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Body scrubs have been around for a while, but quite a variety has emerged over the years, including those made of coffee, salt, and sugar. You may even have a few of them hanging out in your bathroom cabinet right now.
Whether or not you’ve tried one before, you may wonder what benefits, if any, are associated with body scrubs.
Aside from making your skin feel super-smooth, body scrubs have quite a few other benefits.
Board certified dermatologist and aesthetic expert Kavita Mariwalla, MD, FAAD says body scrubs, “are a good thing to have in your skin care wardrobe, especially in the winter months when the skin can get very dry.”
First, let’s take a look at how our skin works.
Desquamation is the natural process of shedding skin, and it happens in a constant, regenerative cycle. The efficiency of this process depends on a number of factors including your age, skin type, the products you’re using, and your environment.
However, the process isn’t 100 percent perfect, and it can lead to a buildup of dead skin cells on the surface of your skin. This is where body scrubs come in.
Body scrubs remove dead skin cells, and so provide several benefits:
- They allow your skin to absorb moisturizer better. By doing dead skin cell buildup, any moisturizer applied afterward will soak into the skin more thoroughly.
- They unclog pores and prevent ingrown hairs. By regularly using a body scrub, you’ll unclog your pores, which can prevent razor bumps and ingrown hairs.
- They leave your skin smoother and more even. When dry skin isn’t removed, it makes the skin rough to the touch and has a dull, cracked texture and appearance. By removing the dead, dry cells, you should have smoother and more even skin.
Using a body scrub is relatively straightforward. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide (including a few tips):
- Rinse your skin with warm water.
- Apply the scrub with your fingertips.
- Scrub your hands and feet in a circular motion and move inward.
- Rinse thoroughly using warm water.
- Shave, if desired.
- Pat skin dry, leaving it slightly damp.
- Apply moisturizer. Putting on moisturizer while your skin is still damp will trap in the moisture.
Pro-tip: Don’t overuse it. Too much of a good thing can be true when it comes to body scrubs. Learn why below. Use twice a week at most.
Here are two timing considerations to have in mind before using body scrub.
How often should you use a body scrub?
In general, you don’t want to use a body scrub on your skin every day or even every other day. Doing this could lead to dry or irritated skin.
How often you should use a body scrub (or exfoliate in general) depends on your skin type. But in general, you don’t want to use a body scrub more than twice a week, or you’ll dry and irritate your skin, according to Mariwalla.
For sensitive skin, you may want to just use a body scrub once a week.
What about body wash and showering?
It’s best to use a body scrub while you’re still in the shower but right after washing so that your skin is clean and ready for exfoliation.
We asked Mariwalla if all body scrubs are essentially the same. The simple answer is no, they’re not.
“The ingredients in them determines the grit, and that in turn affects how much exfoliation it provides to the skin. Keep in mind that more isn’t more, and just because you can exfoliate harshly does not mean you should,” she explains.
It used to be that we mainly only heard of sugar or salt scrubs. Now there are a plethora of different body scrubs on the market. It may take some trial and error to find the one that you and your skin love the most.
Here are a few of the most common types of body scrubs:
Salt body scrub
Sea salt is a natural exfoliant. Its abrasive texture sloughs away dead skin cells easily.
Sugar body scrub
While too much sugar isn’t great to put in your body, it’s actually great to put on your body.
Sugar is a humectant, meaning it pulls water into your skin, leaving your skin hydrated while getting rid of all the dry and dead cells.
Coffee body scrub
Coffee has many benefits, and that carries over to body scrubs. Not only does it have natural exfoliating and anti-inflammatory properties, but it also may improve circulation and smooth skin.
Lavender body scrub
Lavender-based body scrubs can be great for soothing irritated skin, healing inflamed skin, and calming and relaxing your senses. Right before bedtime is a great time to use a lavender body scrub.
Charcoal body scrub
Charcoal has become a go-to ingredient for many beauty and hygiene products. Charcoal is very absorbent, meaning that it grabs all that dirt, grime, and dead skin cells and gets rid of them with ease.
Korean body scrub
If you’ve ever been to a Korean spa, you may have experienced a Korean-style body scrub. Instead of the scrubbing coming from a cosmetic product, dead skin is sloughed off via scrubbing mitts. Using just a simple soap, you can use these mitts to soften your skin.
Want to try something a little bit different? Dry brushing is wonderful for exfoliating dry skin. It also increases blood circulation and lymph drainage, unclogs pores, and stimulates your nervous system.
Using to exfoliate also has the added benefit of not stripping the skin of any moisture.
If you’re interested in making your own body scrub, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s not too difficult.
Not only does it require just a few ingredients, but making your own body scrub can save you money.
Recipe #1: Coffee scrub
- 1/2 cup coffee grounds
- 2 tablespoon (tbsp) hot water
- 1 tbsp warm coconut oil
- Mix the coffee grounds with the water.
- Add in the warm coconut oil.
- If needed, add additional coffee grounds or oil until you get the right consistency.
Recipe #2: Salt scrub
- 1/2 cup sea salt
- 1/2 cup of oil (olive, coconut)
- Blend the sea salt and oil together.
- Add essential oils if preferred.
- If needed, add additional salt or oil until you get the right consistency.
Recipe #3: Sugar and lavender scrub
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1/2 cup of oil (olive, coconut, almond)
- 1/2 teaspoon (tsp) of real vanilla extract
- 15 drops of lavender essential oil
- Mix ingredients thoroughly.
- If needed, add additional ingredients to get the right consistency.
Using body scrubs excessively can lead to over-drying of the skin. Therefore, Mariwalla recommends applying lotion immediately afterward to lock in the moisture and avoid skin irritation.
According to a 2016 study, physical exfoliation, while helpful in maintaining visible radiance, also can produce a temporary disruption of the skin barrier.
Therefore, body scrubs and other at-home exfoliation products may not replace the need for professional peels or other professional treatments.
To keep your skin healthy, keep the following precautions in mind after exfoliating.
Be aware of extreme sunlight after exfoliating. Mariwalla shares that our skin can be mildly more sun-sensitive after exfoliating, so consider waiting to lay out by the pool until the next day.
Also, skip exfoliating if you currently have a sunburn.
Don’t exfoliate further
Body scrubs are exfoliants, so there’s no need to exfoliate further after using one. This will create more dry skin and skin irritation.
Don’t go to the steam room
Using a sauna or steam room after exfoliating can cause irritation to the skin, so it’s best to skip it.
Always be gentle when exfoliating your skin and be cautious of overuse.
Body scrubs are a great tool for almost any skin type. Whether you purchase one or make your own body scrub, these exfoliants effectively soften and nourish your skin while getting rid of all the dead, dry skin cells that build up on your body.
Ashley Hubbard is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee, focusing on sustainability, travel, veganism, mental health, social justice, and more. Passionate about animal rights, sustainable travel, and social impact, she seeks out ethical experiences whether at home or on the road. Visit her website wild-hearted.com.