A woman using face scrub

Can Face Scrub Be Bad For Skin?

We all know the fantastic benefits of a good face scrub, but can they actually be bad for your skin? Some say yes.
Updated: November 9, 2022
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Take a quick trip through some of the internet’s most popular skincare forums and you’ll find yourself reading a wide selection of differing opinions on a host of topics. Everyone has something to say, and usually, this leads to constructive conversations where everyone shares their own experiences with certain products and routines. Sometimes, however, things can get a little out of hand leading to fear and misinformation being spread. An example of this is masses of people believing that face scrubs are inherently bad for your skin and should be avoided. As usual, these things are hardly black and white. Let’s dive in.

Let’s talk about face scrubs

If you’re unsure of what a face scrub is or does, here’s a quick rundown for you. Scrubs are used as exfoliators. This means it is their job to remove as many dead skin cells from the surface of your face as possible. They do this via the power found inside their unique texture, which is made from thousands of little stone-like granules sourced from materials like crystals, micro-plastics, bamboo powder, and nutshell among others. The act of rubbing this into your skin is enough to scrape away the unwanted cells, leaving your face with a more youthful look at the end of it. This process isn’t just about vanity, it’s actually an important thing to do in order to stop those dead cells from blocking your pores and causing breakouts. Keeping your skin healthy with exfoliators will save you a lot of frustration down the road.

Here’s the not-so-good part

It would be irresponsible of us to write about the fabulous benefits of face scrubs only to omit the potential downsides. After all, people’s fears and mistrust of facial exfoliators must come from somewhere, right? The problem with face scrub comes down to one main thing, micro-scratching. Micro-scratching, or micro-tearing, is when the overuse of face scrub leads to tiny, almost invisible scratches in your skin, which people claim can open up the possibility for infections and other nasty side effects. The hard particles found in the texture of the exfoliator can indeed cause micro-tears, but the risk factor of these has been severely overblown. Yes, you may inadvertently scratch your skin, but the worst problem you can expect from doing this will be mild forms of irritation and blemishes. It’s certainly not a death sentence, but for those with naturally sensitive skin, it can be rather unpleasant. Dryness can be another issue that can arise and is again the result of exfoliating your skin too frequently. So yes, there are downsides to face scrub, but there’s no mammoth health danger to worry about.

The way forward

We hate to sound like your parents, but the key to using face scrub in the most beneficial way comes down to common sense. We love eating chocolate brownies in the office, but if we do it every day we don’t really feel so great. Depending on your individual skin type, you must work out for yourself how often you should be using an exfoliator. Some people can do it daily, but most should stick to 3-4 times a week. All of the problems associated with face scrub come from overuse, not the formulation of the product itself.

Before we go

While face scrub can indeed have a negative impact on your skin, this is always down to misuse of the product and not the product itself. To be frank, some of the scaremongering online has reached peak hysteria in certain cases, and exfoliators don’t deserve or warrant that kind of reputation. Face scrub can be a fantastic staple of your skincare routine. Just be smart when using it.

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This article has been reviewed by the in-field experts on our Medical Content Advisory Board to ensure everything is up-to-date and accurate.