Over the past 30 years of being an esthetician, I’ve learned that the skincare industry is much like the fashion industry in that it is trendy. What’s hot eventually becomes not hot.
I’ve seen this more so with specific skincare ingredients such as royal jelly being the “it” ingredient in 1990 and made popular again with K-beauty in 2015. Categories of skin products are subjected to consumer trends, too. One such type of product that is on the unpopular list right now is the facial scrub. However, I still stand firm on this one as I know they can give serious results.
Why have facial scrubs lessened in popularity?
Many scrubs still use plastic beads, which are considered to be harmful to the environment.
Back in 2013, it was discovered that plastic beads are slipping through water treatment plants. As a result, the fish are mistaking the plastic beads for food which is not helpful for marine life. (More on this in a bit.)
Facial scrubs that use non-round natural grains have the reputation of scratching and lacerating the skin.
Sea salt, sugar, apricot kernels, walnut husks and other types of granular agents are not made to have round edges. Because of this, they don’t glide perfectly over the face. Instead, they have sharp edges that can create micro-tears and damage the skin’s protective barrier leading to increased irritation. (Dermarolling is intentionally creating tears and holes in the skin via needles for those who seek that sort of treatment. However, you would never want any sort of tearing action from an exfoliating facial scrub.)
With the popularity of leave-on acid exfoliators, who needs to exfoliate with an ‘old school’ scrub?
People love the benefits that removing dry skin cells gives but an acid exfoliator “feels” like it’s working better—especially when it gives a tingle, right?
They require an extra step which means your skincare routine will take even longer.
First, you have to cleanse. Then use a scrub. Who has time for that?
Why I believe the benefits of a facial scrub is still worth the effort.
A facial scrub will…
- make pores appear smaller—instantly. (Read my wood analogy in section two of this large pores post.)
- remove dry skin immediately. Want your skin to feel baby soft? Nothing works faster than a scrub.
- give your skin a brightening glow. Facial scrubs increase blood flow to the skin via the massaging action to bring a fresh, healthy look.
- fade discoloration from sun spots and acne scars much more quickly than just using acid exfoliators, retinol or prescription retinoids.
- make your makeup go on much smoother. Foundation makeup and powders are notorious for grabbing on to dry, flaky skin and making it appear worse.
- allow for a more effective exfoliation process. When it comes to removing dry, damaged cells, chemical exfoliators with acids work to dissolve away cells. Physical exfoliators (like a facial scrub) work to lift them off. They both work synergistically to give you a beautiful result when used within a skincare regimen. Read my complete guide to using exfoliants.
As you can see, there are many, many benefits of a facial scrub, that is, if you actually make the time to use one.
Physical exfoliators (like scrubs) work especially well for removing unwanted discoloration and here’s how I know it.
Here are two solid examples (I could share so many more) of how physical exfoliation versus chemical can give make a big difference.
The first example is about this client had amazing results as you can see in this before and after picture. We did a combination of chemical peels along with a professional physical exfoliating device called Bio Brasion. I can assure you, if she just had peels performed, we would have not gotten to this result. Every time the Bio Brasion was done, it was actually lifting off and removing the pigmented cells and you could see an immediate improvement with the discoloration.
The second example is a story about my husband. He has this one brown spot on his right cheek that I work to keep lightened up throughout the year. (It gets much worse in the summer with the heat and sun.) Like many guys, he could care less about it but I’m the one who is always applying acids and a prescription skin bleach to keep it at bay. While acids and a skin bleach do help a lot, the most dramatic difference comes once he shaves his face with a razor. (A razor is considered a physical exfoliator and works in the same type of way that a scrub does.) He shaves about twice a week and every time he does, the brown spot is literally about 40% lighter—instantly. Even he is surprised. Just a simple razor over the face will lift away pigmented cells that got a helping hand with exfoliating acids. Then I put on a vitamin C serum after and it lightens it up even more!
Make no mistake, there are many benefits of a facial scrub.
“Want your skin to feel baby soft? Nothing works faster than a facial scrub.”
What to look for in a facial scrub.
As I mentioned above, they aren’t so popular these days for various reasons but if you use the right kind, they will deliver a tried-and-true result.
- Avoid facial scrubs that use plastic beads. Most companies now will promote right on the box if it’s free of plastic beads since they are really a no-no these days—rightfully so.
- Opt for spherical beads rather than jagged grains. When they are round, they roll gently over the skin. No more mini-tears. (I like using jojoba wax in my physical exfoliators.)
- Choose a 2-in-1 facial scrub. If you want to keep your routine easy, make sure your scrub is based in a cream or gel so that it can act as a cleanser, too. This way, you don’t have to cleanse, rinse, use a scrub and then rinse.
How often to use a facial scrub.
I believe facial scrubs can be used in a skincare routine along with acid exfoliators, but ideally not on the same day. If you’re using an exfoliating acid serum several nights a week, then use a scrub on the days when you’re not using that. Generally, 1-2 times a week is a good rule of thumb for using a facial scrub. I personally like to use a facial scrub in the shower because the beads get rinsed away easier when you’re standing up and don’t get stuck in your hairline like when you rinse it off at the sink.
So there you have it. A modern facial scrub is very effective at helping you achieve smoother, softer and more even-toned skin. What are you waiting for?
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”