Why are you having Acne?


Pic credit : acne.com

There is no novelty in acids these days , every brand has come out with their own products with acids , it’s there in the form of cleansers, toners , serums, and moisturizers. Now you can choose these according to your skin type , your concerns , your brand preference or your blogger preference;)  Whatever you decide , don’t get overzealous with them. It’s your skin, not a battlefield. You are not at war with your face.


I have made any mistakes myself in the past but I have learned my lesson , did more research on the ingredients over the years and finally I know what works for my skin. Despite having some amazing products in your routine if you are breaking out then it means you are not layering them well or not choosing the right products which go well together. I’ll talk about some of the common mistakes we all do  –

Over Exfoliation 


The skin has a turnover of ~ 28 days or roughly 3 weeks which decreases as we age. What we often miss with exfoliation is the basic question why we need it? Exfoliation helps in removing the dead cells which we know and in turns increases the cell turnover as the by stimulating the stem cells present in the dermis and basal layer of the skin. Now the questions which should come in your mind is that – One how much skin do I want to remove ? Second If I’m exfoliating my skin on the daily basis than am I providing it enough nutrients to support it ? The usage of exfoliants depends on many factors – the thickness of your skin , sensitivity , ethnicity and your concerns. It’s great that you are removing the dead cells but give time to your skin to regenerate.
There is a great danger in having an immature layer of cells without the proper support of collagen and other essential nutrients. Such skin is more prone to infection and inflammation since you are removing the skin barrier far too quickly.

Signs of over exfoliation :

  • tight , dry , stretched skin
  • shiny velvety skin
  • redness
  • roughness
  • translucent, thin skin
  • irritated angry looking skin , small breakouts often

Start slow with them , try with the 5% toner and then gradually move up. Even then ask yourself whether you need that much acid? The other thing what we don’t realise that every product we use these days has some exfoliant though they are not marketed as exfoliators like salicylic acid , retinol , retinal palmitate , AHA etc. Look for these in the ingredients list.  So think of it do you need a cleanser , a toner, a serum and a moisturizer all in one routine to remove just the dead cells?

Not choosing the right acid

I always see an epic battle of chemical peels ( AHA- glycolic,  citric, mandelic etc and BHA like salicylic acid)  vs fruit enzymes peel amongst the green and nongreen community. Though I love natural products but in this case, I prefer chemical peels. My past experiences have shown me that there are few things with fruit enzymes which I can’t trust. One is pH and concentration, second just because it has exotic plants ingredients don’t think that it doesn’t have chemicals. Plants have more than 100 chemicals all of which we don’t even know. Now don’t give me this b@#$% that people of old generation were using this and were fine. Acne is not exclusive of this generation.They also had acne. Plants have furanocoumarins which are natural pesticides produced by plants to prevent them from insects and flies and this can be an irritant for many people. Like strawberries , a very good exfoliant but many people are allergic to it including my sister. I’m not asking you to stop using fruit enzymatic peels , I use them too but don’t use it every day and always do a patch test before applying any acid on your face. Remember –

  • Don’t use an exfoliating mask and an exfoliating serum in one routine.
  • Don’t use a physical scrub and exfoliating serum in one routine .
  • If you have sensitive skin look for lactic acid and if you are oily and acne prone look for salicylic acid and glycolic acid and make sure that they are buffered and at right pH.

Layering the products wrong way with exfoliating serums

Ideally, exfoliating serums should  go first after cleaning and toning. Wait for 15 min before layering any other product over it. Once you have removed dead skin , don’t overload it with too many essential oils or retinol or ascorbic acid. Too many essential oils can singe your skin when it’s fresh after exfoliation. Give your skin a break once a while from all the essential oils in the skin and use gentle anti-inflammatory rich oils like borage , chamomile or creams with no potential irritant.

Using a glycolic acid and retinol in the same routine is always a potential disaster. There are conflicting views on this and there are some products in the market with both glycolic and retinol in them like Kate Somerville micro peel which works but why? One even they don’t advocate using it daily, second they have encapsulated retinol which releases retinol slowly over the time. But using two creams , serums or whatever with one having a retinol and other glycolic may irritate your skin. Sometimes inflammations are not visible on the surface known as chronic inflammation but they eventually cause premature ageing. So avoid it and if you must then use two on alternate days. Now if you are using it and liking it then please continue to do so as the jury is still out on this but if you are breaking out frequently than you might need to simplify your routine.

Incorrect usage of vitamin C : It’s  one of the  essential ingredients for having a healthy skin along with retinol and peptides. It’s involved in one of the important steps during the production of collagen along with copper. After all, it’s important to support the new cells with collagen or ultimately your skin will thin out. Many people react with vitamin C including me so find a formulation which suits your skin. But using Vitamin C with exfoliant can further irritate your skin so use both but in different routine like one in the morning and other in the night. If Vitamin C in your formulation has L- ascorbic acid form than avoid its usage with Niacinamide since ascorbic acid reacts with the amide group of niacinamide to form hydrogen peroxide which causes oxidative stress which you are trying to avoid . But you can use other forms of vitamin c like Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate the oil soluble stable form. When it comes to using a retinol and vitamin C they work very well together. And lastly, copper peptides should be used carefully with vit c too . Give at least 10 min before layering them together.

How often should you use exfoliant ?

This is very debatable. Unless you have skin concerns like clogged pores or hyperpigmentation there is no need to use exfoliant daily. Use once if you are sensitive to thrice a week is good enough. I find a short intensive duration of gradual peel to be good enough for me which I have been doing with my BeautyRx gradual peel.

When not to use peels / exfoliants?

Avoid any exfoliant when skin is already angry. Your acne always try to tell you something is not right in your routine. Trust your body immunity, your skin immunity to fight it and contain it. Exfoliants are great at prevention stage. So if u see congestion or clogged pores use it or spot treat it but if you see a red angry acne coming up don’t inflame it further with acids. Once you start seeing the pus forming or scab which shows that your infection fighting interleukins and other immunological cells have contained the infection, then you can use acid to dry it up further and eventually it will fall off. If you have the habit of picking up the spots then use dots / patch available which contains salicylic acid. I don’t know how helpful they are since I haven’t used them but at least they will prevent you from picking it .

So you have made some mistakes so what now –

  • Use a good hydrating serum , dehydrated skin further leads to skin breaks out but look out for silicones which may further clog the skin. Use aloe based serums with the simple ingredients list.
  • If you get hormonal acne , avoid too much facial oil at least a week before you are set to get your periods and use exfoliating serum all over or as spot treatment where you see congestion.
  • Use natural products containing chamomile, licorice and carrot oil which are incredibly calming and serums rich in MSM and DMAE. Use charcoal based cleansers which also helps.
  • Avoid too many or too much essential oils.
  • Use oils which are high in linolenic acid like hemp seed oil , rosehip, black cumin , tamanu ,pumpkin, grapeseed oil . Not all oils are equal or effective for acne prone skin.
  • Take supplements: Zinc , B3 and fish oils and Vitamin D (which people forget, more on vitamin D later )
  • Drink water like nobody’s business – yes it works
  • Use zinc based sunscreens – I like Elta MD clear sunscreen with 5% niacinamide which works great for acne prone skin. Look for “clear” version, though.
  • Lower down your stress level – easily said than done 😩😩

Acne is such a vast subject and there is no simple answers to this problem. This post has some debatable questions with the layering of products as there is no clear cut opinion on it. I have done my research and you may have done yours and you know your skin the best, it’s the biggest tool which can guide you. I hope this may help you in some way with  your acne. Do let me know if you have any questions. I may not have all the answers but I’ll try to find it for you  😊

As always thank you for taking out time to read my post.





33 Comments Add yours

  1. paritashah26 says:

    Very well written Molly! Kudos! Agree with all points..I too love my chemical exfoliators even though fruit based enzymes work but nothing really beats the result from AHA/BHAs. Also supplements are so important! I take fish oil daily and even B3 and Vit D and have seen huge improvement, not only in skin but also hair, nails even mood swings! Lot of people don’t know that lack of Vit D can cause depression!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much dear . I’m glad that you liked it. I agree with you on Vitamin D , so many gynecological problems including infertility are linked to it. Need to write one on that too ;)) Off to read your post now 😊


      1. paritashah26 says:

        Oh wow..please do write a post on supplements na..i think there is a lot of vague info out there but coming from a doc it would mean a lot! Thank you 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. skinlit says:

    Very well written article. Love where you hit the old “back in the day” and “all natural exotic” on the head. I see many advocating natural skincare, but have very little to say about the efficacy of the products they are promoting, or why they will work the way they are said to. For me the balance between being gentle and efficacy is key.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by !! I totally agree with you when it comes to natural products . I do advocate it but I also ask everyone to look into the ingredients carefully. Not all natural is good , not all chemicals are bad. And yes, balance is the key 👍


    1. Thank you so much Samantha..I’m so glad that you like it !!


  3. Kelly says:

    Great post and well written! One of the most common issues I have spoken to clients about over my years working as a facialist is that they have no idea about how the skin works, just what the product is for or supposed to do. I also infirm that you must understand your skin to understand how you treat it. You have covered a lot of points that I would have gone over!
    Very informative in an easy to understand way! Kelly xxx


    1. Thanks Kelly, I’m so glad you liked it. It’s so important to listen to your skin and use products accordingly. Using products left and right actually harms so much rather than helping it. I would love to sit with you one day and discuss all about skincare:))
      Molly 💕


  4. I did say you were thorough didn’t I and you proved me right. I have over done it before with the chemical peels and having sensitive skin I paid the price. Never again is the lesson I learnt. And you are so right about using the right combination of products or else it’s a spell for disaster. I really enjoyed this post Molly, very informative and I learnt a lot Welldone 👏👏👏, wouldn’t expect anything less 👌

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Esnath for your kind words and for being so supportive.
      I have made many mistakes in the past too , using too much of peels and less of sunscreen still paying the price ;)) It’s so important to listen to your skin. I’m glad that you liked this post . Thanks again for stopping by ,


  5. silviascabinet says:

    Hi Molly,
    this is a well-written and informative post. I often wonder if I’m not over-exfoliating my skin and some times I probably am. Recently i have incorporated two Bravura London acids into my routine. I didn’t really know how to use them so I sticked to what was written on the instructions that came with them. I didn’t really notice any great difference (or maybe I was expecting too much?). After a couple of weeks I decided to change the way I used them so I decided to use the glycolic acid on my skin for a couple of nights without a break. I would leave it on my skin for 20 minutes, rinse and use a serum. Yesterday I stopped because I realized I’m probably crazy doing this…I mean, should I really use it everyday? I haven’t had any issue so far, but I wonder If i’m not weakening my skin and, just as you said, exfoliating too many layers of it.
    I definitely think that I’ll stop using glycolic in summer, because I don’t want to have any problem with the sun etc. I do wear spf everyday but of course I don’t think my skin is 100% protected. What do you think Molly? Bear in mind that in summer is very sunny and hot where I live.
    I’d love to use anything with Vitamin C, I definitely will pick a serum with it and see how it goes. I’ve never tried enzymatic peeling, neither. The only thing I know so far is that my skin doesn’t react to salycilic acid…literally is like using spritz water. In fact, many years ago when I had bad acne (like bad, real acne that lasted 5 years until I started being on the pill and still am now) my dermatologist made me have a few salicylic peelings and I remember not seeing any result at all! I guess it’s all about trying new products and see what works for me…
    I’m sorry for all my english mistakes, my bf is English and he always checks my post, but with comments it’s another thing xx



    1. Hi Silvia ,

      Your English is perfect !! I have tried Bravura and I quite liked it . They didn’t irritate my skin though I felt little drying on the days I use salicylic acid. Later I used both glycolic and salicylic together as a serum , waited for 15 min and then layered an oil over it. It did help me with the acne. But I used it twice a week that’s all. Try it this way. They are gentle and pH balanced so it should be okay. Do add a vitamin C serum or rather antioxidant serum under your sunscreen for added protection and it should work fine with peels. Do let me know when you use it this way how it feels. Enzymatic peels are fine as long as you are not reacting with them. If you are allergic it usually starts itching. So you know if its working or not ? Let me know how it goes.
      Much love,
      Molly xoxo

      Liked by 1 person

      1. silviascabinet says:

        Hi Molly,
        well, first of all thanks for saying that my english is perfect (or nearly) 🙂 🙂 🙂
        So you suggest me to mix the two oils? I promise I’ll try it and let you know, I will do it twice or maybe three times a week and let’s see how it goes. Just to let you know, I don’t really have blemishes (only blackheads but it’s impossible to get rid of them!) but I have little whiteheads just like this (I’ll put the link of a picture https://i.ytimg.com/vi/SRlsIJeH70A/hqdefault.jpg ) and there’s no way they go away, I’ve had them for years, even with acids they will not leave me 😦 😦 So I was expecting the salicylic acid to help me get rid of them, but it did nothing and that’s why I’m slighlty disappointed and even thought I was using them (aha and bha) too often. I will see what I can find with vitamin C, I’m going to the Uk next week and maybe I can find something good from Boot’s. Drunk&Elephant is still not available in Europe (i think so..). 😦
        Much love to you! xx



      2. Hi Silvia,
        From the picture, it looks like perioral dermatitis. It will not go with acid or with vitamin C but before I suggest anything , Can you mail me your routine and there we can discuss it a bit more and will make some changes to your routine ?
        Looking forward to your mail ,

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Very insightful post


    1. Thank you so much. I’m glad that you liked it and I appreciate that stopped by to leave a comment. Thanks again!!


  7. Cat L. says:

    Molly this has to be one of my favorite posts as it speaks about the foundation of any skincare routine: how products work and how to use them correctly. I could not agree more about over-exfoliation and I learned that the hard way. My skin is sensitive and thin on the surface so I opt to alternate between a physical and chemical exfoliator once a week. I also agree 100% with everything else mentioned in your post. I find your post highly informative, immensely valuable to any person really, not just skincare addicts, easy to read and understand. Great job!
    ~ Cat L.


  8. Cat L says:

    Molly this has to be one of my favorite posts as it speaks about the foundation of any skincare routine: how products work and how to use them correctly. I could not agree more about over-exfoliation and I learned that the hard way. My skin is sensitive and thin on the surface so I opt to alternate between a physical and chemical exfoliator once a week. I also agree 100% with everything else mentioned in your post. I find your post highly informative, immensely valuable to any person really, not just skincare addicts, easy to read and understand. Great job!
    ~ Cat L.


    1. Thank you so much Cat . I’m so glad that you liked it. It’s so important to understand the chemical composition of the products and the right way to use them otherwise you do more harm than helping . Over exfoliation is one thing I always try to avoid. I’m glad that you find such post informative . I’ll try to do more . Looking forward to your new post !!
      Molly xoxo


  9. jeannine says:

    what a great helpful and educational post. I appreciate you sharing your wisdom and experience so much!!


  10. Jo says:

    This is a very informative post 😊


  11. roadtoglow says:

    Wow! Such an informative post.
    I’ve only been using chemical exfoliants for a few months but I’m still trying to figure out what my skin wants and needs. Even once a day my skin gets extremely oily and shiny, so maybe twice a week would do wonders. But since I have clogged pores it feels that isn’t enough.

    Skin is very personal and it’s different for everyone. I’m glad I read this. Do you recommend waiting 15 minutes after after chemical exfoliation until you layer something else?


    1. Hi Natalie,
      Thanks for stopping by and I’m glad that you liked the post.
      I agree with you that skin is such a personal issue with everyone but there are some basic rules which apply everywhere, like you definitely need to wait when using the exfoliant. After waiting for 10 min use a ph balancing mist and layer your oil and serums. How frequently you need to use an exfoliant actually depends upon the concern. You can use it daily but make sure that you don’t use strong acids. I think 5-8% aha are sufficient for daily exfoliation without causing any dryness. Hope this helps .
      Molly xx


  12. This was soooo helpful! Thanks!


    1. Hi Kelly ,

      Thanks so much. I’m glad that you enjoyed it and found it useful. I appreciate that you took out time to read and comment.

      Molly xx

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad that you enjoyed the post ❤


  13. Sameera says:

    Hi Molly great article. I m using Paula’s choice 2%BHA, (combination skin, white heads, black heads and brown spots) . Can I use retinol serum (Paula’s choice) after using BHA or should I use them at different time. Thanks for ur information


    1. Hi Sameera, thank you so much for taking out time to read my blog. I will suggest you to use them on alternate days. Since both cause dryness , make sure your skin is extremely hydrated both internally and externally. Avoid physical exfoliation along with them. Hope this helps.

      Molly xx


  14. This post is awesome I definitely got some detailed insight to peels and exfoliating skin care. Thanks!!


  15. maryam ahmed says:

    amazing post. Can you write a post about post inflammation hyper pigmentation. Since this summer i got worse acne of my life, thankfully i have it under control now. Now PIH is my biggest concern.We once talked on instagram and you told me to use Luna belle oil it has been great for overall health of my skin, especially with acne medication. what should i further add to my routine?


    1. Thanks so much for stopping by Maryam and sorry for my delayed reply got stuck with my job. But I’ll definitely write a post about PIH . There are some products which really helped me. would love to share them. Meanwhile you can always email me and I’ll get back to you regarding any query. Thanks again,
      Happy Holidays,


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