There are differing opinions out there regarding scrubs, but one thing that’s factually true is irritation is just bad for your skin. Any arguments for or against scrubs as an exfoliating step in your skincare routine has to look at irritation as one of the main factors.
Many scrubs in the market today are made with harsh abrasives, but we understand why people keep repurchasing and reusing them. The feeling of a scrub on your face makes you think that it’s actually doing something – it’s scrubbing away dead skin, blackheads, and acne. But the truth is, if you’re enjoying that scrubby feeling, then chances are you’re actually doing more harm than good to your skin.
Why Not To Scrub Your Face
Harsh, abrasive scrubs can cause micro-tears in the skin—every time you use them. This kind of scrubbing is pro-aging and can lead to a breakdown in the composition of the skin, which consistently reduces its ability to restore itself.
Many people like the sensorial experience of using scrubs as part of their daily skin care routines but that presents a problem because most scrubs are too harsh and abrasive for skin. The micro-tearing that occurs is mostly due to the shape of the abrasive. Natural abrasives such as grounded nuts, sand, or even salt are naturally irregular in shape. These irregularities has microscopic ‘sharp’ edges which cause the tearing.
We cannot stress enough though how destructive abrasive scrubs can be on the skin if you aren’t very careful.
What If I Want To Scrub My Face?
If you want to get that scrubby sensory experience, then choose the right non-abrasive scrub with gentle, uniformly rounded beads. Typically jojoba or plastic* beads have uniform shapes, but you can't always tell just from reading the label if the ingredients are gentle because it depends on how finely the particles are milled or cut, but a good rule of thumb is to test it on the back of your hand. If it feels even the tiniest bit scratchy, avoid at once!
*we do not recommend using any products with plastic microbeads, as they are extremely damaging to the environment and have been banned in many countries
Should I Even Be Using a Scrub?
Gentle scrubs work beautifully as an extra cleansing step. You can use a gentle scrub product once or twice a day but mostly this is more of a personal preference than anything else.
During the day, you can just use it as your cleanser to feel refreshed and clean, but not dry or tight. At night, you can use it alone or as a part of a double-cleanse to help ensure you get all your makeup off each night. Gentle scrubs can also be helpful for those with oily or combination skin for eliminating surface signs of dry, flaky skin.
Keep in mind that this is an extra cleansing step. Gentle scrubs, brushes, and washcloths cannot replace what a leave-on AHA or BHA can do for skin.
How Should I Be Exfoliating My Face Then?
Don’t confuse what a scrub does for skin with what a chemical leave-on exfoliant does. AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) and BHA (beta hydroxy acid) have completely different benefits and work in very different ways.
Scrubs simply refine the very surface of the skin; they cannot remove the thick, deeper built-up layers of dead skin that result from sun damage or from oily skin, or white bumps among other issues. AHA and BHA remove thick, deeper, built-up layers of dead skin. In addition, they have the ability to hydrate, soothe redness, even out skin tone, clear clogged pores, reduce pore size, and minimize the visible signs of aging.
Do I Choose AHA or BHA?
While we can go into a deep hole to which is more suitable and why - this is the quick and dirty version:
Pick an AHA product if:
- You have drier skin
- Sun damage, uneven skin tone are your primary concerns
- Looking to reduce the appearance of acne scarring and hyperpigmentation
Pick a BHA product if:
- You have oilier skin
- You are prone to acne (pimples, blackheads)
- You have enlarged pores
- You have sensitive skin
Either one you choose will give you excellent exfoliation over a physical scrub!