Home Cure for Acne: Exfoliation

The very common home cure for acne, exfoliation-removal of dead skin cells from the epidermis-is the next critical step in natural acne treatment. Skin normally exfoliates on its own, but when you have clogged pores and acne lesions, you need to help the process along.

"Not using a regular exfoliant can cause or aggravate acne and other surface skin conditions," says Dianne M. Daniels, a certified image consultant in Norwich, Connecticut, and the author of "Polish and Presence: 31 Days to a New Image."

Unclogging Pores

"Without removing the dead skin, your pores can become clogged and irritated," Daniels explains. "Dead skin may also prevent hair on a man's jaw line from breaking through to the surface, where it can be shaved off, and may contribute to razor bumps and ingrown hairs. Exfoliating on a regular basis will leave skin softer, smoother and receptive to additional special treatments, such as acne medications. What a great home cure for acne!

But a word of caution to those with oily skin: Over-exfoliating and over-manipulation of oily skin will cause it to be even oilier."

According to Faith Frankenfield, founder and chief operating officer of Laguna Woods, California-based Faith Skin Care, exfoliation also helps to heal the skin by preventing non-inflamed lesions from becoming inflamed lesions.

"Normally, sebum will be released to the surface of the skin, where it can be cleansed away," explains Frankenfield, an esthetician whose professional career includes a stint as a national makeup artist for the Prescriptives brand. "People with acne have a problem called 'retention hyperkeratosis,' which means dead skin cells produced in the subcutaneous layer of the skin are retained at the surface of the hair follicle, instead of shedding every two weeks as they would with normal skin. The dead skin blocks oil from coming to the surface, and the cells mix together to form a non-inflammatory lesion: a blackhead or a whitehead. If the lesion doesn't resolve on its own, isn't properly extracted or the skin is not exfoliated, oil will continue to build, attract bacteria and progress to an inflammatory lesion"-which may turn into a deep cyst.

Home cure for acne: Exfoliation Methods

There are different ways to exfoliate. You may have tried manual devices that slough off dead skin, such as washcloths, Buf-Puf complexion sponges or abrasive cleansers, but they can be too rough for acne-prone skin.

"One of the first things I do when educating clients is to encourage them to stop using washcloths to remove products because it causes unnecessary irritation," Frankenfield says. "I also educate them about popular mass-market scrubs that contain walnut shells or apricot kernels. These ingredients actually make cuts and tears in the skin. Many companies pride themselves on creating scrubs with small, round granules that work well on normal skin, but they can still be too harsh for acne skin."

The preferred method involves use of a product that contains one of three acids:

  • Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)
  • Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs)
  • Poly hydroxy acids (PHAs)

"One of the advantages of the hydroxy acid preparations is that they help to normalize the shedding process, thus decreasing the formation of blackheads and blocked pores," says Dr. Lisa Benest. "They do this by peeling the topmost layers of the skin. Depending on the formulations, AHAs and BHAs tend to be a little drying, and some people with acne use them to counteract the oiliness on their skin. PHAs are larger molecules and have a lesser tendency to irritate and dry the skin; thus, they are better tolerated, especially by those who have dry skin.

"These acids can be used as part of an ongoing home cure for acne program, such as with cleansers and lotions. For a more intensive treatment, peels can be done by a qualified professional. Most people who undergo a series of peels find their skin to be more glowing, with fewer acne breakouts. Since the hydroxy acids exfoliate the skin, it is important to remember sun protection to minimize sunburns."


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