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You hear all about acne creams and facial cleansers, but exfoliators for acne-prone skin rarely get to share the limelight. The reason: more often than not, it's actually harmful to exfoliate acne-prone skin. Still, your skin is as unique as you are. Your skin type and lifestyle also have an impact on how often you should exfoliate, so the judgment call is totally yours.
Your Skin Type
Your skin type has more to do with how often you need to exfoliate than anything else. Generally, sensitive, acne-prone skin and exfoliation don't pair well, since exfoliators are abrasive and cause inflammation. Likewise, very dry skin may crack when you exfoliate it. If you're dealing with rough skin or adult acne, however, a weekly at-home exfoliating treatment (or monthly chemical peel at the dermatologist) may be just the trick.
Face Versus Body
When it comes to skincare, your body and your face are two different goddesses with different needs. Special exfoliating masks, creams and peels are best for the face. Though they exist, steer clear of facial exfoliating scrubs. Facial scrubs are too harsh for most skin types, and if you have acne, chances are they'll irritate your skin and cause more breakouts. However, grainy scrubs are usually safe to use on the body.
In "Oprah" magazine, Arizona dermatologist Jennifer Linder recommends using a topical serum or lotion to whisk away dead cells. Look for an over-the-counter product with a vitamin A derivative --- these are pretty mild, but should do plenty to revitalize flaky skin. It's also important to moisturize after exfoliating to keep skin from drying up and cracking.
The climate where you live and your beauty routine also help determine how often you need to buff away dead skin cells. If you use self-tanning lotions or foams, exfoliation helps create an even tan. If you live in a colder climate, thick clothing slows skin cell turnover, meaning a weekly or monthly exfoliating treatment may be in order.