleanses the skin six times better than using your hands alone.
The kit includes the Mia Smart, a Daily Radiance brush head, a massager, a foundation brush, and a massage head.
Each time you recharge the battery, it’s ready for 100 minutes of use.
Prevent and clear up acne with regular exfoliation.
You may need to experiment to find what works best for you.
In general, chemical exfoliation is less harsh than a scrub. But you may decide to use both methods on alternating days.
Whatever you choose to do, start small, and work your way up for the best results.
In time, you should see fewer blemishes and enjoy healthier, smoother skin.
1. https://www.aad.org/skin-care-secrets/safely-exfoliate-at-home accessed November 18, 2019
2. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/signs-youre-over-exfoliating_n_56019a36e4b00310edf8c802 by Lisa Capretto, published September 23, 2015, accessed November 18, 2019
3. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-exfoliate by Jane Chertoff, published November 13, 2018, accessed November 18, 2019
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