Scrubbing off the Dead Cells – Various Types of Exfoliants

When I think of an exfoliant, I think of St. Ives apricot scrub.  I remember that being a coveted item in my teens even though I had no idea what skincare meant.

A scrub is the layman’s term for an exfoliant.  What an exfoliant does is remove the dead cells on the top layer of our skin to reveal the newer skin beneath.

A scrub is basically a cleanser with some fine beads and perhaps a little alpha-hydroxy-acid (AHA) or beta-hydroxy-acid (BHA) to aid the exfoliation process.  What the beads can do is limited.  Often instead of helping, they can do some damage, especially if they’re the pits of a fruit like apricot.  No matter how finely milled, they’re likely to scratch and cut.  Make sure you choose your scrubs carefully.

Exfoliation can be done in many ways:

  • Physical Exfoliant –
  • For the body:  Use a regular washcloth or bath scrubbers or a body brush + liquid soap

  • For the face:  Use a regular washcloth, a scrub (like St.Ives’),  a facial mask (facial masks in gel and cream exfoliate as well when they are washed off)

It’s important to stress that physical exfoliating should only be done once or twice a week and the pressure you apply on your skin should be VERY GENTLE.  The more strength you exert, the more likely you’re going to do more harm than good.  The beads from the scrubs should also be very very fine.

An example of a good scrub is Usana’s Rice Bran Polisher.

Usana Rice Bran Polisher

Chemical Exfoliants –  For effective removal of dead cells, physical scrubbing isn’t the best option.  The consistent use of chemical exfoliants like AHA and BHA in the recommended amount is more likely to see results.

  • Chemical exfoliants are:
  1. AHA – Alpha-Hydroxy-Acid (glycolic, lactic, and tartaric acid)- dry skin
  2. Beta-Hydroxy-Acid (salicylic acid) – oily skin
  3. Retinoids and chemical peels


Do drop a line if you have any questions regarding the use of the products.  I’m a regular user of chemical exfoliant and have found it helpful.



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