Updated: 9/9/15. Using exfoliants such as at-home skin peels, serums, facial scrubs and cleansers with ingredients such as glycolic acid, salicylic acid and physical grains like jojoba beads can all be very beneficial to the skin for smoothing the skin and reducing clogged pores and blackheads. But for those who are new to exfoliating products, it is considered normal for some to experience initial breakouts (blemishes), especially those with a lot of clogged pores under the skin.
Clogged pores typically are small closed bumps that may be white in color and often can be the result of previous large pustular blemishes where the infection did come to the surface but some residual oil and bacteria stayed behind within the pore.
Exfoliating skin care products work to remove surface skin cells making way for blockages inside the skin to come to the surface, possibly resulting in a purging effect. Typically, the breakouts are minor and should subside within 2-4 weeks, making way for clearer, smoother and healthier skin.
For some, breakouts and blemishes can occur when using a sonic brush, such as the Clarisonic, since this gives an aggressive manual exfoliation (via the bristles of the brush) to the skin which, for some, can be too stimulating to the skin.
TIP: If you’re experiencing a significant amount of blemishes, you may want to cut back the usage slightly to slowly introduce exfoliation to your skin. Also, using round particles like jojoba beads in your facial scrubs are far less likely to cause exfoliation-induced breakouts due to their gentle nature. See our popular Mint Buffing Beads and AHA/BHA Cleansing Gel. Avoid facial scrubs with apricot kernels and walnut husks as they can scratch and irritate the skin causing bacteria to spread.
If your skin continues to have more than normal breakouts for more than 4-6 weeks, then it either may just be your skin (breakouts that coincidentally were going to occur anyway), or the exfoliating products are not agreeing with your skin.
The challenge will always be to determine which it is. It’s just so hard to know. If you suspect it’s the exfoliating products, keep in mind that not all formulas are equal so don’t rule out exfoliation completely because the benefits to the skin are huge – you just may want to try another product. When you do introduce a new product to the skin (whether it’s an exfoliating product or not), patch testing your skin is always a good idea.
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