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Do Teens Need to Exfoliate?

by Nadia Haris , studioD

Your once happy-go-lucky child with the glowing skin has suddenly become a teenager and faces a smorgasbord of changes. These include changes in how her skin looks and feels, and many teens will experience acne. The National Institutes of Health notes that it is a myth that dirty skin causes acne; however, cleansing and exfoliating properly can help prevent or reduce flare-ups.

Teenage Acne

The teenage years are a time of transformation and discovery; for many teens, they can also be a crash course in skin problems. Acne -- which manifests as pimples or zits -- can be a distressing skin condition that almost all teenagers experience at one time or another. Your teenager's developing body is going through a rollercoaster production of hormones that trigger skin glands to produce excess oils called sebum. Too much sebum can cause skin and hair to feel greasy, look shiny and lead to acne. The National Institutes of Health explains that acne is caused when your teenager's pores become clogged with sebum, leading to inflammation, pus and infection with an overgrowth of bacteria that are naturally found in the skin.


Your teenager's skin needs special care during these turbulent years. The Palo Alto Medical Foundation advises gentle exfoliation to remove the layers of dead skin cells that can clog the pores. Excess sebum glues together these dead skin cells, preventing them from naturally sloughing off. This sebum is one of the main culprits that cause acne. Simply washing with a skin cleanser may not enough to remove the clumped-together skin cells; exfoliating can help clear skin pores and prevent acne.


Gently cleansing skin with something gritty helps to lift away excess oil and dead skin cells at any age. Show your teenager how to exfoliate delicately to avoid damaging her skin. Canadian Living advises that is better to use a fine, gentle exfoliator regularly rather than a harsh exfoliator once a week. The sensitive skin on the face is different from the tougher skin on the body and must be handled with care. Your teen can exfoliate her skin in two main ways. A physical exfoliator involves using a finely ground gritty substance to gently lift debris from her pores. Your teenager can also use chemical exfoliators. These facial cleansers made for teenage skin problems contain chemicals that help to loosen and remove dead skin cell buildup. Your teenager's doctor or dermatologist can recommend the best type for her skin.


The American Academy of Dermatology advises that your teenager can do her skin more harm than good by scrubbing it too aggressively. Overcleansing the skin or using strong skin products too often can leave skin irritated, dry, inflamed and infected. This can trigger the oil glands to produce more sebum, leading to a frustrating cycle of more acne. Remind your teenager to resist the temptation to scrub skin when exfoliating. Acne can be emotionally distressing for your teen and leave pitted scars. Seek the advice of a dermatologist if your teenager has severe acne.

About the Author

Nadia Haris is a registered radiation therapist who has been writing about nutrition for more than six years. She is completing her Master of Science in nutrition with a focus on the dietary needs of oncology patients.

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