Last Updated on January 6th, 2020
Acne pads are the cheapest way to treat acne. Unfortunately, acne pads are also often the worst way to treat acne. Finding the right acne pad requires doing your homework—or letting us do it for you.
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Most of the acne pad products you can buy for US $10 or less are cloth or cotton pads soaked in isopropyl alcohol, also known as rubbing alcohol. This is not the kind of alcohol you drink, ethanol. Isopropyl alcohol is a relatively non-toxic product that dissolves fats on and in the skin.
Some products contain less alcohol, as little as 10%, to avoid stinging your skin. Other products contain more alcohol, as much as 60%, to leave your skin with a tingly feeling after you use the product. But isopropyl alcohol in any concentration can harm your skin.
The reason rubbing alcohol is bad for your skin is that it can remove more than just the excess oil that may be in your pores. It can also defat the skin, causing painful, red, unsightly cracks in the skin that are potential entry points for infection. In the face, the stress of defatting skin triggers a “refatting” reaction in the sebaceous glands at the bottom of skin pores, causing them to produce more sebum than ever before. The result of “cleansing” your skin with a cheap, alcohol-soaked pad can be the creation of more blemishes than you started with.
Some acne pads, however, can be beneficial for the skin. Some of the most useful anti-acne products are acne pads that contain small amounts of exfoliants designed to remove dead skin that causes fine lines and tight pores in the skin.
If you have fair, dry skin, you may respond well to alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs). These are plant and milk acids including fruit acids, glycolic acid, lactic acid, lactobionic acid, and gluconolactone. These products are used in concentrations of up to 30%, with a doctor’s supervision.
If you have darker, oily skin, consider using a product that contains the beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is the only beta-hydroxy acid used in skincare and is not only good for acne, but also lightening dark spots caused by acne. It is used in concentrations of up to 3%, in over-the-counter products and in prescription exfoliants.
Both AHA’s and BHA stimulate the growth of collagen beneath the skin. They help fill in acne scars. They make the skin firmer without making it tight. They increase skin cell turnover, which naturally lightens the skin.
Exfoliating pads are an easy way to keep pores open and to prevent spotting of the skin after blemishes have healed. The problem with most products is that they contain the right ingredient in the wrong concentration or at the wrong pH. If the active ingredient in the exfoliating pad is too weak, it won’t have any effect on the skin. If the active ingredient in the exfoliating pad is too strong (something that does not happen in many products), it may cause the skin to turn red, crack, or peel. If the pH of the pads is too low (also a relatively rare problem), they can burn the skin. If the pH of the pads is too high, the “acid” will really be alkali and not to the skin any good.
Acne pads that come in a plastic tub or a jar start losing their potency as soon as you open the container. And any product that leaves your skin feeling greasy also helps create new blemishes.
Acne pads that help relieve blemishes without otherwise harming the skin are hard to find. Here is a brief review of some of the most popular brands.
Sometimes acne pads can be very helpful in getting rid of blemishes. You will get better results, however, from a complete acne care system like Exposed Skin Care.