St. Ives Apricot scrub was a shower staple when I was growing up.
As two teenaged girls with acne-prone skin, my sister and I went through bottles and bottles of the weird creamy-yet-coarse, citrus-scented scrub. Even though it kind of hurt to massage the coarse exfoliant (crushed up walnut shells, according to the ingredient list) into my sensitive skin, I sort of thought the discomfort meant it was working—beauty is pain, right? Sadly, using the St. Ives formula seemed to leave my complexion looking worse than before, and after nearly five years of almost daily use I ditched the scrub for good.
Imagine my surprise when I saw a news story about two women suing St. Ives for skin damage. Allegedly, the rough scrub actually causes micro-tearing in the skin and increases inflammation, which messes with the look and feel of your complexion. In fact, the lawsuit claims that using the “sandpaper-like” scrub accelerates signs of aging. Eek.
If you were still holding onto this oldie, it’s probably time to drop it. Instead, try out these physical and chemical exfoliants that make your skin look clear and radiant, sans walnut shells!
A physical exfoliant formula is anything that actually scrubs away dead skin. These formulas usually have beads, granules, or another rough scrubber to help slough off dull skin.
This moisturizing scrub uses freshly roasted coffee to buff away dirt and debris, while the formula’s white clay draws impurities from pores. We love that it’s made with rosehip, coconut, and grapeseed oil to soothe dry skin.
Buy it here, $21.95
The perfectly cylindrical jojoba beads in Pai’s Kukui and Jojoba scrub gently massage and moisturize the face. Plus, this milky formula is loaded with vitamins and omega-3 and -6 fatty acids that get you glowing and encourage healthy skin turnover.
Get it at the Detox Market, $44.00
Newsflash: If it feels like you’re scrubbing your skin off, you’re probably damaging the top layer of your skin. This gentle microfoliant gets the job done, but barely feels like anything more than a face wash.
Buy it here, $36.00
Chemical exfoliants tend to be a bit more effective than their physical exfoliant counterparts—chemicals can penetrate more deeply, and encourage cell turnover long after they’re applied. A peel, enzyme mask, or formula with glycolic or lactic acid are all examples of chemical exfoliants. Unlike physical exfoliants, chemical exfoliants can be used daily.
There’s a reason Pixi Glow Tonic has a cult following—the 5% glycolic toner instantly smooths and brightens skin. Swipe it on right after cleansing and you’re not just exfoliating; you’ll be fighting acne, signs of aging, and encouraging hydration, too!
Get it from $15.00
Love the feel of a scrub, but want a little extra chemical boost? This Josh Rosebrook exfoliator uses finely ground nut shells to slough off the first layer of dull skin, while plant, herb, and fruit enzymes loosen extra stubborn areas of damage.
Get it at The Detox Market, $60
“Chemical” doesn’t have to be a dirty word. Natural beauty company Arcona has perfected the un-chemical chemical peel with their Mandarin Brightening Peel. It tingles a bit when applied to skin, but just five minutes later you’ll see a noticeable difference in the texture and vibrancy of your complexion.
Get it here, $78.00