Does exfoliating help with acne? Expert’s Advice (2022)

Does exfoliating help with acne?

Exfoliation is the method used to remove dead skin cells from the skin’s surface. It can be done mechanically, with a brush or scrub, or chemically, with a product that contains ingredients that dissolve the bonds between the dead skin cells.

Exfoliation has many benefits for the skin.

  1. Removing dead cells can assist in clearing clogged pores, which in turn can help prevent acne and blemishes from growing.
  2. And it helps the skin get ready to absorb products more readily. That is an excellent method to improve skin formation and texture.
  3. It can also help to brighten the skin and improve the build of fine lines and wrinkles by clearing built-up oil and debris.

Exfoliation is a vital part of any skincare routine, but it’s crucial not to overdo it. Too much or too often exfoliating can irritate the skin, resulting in redness, swelling, and even breakouts. So, it’ll be best to start slowly and increase the frequency and intensity of exfoliation as your skin gets used to it.

Yet, there are two types of exfoliation methods present in the market. Physical and chemical both do the same thing to remove the dead cells. But the procedures are quite different.

Physical Exfoliation

facial scrub

Physical exfoliants commonly known as face scrubs include microparticles that quietly remove dead skin cells. These granule-filled mixtures can either be gentle or severe, depending on the particles used. The ingredients used to create the particles used in physical exfoliators include:

  1. Salt
  2. Sugar
  3. Jojoba beads
  4. Nutshell granules, to name a few.

There are also some other items used to remove dead cells as a physical exfoliator:

facial scrubbing brushes and loofah
  1. Loofah sponges
  2. Bristled shower brushes
  3. Motorized facial brushes

Always apply these exfoliants to your skin gently and with extra gentleness. Further, the jarring motion might harm your skin, and it will lead to making your skin even more red and irritated. However, an expert advises against using a physical exfoliator if you have acne. Thus, inflamed skin might result in more outbreaks.

Chemical Exfoliation

Does exfoliating help with acne? - chemical exfoliation can help.

If your question is, “Does exfoliating help with acne?” Yes! It is indeed helpful. So, let’s see how it will be beneficial. Fruit enzymes and mild acids are among the elements that chemical exfoliants use to scrub your skin. Often known as chemical peels, they smooth and brighten the skin by revving cell turnover. These blends are often applied in small amounts or diluted with calming agents to reduce any irritation. It is gentler than a physical exfoliant because you don’t need to scrub. And it does the job smoothly. So for acne-prone skin, chemical exfoliants are more favorable than physical exfoliants.

Chemical Exfoliating Safety Tips

Hence one must seek advice from a dermatologist before deciding on a chemical exfoliation. They will tell after determining which acid is safe for each skin type and tone. Thus various kinds of chemicals are used to boost their benefits and deliver better results for several skin issues, like,


AHA chemical exfoliator by Paula's Choice
AHA chemical exfoliator by Paula’s Choice

There are six alpha hydroxy acids used in skin care including:

  1. Lactic Acid

Lactic acid has been used in skin care the longest of the alpha hydroxy acids. To get luminous, silky, and supple skin, the queen of Egypt, Cleopatra, took a milk bath with flowers. Thus, fermented milk contains lactic acid. It is unique in its ability to increase the skin’s natural moisturizing factor (NMF) improve its barrier function and help build hydration. 

  1. Glycolic Acid
  2. Mandelic and Malic Acids
  3. Citric and Tartaric Acids

Alpha hydroxy acids are obtained from fruits, sweets, or milk and they are water-soluble. And mainly provide the skin with several age management benefits. Some alpha hydroxy acids also have antibacterial qualities, which may be helpful for acne-prone skin.


BHA chemical exfoliator by Paula’s Choice

Salicylic acid is the most general beta-hydroxy acid used in skin care products. This acid is often used in some products to treat acne, blackheads, and excess oil, such as

  • Acne washes
  • Exfoliants
  • Toners
  • Masks
  • Serums
  • Moisturizers
  • Effective peels

However, the use of acids as chemical exfoliants is far more widespread.[1]Goodwin, B., Alpha, Beta, Enzymes: The Science of Chemical Exfoliation.

Use one exfoliating product at a time, unless your doctor advises you to use more than one. This might result in severe irritation, peeling, excessive dryness, and redness. Keep in mind that too much of anything is not good. However, if you want to do exfoliation at home then must see this full guideline video on “How to exfoliate at home”.

Source: AAD

BUY AHA and BHA exfoliator products for acne treatment and prevention.


I think you got your answer: “How does exfoliating help with acne?” And if there is anything else you want to know, then comment below, and I will answer your question or write about that topic next time.


1 Goodwin, B., Alpha, Beta, Enzymes: The Science of Chemical Exfoliation.

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