Clear skin is not easy to achieve (unless you got it like that) and throughout the process we can also be damaging our skin by DOING TOO MUCH!!! I've gotten a few questions recently and each would be followed by "I exfoliate everyday", "Then I put on my daily mask", or "How many times a week should I use...?" So, I'm going to be straight forward, you're doing too much and your skin does not like you for it. I know that everyone's skin is different and we all have our own routines, but sometimes we can do more harm than good. I know it's hard to not want to get rid of a bump as soon as it shows up, but scrubbing and throwing 4 masks on it isn't going to do anything but make that bump 10 times more angry.
Let's get scientific for a minute-- Our skin is our biggest organ and is constantly replacing itself. There are about 19 million skin cells on every square inch of our bodies, and 30,000-40,000 new skin cells replace the old ones daily. The top 18-23 layers of our skin are made up of dead skin cells. When cells are new they are large and square, but over time they become flat and move to the top of the epidermis (the top layer of skin we see) and then flake off to make room for the new skin. In one month we have completely new skin.
Age is also a factor in how quickly our skin "renews". Children and young adults see new skin cells every 21-28 days, skin cells for people ages 30-50 renew about every 28-42 days and those 50 and up renew every 42-84 days. So as you see, our skin has its own system and rhythm that you must respect and be aware of when using different products.
When we exfoliate, use face masks, or peels (which I do NOT recommend, unless prescribed by a dermatologist) we are speeding up the skin's process of getting rid of old skin and in turn your skin has to create new cells at double the rate that it's used to. I'm not saying scrubs, peels and masks are bad, what I am saying is that using these things several times a week is bad for your skin. Overdoing anything (even if it's good) can be harmful.
When you exfoliate and/or mask 3-5 times a week your skin can become dry, irritated and cause the exact opposite of beautiful skin-- that's right-- PIMPLES AND BREAKOUTS.
Over exfoliating is too abrasive to the skin cells, which can cause chronic inflammation and irritation and also age you faster (NO THANKS).
For normal and combination skin most dermatologists recommend exfoliating no more than twice a week, and once a week for sensitive skin.
Depending on your skin type, masks can either cause more oil, dryness or irritation.
Masks are concentrated and packed with strong and powerful ingredients which is why you don't keep them on your face for too long. Masks have the ability to deeply penetrate through the skin's layers and repair accordingly. When you use a mask 3 or 4 times a week you are putting your skin into shock almost. The skin needs time to repair and rejuvenate before being doused with another layer of powerful ingredients.
I personally use a clay mask once every 8-10 days and exfoliate once a week all while maintaining my regular face wash routine. Sometimes if I'm dealing with a breakout I'll use a mask or scrub twice in a week. To be completely honest though, the best thing you can do for your skin is to leave it alone and give it a break.
The most important thing I've learned is that your skin is forgiving and can repair itself, but you have to give it time. Being overzealous and impatient isn't worth it. Trust me, I've burned, damaged, and scarred my own enough for all of us.