Bathroom Cabinet Confidential : Scrubs


The well-meaning advice of my youth.

Before I get to why I’m crusading against scrubs, a story from my youth. 

When I was 17, I read somewhere; some little tidbit of advice, that I could smooth away wrinkles by, 1) Heating the back of a dessert spoon and then, 2) Proceed to smooth over any offending wrinkles with said spoon. Violà! Wrinkles Gone! 

Clearly, I started raising my eyebrows at life and all its conundrums at quite a young age, hence wrinkles at 17. But still, I was determined to banish these weird lines that had taken up residence on my forehead.

Okay, laugh away! The idea of me ironing away my fledgeling wrinkles does seem absurd. But, in my defence, I was only 17 and Cosmo was my go-to when it came to beauty advice. But was it really sage advice? Ummmmm, maybe not so much.

In hindsight, of course, this idea was completely BONKERS!!

The advice just kept coming.

The other bit of advice that I took to with great abandon was to scrub my skin, the promise of clean, perfect, pimple-free skin was all I needed to hear. 

Again. What the hell? Oh hang on, we all did it, some of us still do.  Suddenly, I don’t feel so bad. But, I do feel bad, what seemed okay at 17 now, as a fully grown-up skin therapist, is the kind of advice I find quite disturbing.

If I hear of someone is scrubbing their skin to either; clean it, eliminate blackheads, or as a way of getting rid of dead skin cells to combat emerging wrinkles, I feel nothing but dismay.

In fact, I feel so bad about it, that I’m dedicating this entire post to convincing you and your loved ones to give up the scrub. FOREVER!

Okay, so just to be clear, I’m referring to facial scrubs and I shall go out on a limb and include facial brushes in my crusade. The skin on the rest of your body can handle a little bit of gentle exfoliation (if you must) by using gentle physical exfoliation.

Let’s clear out your bathroom cabinet.

The abrasive scrub must go, but first, just in case you think I’m kidding and your belief is strong. I’m going to tackle a few myths taking up space in your bathroom cabinet. 

Myth #1

Facial Scrubs clean your skin and clear away the debris trapped in your pores that would if left behind clog your skin.

It’s true; if you have particularly oily skin, then you’ll probably develop clogged pores. This happens when the amount of oil being produced by your sebaceous glands is excessive and the flow of oil to the surface of your skin becomes sluggish, trapping dead cells in the process and clogging up the opening of your pores. What you end up with are lumps, bumps and blackheads. 

Of course, you don’t want that. Right?

But here’s the thing. Every time you strip the natural oils and lipids from your skin with the continuous use of scrubs, your skin will pump more oil to the surface while becoming increasingly dehydrated due to all your scrubbing. 

So now, imagine this. 

The opening of your follicles begins to fill with dehydrated skin cells, which become trapped. Oil flow becomes restricted, creating a build-up at the opening of your pore. 

Bam! You’ve got yourself more of the problem you were trying to fix. Lumps, bumps and probably blackheads. Of course, all this can occur without your encouragement and there are ways to prevent it. But, why make things worse? Scrubbing will exacerbate the problem. Scrubs are not the solution.

Myth #2 

Facial scrubs leave the skin feeling, fresh, radiant and glowing.

Sure, for about 30 minutes. 

After you’ve scrubbed your skin, you’ll feel tingly, and all-a-glow. But really? You’ve just stripped your skin, and tomorrow it’ll look dull and lifeless once again.

In your frustration, you’ll do it all again, to get the same tingly fresh feeling and on and on it goes.

What’s happening? 

Think for a moment of a shell washed up on a beach, year after year, there it lies, the tides come in, the tides go out, many years pass, and what was once a lovely shell has turned to shell grit and eventually sand.  

So, now imagine your acid mantle, every day the delicate lipids and the very structure of your skin protecting you from the outside world is being eroded by your scrub. 

What you thought was helping is setting you up for a whole new set of problems, such as redness, irritation, and a weak, lifeless skin that has lost its ability to function properly and protect you from bacterial invaders. 

Not only all this but an oilier skin will become oilier, more clogged and definitely out of balance. 

There’ll be no glow here. Nope. Sorry. 

Myth #3

Facial Scrubs remove dead cells to encourage cell renewal.

It’s certainly true, to keep your skin well hydrated, radiant, and keep your skin cells turning over, exfoliation is essential.  

It’s just not going to be achieved with facial scrubs. Not now. Not ever!

Sure, you may remove some of the dead cells, but to hope you’ll achieve radiance and luminosity? I’m afraid it’s just not so. 

As I’ve already mentioned, you’ll strip the skin, creating dehydration and even worse, you’re scrub has removed skin cells in a haphazard way. Haphazard is not what you should be aiming for. 

But it gets worse. 

You’ll create micro-tears in your skin. Not the result you want. Do you?

What to do, I hear you say?

Okay, well first. Go and check out your bathroom cabinet and remove anything resembling a facial scrub or brush. Gone? Phew, that’s a relief. 

It’s a brave new world minus the scrubs.

So what now? What replaces your abrasive scrub or high-tech cleansing brush?

Well, the best way to exfoliate your skin is to seek out a liquid serum with specific exfoliating ingredients such as lactic, glycolic or salicylic acid. When applied to the surface of your skin, these serums and creams will naturally unhinge the dead cells accumulating in your follicle. Your pores will begin to unblock and the turnover of skin cells will regulate. 

I like to call these formulations, liquid or cream exfoliants. 

Start with a mild solution and introduce it gradually into your beauty regimen; maybe once or twice a week until it feels comfortable to apply every night. Eventually, your skin will become accustomed to these dead-skin-cell-busting-ingredients.

Environ Alpha Hydroxy Night CreamEnter AHA and BHA Acids.

They’re by no means new, the first use of lactic, glycolic and salicylic acids dates back to the ’50s, gaining momentum in the last 20 years with many cosmeceutical brands creating take-home serum and cream formulations. 

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA) are two key ingredients effectively exfoliating the skin.

What to look for?

Alpha Hydroxy Acids.

AHA’s are derived from sour milk, sugar cane, apples or grapes, bitter almonds as well as the herb Centella Asiatica.

BHA’s on the other hand, only come from one source and that’s salicylic acid, derived from White Willow Bark. 

Both AHA and BHA’s exfoliate the skin but in slightly different ways.

AHA’s are ideal for all skins, especially dry skin types. 

My personal favourite is the AHA known as Lactic Acid. Not only does it remove the dead skin cells from the surface of your skin, but it’s an essential ingredient in stimulating the skin’s Natural Moisturising Factor. How cool is that! You’ll be exfoliating and hydrating at the same time. 

Beta Hydroxy Acid

BHA’s are most useful for oily, acne, problematic skin, with a triple action of exfoliation, bacteria control and reducing inflammation. 

Look for serums specifically designed to exfoliate; ideally, your AHA serum will contain between 5 – 10% concentration to be efficient and BHA’s should include no more than 2% in your formulation. A sprinkling of these ingredients in your daily moisturiser or BB Cream, although nice, will not the best approach if you want amazing results.

If scrubs are so bad, then why do skincare brands produce them?

Great question. The short answer? Because you want them. Doesn’t mean they’re good for you. They’re not. 

And a little disclaimer, even some of the brands that I recommend on this site have exfoliating scrubs in their range, which is frustrating and I know seems a bit of a contradiction. 

All I can say is, just take the good, throw out the not-so-much and if your favourite brand has a scrub within the range, just skip it. Your money is much better spent on products that do good. That’s all.

A hard habit to break.

So, I know for some of you this may be a hard habit to break, but I’ve always promised you the truth in how to care for your skin so, although a little controversial, taking scrubs out of the bathroom cabinet forever will, I promise, give you much better skin. 

Do it for the planet.

Many abrasive scrubs granules made from plastic. Not good. The good news is many countries around the world are beginning to ban them from cosmetic products. So, if you care about our beautiful planet, then you may also like to read why the microbead has been banned in my article: The Microbead Myth

If this post has provoked a bit of thought or a challenge to your long-held beauty beliefs and you need to know more just shoot me an email.

See you next time.