Salt scrubThis is the post I’ve been dying to write. Finally, my truth comes out…

I hate scrubs.

Exfoliation is incredibly important in your skincare routine.  But it is the step that you must get just right. Many exfoliators on the market are harsh and overly aggressive. Scrubs are, in my opinion, the worst. There are gentler, more effective options.

Exfoliation using a textured product is called manual or physical exfoliation. This kind of exfoliation really only removes skin cells that have already died but are still on the surface of the skin. Many physical exfoliants use particles such as apricot kernels, walnut seed, or salt with jagged, sharp edges that cause microscopic damage in the skin. In addition to being overly abrasive, it can often also be uneven as well.

Exfoliation that uses acids or enzymes is called chemical exfoliation. This may sound scary, but in actuality, they can be significantly gentler. The enzymes and acids dissolve the dead skin cells away, as well as taking the uppermost layer of living skin cells that are about ready to go. In doing this, you send a message to the lower levels of the skin to stimulate more cell production. These chemical exfoliants are often formulated with hydrating and nourishing ingredients, so you can exfoliate and nourish your skin in one easy step.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. If I use or recommend a scrub, it usually incorporates a blend of chemical (fruit enzymes or AHAs) as well as manual exfoliation. In this case, you’re getting all of the benefits of each kind. The caveat? Be certain that the particles that make up the scrub are perfectly rounded with no rough edges so as not to overabrade your skin.

Chemical exfoliation is, in my opinion, a great way to get multiple benefits in one product. You exfoliate, smooth texture, hydrate (if you pick a good one), stimulate cell turnover, and get better benefits from all your other products. And who doesn’t want more benefits in one product?



I know people love scrubs! What about you? Leave a comment below or join the conversation on Facebook and tell me what you think!

6 Responses

  1. Interesting post, Shannon. What are your thoughts on the Clarisonic? I’ve been using one since last Christmas, with great results. Is it too harsh for my skin?

    1. Hi Erin! Thanks for your question! I love the Clarisonic and use it myself, and I also love my results. I don’t really use it in place of another exfoliator, since it is really gentle; although you do get a very light manual exfoliation from using it. In fact, I often use it with a glycolic cleanser (maybe a 10-15% twice a week) in order to get the “blend” of exfoliation that I mention in the post. My only caution with the Clarisonic is just to be sure that you don’t apply too much pressure to your skin with the brush, which would increase the exfoliation and may cause some more delicate skin types a litte irritation. And, you may want to dial back your usage of other exfoliators (maybe instead of using a mask or peel 3 times per week, try it twice).

  2. Hi Shannon, I noticed you addressed manual exfoliation in a textured product and you’ve talked about the Clarisonic, but what about a brush powered by (gentle) elbow grease? I use Korres’ milk protein cleanser with an Origins brush as my daily cleanser, for a bit of exfoliation and also to reduce contact between my hands and face. Am I unknowingly damaging my skin?

    1. Hi Victoria! Thanks for your question! I love the Korres products myself! My advice with a brush would be similar to my advice with the Clarisonic… They aren’t damaging to the skin unless you’re really grinding it in or the bristles are not soft. I don’t really think it’s necessary (you’ll get clean with or without it) but if you like it and it doesn’t irritate your skin… then go for it. The only thing I’d really advise is to make sure to keep it super clean. Bleach it regularly and let it air dry, or replace it like you would a toothbrush. Otherwise, you’re defeating the purpose of trying to keep your hands off your skin!

    2. Hi Victoria… I’ve tried to respond to your email but it keeps bouncing back to me. Can you email me directly at shannon[at]practicalskintuition[dot]com ? Hope you see this and I hear from you soon!

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