Like it or not, there’s a lot of oil and dead skin cells on your face right now. This mixture constantly travels up hair follicles under your skin and out through holes in the surface. Yet this isn’t a bad thing. In fact, the oil and skin cells actually protect your skin from bacteria and keep it moisturized. It may sound like the perfect breeding ground for acne, but this environment doesn’t cause you to break out. Rather, it’s when this mixture of oil and cells can’t get out—when the pores get clogged—that breakouts occur.
When an excess of oil and skin cells—as well as dirt, grime, or lost pennies—collects in the pores, bacteria make their way to the blockage, causing inflammation and acne. To remove this blockage and keep the pores clean, facial spa treatments aim to clean and loosen dry skin cells—a process known as exfoliation. Whether done manually, as in microdermabrasion or scrubs, or chemically, as in an acid peel or retinoid, exfoliation removes the debris to keep pores clear and bacteria free. Still, such treatments should be done in moderation—too much exfoliation can strip away the otherwise healthy levels of oil and skin cells that keep skin healthy.