If you've spent more than five minutes in a beauty forum, you've probably heard of the alleged evils of Face Scrubs – especially their supposed ability to rip your skin. But no one can deny the continued popularity of such scrubs, from the classic St. Ives Apricot Scrub to the brand new (and completely sold out) Kylie Skin Walnut Face Scrub .
So, how risky is it to use such a scrub? As usual, the answer is not nearly as easy as one would imagine.
Let's talk about exfoliation.
To understand the pros and cons of scrubs, it is helpful to know a little about their skin used on. Your Skin Is Like an Escalator, Evan Rieder, MD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at NYU Langone Health says SELF: Cells are constantly moving to the surface, dying off, and finally flaking off. For healthy skin, this process takes about six weeks. At the top of the escalator is the important stratum corneum, the outermost layer of skin. It consists of dead skin cells held together by a mixture of lipids and has two main functions: to keep water out and to keep irritants out.
Without an intact, functioning stratum corneum, there can be no healthy skin. If it is broken or too thin, it can cause dryness, irritation and even infection. But too far swinging in the other direction is problematic. If your skin does not have enough dead cells, they can accumulate and leave flaky, dry spots that you can see and feel. Too many dead cells can also clog pores and ingest food. P. Acne Bacteria which both contribute to acne.
This is where the exfoliation comes into play. "By using physical or chemical peels, the outer layers are eliminated," Dr. Rieder des Stratum Corneum [and] which gives the skin a fresher, brighter and radiant appearance. "In terms of its escalator analogy, the scrub top will break up traffic jams so everyone will get where they need to go – and in some cases regulate the speed of the escalator to prevent future clusters.
Peels are a way to exfoliate your skin, but they are not the only way. The point of peeling is to remove dead cells from the stratum corneum and expose fresher (but still dead) cells underneath. Chemical peels (such as acids) dissolve the bonds between the cells while physical peels (such as scrubs, washcloths, and brushes) physically scrape them off. Even retinoids such as adapalene and tretinoin can aid the process by accelerating cell turnover instead of rinsing off dead cells from the outside.
Apart from their different mechanisms, the main difference between chemically and physically exfoliating agents is potency. The strength of an acid depends on the concentration, the pH and the inactive ingredients, but scrubs are an all-or-nothing business – either you use one or you do not just deliberate, controlled skin damage. If you overuse them, you will get more damage than you expected. If you exfoliate too much, you may notice redness, dryness, and increased sensitivity in the skin, rather than the beautiful glow that you were looking for.
OK, but what about microtranes?
If used excessively, all scrubs can irritate or damage the skin. Why do scrubs get so much hate? You can probably blame micro tears that have become a Boogeyman in the online beauty community.
The reasoning is that facial scrubs with large, rough particles (like crushed walnut shells) leave invisible cuts, so-called microtranes, behind – and these tears let all sorts of evil things invade your skin. The concept of microcracks was the focus of a class action of 2016 against Unilever, owned by St. Ives. The plaintiffs stated that skin damage due to microcracks is "imperceptible to the naked eye … but still causes acne, infection and wrinkles."
This was the case was finally ejected in 2018, after a Californian judge concluded that the plaintiffs had not provided sufficient evidence that microcracks represented a safety hazard or that the scrubs actually caused microcracks.
But whether micro-tears are a real threat or not, we know that many people find such peels subjectively too hard for their skin – especially if used too often. Excessive peeling temporarily damages the stratum corneum which can open the skin for all sorts of mild irritants, including staphylococcal infections. And as Dr. Rieder explains that these irritants and contaminants are not just from the environment: "The skin is full of small mites and bacteria that normally do nothing, but as soon as the skin barrier is broken, anything is possible."
If you fear your To damage skin with a scrub you should pay attention to a few things. First, the potential for exfoliation-related damage is not just for peels. In fact, the use of washcloths, Stridex pads, and Retin-A can cause the symptoms of excessive peeling. Second, there are more than the size of the particles of your scrubs – how to use the product Equally important, Suzan Obagi Director of the UPMC Center for Cosmetic Surgery and Skin Health and President of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, SELF. "If you scrub long enough [with anything] you will peel off the skin," she says, "[but if] you scrub for a second, you do not do it."
Finally, remember that scrubbing is ultimately superficial. Even if you turn your stratum corneum into Swiss cheese, any damage would be shallow enough to heal quickly, Dr. Obagi. Your skin is remarkably good at healing itself, so you'd have to ignore a lot of warning signs to get to a point where you're in such great danger. Here you can find out if you are in the air. I overclustered – and what I should do about it.
If you've damaged your stratum corneum, there are a few common signs. In many people, redness and inflammation occur, but even with acne or rosacea, it can be difficult to determine where these symptoms actually come from.
For this reason, the strongest indicator of barrier damage is actually increasing the sensitivity of your skin to Dr. Ing. Obagi. "If you find that your skin sensitivity suddenly skyrockets, you're doing something wrong," she explains. If your usual moisturizer or sunscreen exaggerates when you apply it, which is not usually the case, there is a risk of excessive peeling.
If this happens to you, do not panic – your skin will heal over time. Until then, use only a mild detergent, a moisturizer and a sunscreen. "You need to be careful about what you apply to this affected skin," says Dr. Obagi. "If you [scrub too hard] heal and rebuild your skin, it's fine – but if you do it every other day, your skin will be in a chronic state of inflammatory and irritable conditions, and that's not good for you each. "
Moisture is incredibly important to the healing process . So use everything you can tolerate. Dr. Obagi recommends moisturizers with ceramides and / or hyaluronic acid that can accelerate the repair of the stratum corneum and slow water loss . If even moisturizer and sunscreen are unbearable, try vaseline or aquaphor and wear hats and sunglasses. You should be back to normal in six to eight weeks.
The conclusion is that scrubs will probably not hurt when used properly – even with large, jagged particles. There are, of course, other ways to exfoliate your face, and Dermis generally recommends opting for milder chemical peels . But if the ghost of staphylococcus-infested microtrants has scared you to look at even a peel, it should not be so. When used properly – sparingly and with light pressure – scrubs are not inherently dangerous. They are just another way to achieve a smooth, radiant skin.
All SELF products are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn a partner commission.