Are Facial Scrubs Really That Bad? Here's the Truth

It only takes a few minutes of scrolling through TikTok, Reddit, and even Twitter to see comments about staying as far away from facial scrubs as possible - but do physical facial scrubs deserve their bad rep? Both synthetic and natural exfoliating particles have come under fire, but the truth is, exfoliating is something that seriously benefits skin and shouldn’t be skipped. Here’s why facial scrubs aren’t all that bad!

The Benefits of Exfoliation

Using an exfoliating product basically helps your skin do a process it does naturally - shed dead skin cells. That extra bit of help that a physical scrub or chemical exfoliant makes a big difference to our skin - helping to buff away those pesky dead skin cells can boost your skin’s radiance, reduce likelihood of breakouts, and even strengthen your skin against the signs of ageing.

All of these benefits can be gained with regular exfoliation - no matter if it’s physical or chemical - over enough time. And here’s the thing -  most people find that facial scrubs are easier to find and less finicky to use than chemical exfoliants!

La Prairie Cellular Mineral exfoliatorLa Prairie Cellular Mineral Face Exfoliator
This luxurious facial scrub uses natural mineral particles to polish skin and buff away dead skin cells

Why Is There Negative Buzz About Facial Scrubs?

Facial scrubs are on many skincare enthusiasts “absolutely not” lists for two (partially) unfounded reasons: being made of environmentally unfriendly materials (totally reasonable) and secondly, for being too harsh for your skin. 

Let’s break the first one down - facial scrubs used to be made with plastic microbeads! However, that’s less of a concern now - almost all countries have banned the production of cosmetic products containing plastic microbeads. These days, most physical scrubs are made with naturally sourced scrubbing particles that don’t harm or break down in the environment.

However, there’s one natural exfoliating particle that seems to get a lot of flak - and I’m talking about ground up walnut shells. I know what you’re thinking - what’s the problem with these? They’re all natural, aren’t they?

The thing is, this type of scrubbing granule is excellent at buffing away dead skin. According to some, it’s a little too good at what it does - a lawsuit was brought against American skincare brand St Ives because of this. 

Why?

The lawsuit alleged that the St Ives scrub was causing ‘microtears’ in consumer’s skin, leading to skin damage and acne. We know, this sounds crazy, but here’s the thing - the case was thrown out due to a lack of proof, and cosmetic chemists refuted the claims that these particles could cause microtears in skin. 

l'occitane reine blanche exfoliantL’Occitane Reine Blanche Exfoliant
This gently illuminating scrub from L’Occitane helps to clarify skin and add radiance from within. 

So What’s the Truth About Facial Scrubs?

When you really get to the bottom of it, the problem that most people have with facial scrubs is that they tend to completely overuse them. That’s right, the problem is user error - not that these products are inherently bad!

I’m willing to bet money that there isn’t a person out there who’s gone all out with their facial scrub night after night, trying to literally scrub away imperfections. If you’re one of the rare people who have never done that, I don’t suggest trying it - save yourself the heartache!

The thing is, it's true that it’s all too easy to abuse facial scrubs - applying too much pressure on the skin with them, using them too frequently, and just massaging them on for too long are all sure ways to over exfoliate your skin. Overexfoliation leads to irritation, redness, and a damaged acid mantle. 

eve lom rescue maskEve Lom Rescue Mask
A two-in-one clay mask and facial scrub from Eve Lom purifies skin and sloughs away dead skin cells for a refined radiance.

How to Use a Facial Scrub (Properly!)

So, now that you know how not to use a facial scrub, here are our best tips for using them to get your skin glowing and make sure that your skin gets all the benefits of exfoliation.

1) Always Use Your Facial Scrub on Clean Skin
Some facial scrubs have packaging that suggests they can be used as a regular daily cleanser that removes makeup and any lingering debris from your day. However, when you do this, you’re not letting your skin experience all the benefits of your facial scrub!

Any facial scrub you use should always come right after your facial cleanser in your skincare routine to effectively polish away dead skin cells for smooth, refined skin.

2) Only Exfoliate a Few Times a Week
This is another tricky one - again, a lot of facial scrubs suggest on the packaging that they can and should be used Every. Single. Day. The truth is, most people don’t need exfoliation every single day - once or twice a week is a good rule of thumb to start with. I know, it’s hard to go against literally what the product says on the packaging - but trust us on this one!

3) Consistency Is More Important Than Pressure
If you’ve ever used a facial scrub before (and chances are you have), then you’re probably familiar with the temptation of being a little heavy handed with your scrub, hoping that doing so somehow gets results faster.

The truth is, that’s not going to happen - when using a facial scrub, you don’t need to apply a lot of pressure, nor do you need to spend more than a minute exfoliating your skin. What matters more is making a consistent schedule of using your facial scrub - and you’ll be on your way to radiant skin and refined pores!

At the end of the day, facial scrubs are amazing products to have in your skincare routine! Just make sure you’re using them the right way with our tips. Or, if you're not sure that facial scrubs are right for your skin - everyone is different - check out our guide to chemical exfoliants to see which one might be right for you.

If you’re still trying to create a skincare routine (with or without a facial scrub!) try our skincare quiz.

Beauty Affairs Skin Type Quiz

Products Mentioned:

  • La Prairie Cellular Mineral Face Exfoliator
  • L’Occitane Reine Blanche Exfoliant
  • Eve Lom Rescue Mask
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