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Does Exfoliating Help With Acne? (Tips and Tricks for Acne-Prone Skin)

Acne is a common skin issue that most of us have battled at one point or another. It can be disheartening and often leads us to question every element of our skincare routines. The practice of exfoliation, however, is often wrapped in a cloak of confusion. Does exfoliating help with acne? Can it be used on acne-prone skin without causing a breakout? This comprehensive guide will seek to answer these questions and provide tips for incorporating exfoliation into your skincare routine, focusing particularly on acne-prone skin.

Also read: How to choose the best acne treatment

Biggest Take-Aways:

  • Exfoliation helps combat acne by reducing clogged pores, enhancing skin cell turnover, and improving the absorption of acne treatments.
  • To exfoliate acne-prone skin effectively, choose the right exfoliant, avoid over-exfoliating, pay attention to your skin's reactions, and ensure the rest of your skincare routine is gentle.
  • The right exfoliants for acne-prone skin include salicylic acid-based, glycolic acid-based, and enzyme-based exfoliators.
  • The Exposed Skin Care range can effectively manage acne by combating acne-causing factors, promoting skin cell turnover, soothing the skin, and preventing future breakouts.

Woman exfoliating her face

Understanding Acne and Acne-Prone Skin

Understanding what acne is, and why some of us are more prone to it, is crucial in formulating a successful skincare routine.

What is Acne?

Acne is a skin condition that occurs when your hair follicles, or pores, become clogged with oil (sebum) and dead skin cells. This clog can result in various forms of acne, such as whiteheads, blackheads, or more severe forms like cystic acne.

What Defines Acne-Prone Skin?

Acne-prone skin tends to produce more oil than other skin types. This overproduction of oil, combined with dead skin cells, increases the likelihood of pores becoming clogged, resulting in breakouts.

Shedding Light on Exfoliation: What Exactly is Exfoliation?

Exfoliation is a skincare process that involves the removal of dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. This process can be achieved through chemical or physical means. But, how does this answer the question, does exfoliating help with acne?

Chemical Exfoliants

Chemical exfoliants use acids and enzymes to loosen and dissolve dead skin cells. These include AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) like glycolic acid, BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids) like salicylic acid, and retinoids.

Chemical exfoliants can penetrate deep into your pores, removing dead skin cells and impurities that cause acne.

Chemical exfoliant applied by professional

Physical Exfoliants

On the other hand, physical exfoliants use small particles, a brush, or a scrub to physically remove dead skin cells from the skin's surface.

While these can leave your skin feeling immediately smooth, it's essential to be gentle as aggressive scrubbing can cause irritated, inflamed skin, and potentially make breakouts worse.

Deciphering the Debate: Does Exfoliating Help with Acne?

The simple answer is yes. Exfoliation helps in the battle against acne by reducing clogged pores – the primary cause of breakouts. Exfoliating your acne-prone skin can assist in several ways.

Unclogging Pores

By sweeping away dead skin cells and sebum, exfoliation reduces the chance of pores becoming clogged, hence reducing the appearance of acne.

Enhancing Skin Cell Turnover

Exfoliation boosts your skin's natural process of shedding old cells and generating new ones, which can help prevent acne.

Improving Product Absorption

Exfoliation helps your skin absorb other skincare products more effectively. By removing the outer layer of dead skin cells, treatments for acne can penetrate the skin more deeply and work more efficiently.

Woman putting on moisturizer

The Art of Exfoliating Acne-Prone Skin: Tips and Tricks

Exfoliating acne-prone skin demands care. Overdoing it can strip the skin of essential oils, leading to an overproduction of sebum, and subsequently, more breakouts. Here's how to exfoliate your skin properly:

Choose the Right Exfoliant

Both chemical and physical exfoliants can be effective for acne-prone skin. However, chemical exfoliants often offer a deeper and more gentle exfoliation, making them a better choice for those with acne. Look for exfoliators with BHAs like salicylic acid, which can penetrate the pore lining and exfoliate inside the pore as well as on the skin’s surface.

Don't Over-Exfoliate

Exfoliating two to three times a week is generally sufficient. Over-exfoliation can lead to dry, irritated skin, and in a bid to compensate, your skin may produce more oil, leading to more breakouts. Remember, too much of a good thing can indeed be harmful.

Listen to Your Skin

Always pay attention to how your skin reacts to exfoliation. If you notice any redness, sensitivity, or excessive dryness, it might be an indication that you're exfoliating too often or the exfoliator is too harsh for your skin type.

Keep the Rest of Your Routine Gentle

Exfoliating is only one step in your skincare routine. Make sure the rest of your products are gentle and non-irritating. Look for products that are labeled "non-comedogenic" or "oil-free" to avoid clogging your pores.

Bottle of gentle face exfoliant

Best Exfoliators for Acne-Prone Skin

Identifying the right exfoliant for your skin can be a game-changer. Here are some of the best exfoliators that can help you keep acne at bay:

  • Salicylic Acid-Based Exfoliants: Salicylic acid is a BHA that is known for its ability to penetrate deeply into the pores and clear them out.

  • Glycolic Acid-Based Exfoliants: Glycolic acid, an AHA, helps to break the bonds between the skin cells, speeding up cell turnover rate, leading to a smoother complexion.

  • Enzyme-Based Exfoliators: These types of exfoliators are usually derived from fruits like pineapple and papaya. They gently break down the "glue" that holds dead skin cells together, making them a gentle choice for sensitive skin types.

The Benefits of Exposed Skin Care for Managing Acne

Exposed Skin Care is a comprehensive skincare line designed specifically for acne-prone skin.

Exposed Skin Care Ultimate Kit

Incorporating this range into your routine can yield significant benefits:

  • Combats Acne: With powerful active ingredients such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, Exposed Skin Care products work to unclog pores, reduce inflammation, and combat acne-causing bacteria.

  • Promotes Skin Cell Turnover: Their products, like the Microderm Scrub, aid in exfoliation, promoting skin cell turnover and preventing pore-clogging dead skin cells from accumulating.

  • Soothes and Nourishes: The line includes a variety of botanical ingredients like green tea and passionflower extract to soothe the skin and reduce redness, which is essential for maintaining the health of acne-prone skin.

  • Prevents Future Breakouts: Regular use of Exposed Skin Care helps keep your skin clear by preventing new breakouts, tying into our initial discussion about how exfoliation, a key component of Exposed Skin Care products, can help manage acne.

Consider integrating Exposed Skin Care into your routine for a holistic approach to managing acne-prone skin.


Regular and thoughtful exfoliation plays a pivotal role in managing acne. It provides a comprehensive approach to skincare, aiding in unclogging pores, enhancing skin cell turnover, and promoting better absorption of skincare products.

Acne-prone skin requires a tailored approach, carefully selecting the right type of exfoliant, mindful frequency of exfoliation, and gentle accompanying skincare routine.Salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and enzyme-based exfoliants are recommended for acne-prone skin.

Finally, adopting a holistic skincare line like Exposed Skin Care can further assist in managing acne, providing the combined benefits of combating acne, promoting skin cell turnover, soothing the skin, and preventing future breakouts. As we navigate our skincare journeys, we must remember that listening to our skin's needs is the first step towards achieving a healthy, luminous complexion.


Does exfoliating help with acne scarring and hyperpigmentation?

Yes. Regular exfoliation can help lighten acne scars and hyperpigmentation by accelerating the skin cell turnover process and promoting new, healthy skin cell growth.

Can I exfoliate if I have active acne?

Yes, but it's crucial to be gentle and use the right exfoliator. Using a harsh scrub can irritate the skin and worsen the acne. A chemical exfoliant like a BHA can be a good choice as it can penetrate and clear the pores.

How often should I exfoliate my acne-prone skin?

Typically, exfoliating two to three times a week is recommended. However, this can vary based on your skin's sensitivity and how it reacts to exfoliation. Always listen to your skin.

Can I make my acne-prone skin worse by exfoliating?

Yes, if not done correctly. Over-exfoliating or using a harsh exfoliant can irritate your skin and potentially lead to more breakouts. It's crucial to choose a gentle exfoliant and not to exfoliate too often.

Can exfoliation help prevent future breakouts?

Absolutely. Regular exfoliation helps to keep your pores clean, reducing the likelihood of future breakouts.