Having and dealing with acne is hard work and it can take a huge toll on your confidence. While there’s no handbook to getting rid of acne permanently, there are ways to diminish it and keep it under control, and the first step is understanding how acne forms in the first place.
Think of your pores (the hair follicles on your face) as tiny open crevices. Micro dirt particles from pollution, makeup or skincare products fill these crevices throughout the day. On top of that, you naturally secret oils from your oil glands (this is called sebum), which builds-up on the surface of your skin along with dead skin cells (you shed these regularly!). Everything combined leads to clogged pores, and if you don’t clear your pores thoroughly at least once a week, blackheads, whiteheads and pimples ensue.
"Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells and buffing away dirt build-up from deep inside your pores. The result is smooth, healthy, radiant skin."
Your pores can become easily clogged regardless of your skin type, but especially so if you have oily skin. Oiliness means your oil production glands are overly active, producing too much sebum. This makes it easier for oil to build-up in your pores, leading to a higher chance of acne. The secret lies in keeping your skin clean and your pores clear.
But simply cleansing your face at the end of the day isn’t always enough, as this merely cleanses the surface of your skin instead of the deeper layers of your pores! Enter exfoliation––the process of removing dead skin cells and buffing away dirt build-up from deep inside your pores. Think of it as an easy detox. The result? Smooth, healthy, radiant skin.
How Exfoliating Tackles Clogged Pores and Acne
Not all exfoliants will do the trick, though. There is a world of difference between physical and chemical exfoliators. Physical exfoliants feature granules or particles that slough off dead skin by the mechanical act of scrubbing. However, this can cause micro-tearing on your skin, causing long-term damage. On top of that, squeezing and scrubbing away at acne can actually cause irritation.
For these reasons, it's best to steer clear of physical exfoliants no matter what skin type you have, but especially if you have acne-prone skin. Treat your zits to chemical exfoliants instead. While this may sound harsh, they are actually much gentler on your skin; they contain gentle acids and enzymes which work to dissolve the ‘glue’ that holds dead skin cells together. No scrubbing, rubbing or tugging is involved, making it a much safer way to exfoliate.
How to Incorporate Exfoliants into your Skincare Routine
There are a number of do’s and don’ts that you need to consider when exfoliating with a chemical exfoliant. When done right, it can really help you stay on top of your acne issues and keep your skin healthy. Here are the top 3 things to always remember:
- Exfoliate at night. Exfoliation buffs away dead skin cells and exposes newer ones. This makes your skin especially delicate and vulnerable to sun damage and other external irritants. Exfoliating at night will help your skin heal overnight, and keep it safe from these irritants. Make sure to also apply SPF the next to protect your skin (even indoors!).
- Stick to a once-or-twice-a-week routine. Too much of anything is not good for you. Exfoliating every day will irritate your skin and harm its moisture barrier, so, stick to exfoliating just once or twice a week.
- Always follow up with your regular skincare routine. Once you’re done exfoliating, follow up with your toner, serum, and a nourishing moisturiser to keep your skin healthy, hydrated and protected.
Needless to say, exfoliating is not a one-stop solution to treating all your acne issues. Rather it’s an important step to incorporate into your skincare routine to build towards healthier, cleaner skin in general. Your skin’s health is a direct reflection of your environment, diet and lifestyle too, so tackling acne is also about eating right (fill your plate with superfoods like green veggies, yoghurt, fatty fish, to reduce excess oil production), keeping your hydration levels up with lots of water (at least 2 litres a day), and sticking to your morning and night skincare routine religiously!