A DIY Guide to Exfoliating Face Scrubs

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How to Exfoliate

Ask anyone with a healthy, glowing complexion, and they'll tell you exfoliation is an important part of their skin care routine. Our skin renews itself every month, but sometimes those older skin cells stay on the skin's surface, giving it a rough texture and dull appearance. Exfoliating removes dead skin cells, keeps pores clean and improves blood circulation. [source: HowStuffWorks.com]


To exfoliate the skin on your body, loofah sponges work wonders. But the skin on your face, which benefits from exfoliation just as much as the rest of your body, requires something gentler.

The easiest way to exfoliate your face is with a scrub or face wash that contain jojoba beans, microbeads or crystals that gently slough off dead skin cells. If your skin isn't sensitive, you can try face massagers (like Clarisonic skin care products) and chemical exfoliators (like retinoic acid-based products) for a deeper scrub.

Try your favorite product using exfoliating tips from Dr. Sonia Badreshia-Bansal, UCSF clinical instructor:

  • Exfoliate one to two times a week: Over exfoliating can cause harm in the skin repair barrier.
  • Steam it up: Fill your sink with hot water and, with a towel draped over your head, slowly lower your face to a few inches above the water's surface. The steam will help open the pores.
  • Scrub in circles: Use lukewarm water to wet the skin, then gently apply an exfoliating scrub onto your skin in a circular fashion.
  • Refreshing rinse: Wash off the scrub with cool water to close the pores.
  • Pay attention to your skin type: Since dry skin can be sensitive, if you want to use gentle retinols, apply them every other night. Follow them with a moisturizing cream to help even skin tone, texture and color while continuing to hydrate the skin. [source: American Academy of Dermatology]


Make Your Own Exfoliating Scrub

Though there are dozens of exfoliating products lining the shelves, you may want to concoct your own. When making an at-home exfoliating scrub or mask, consider using these natural ingredients Dr. Badreshia-Bansal recommends:

Oatmeal: It can be used on all skin types as a natural exfoliator.


Milk: It contains lactic acid, which is found in many popular exfoliating products.

Lemon: This juicy fruit is packed with vitamin C and can be an exfoliator and skin brightener that's great for knees and elbows. (Make sure you wash this off well before going out in the sun to avoid a nasty skin reaction that can happen when lime or lemon juice hits the skin in the sunlight.)

Sugar and Salt: These coarse ingredients act as physical exfoliating agents.

That being said, taking your skin care routine into your own hands comes with risks. "I'm not a fan of the at-home exfoliating," says Dr. Bobby Buka, section chief at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "You're not sure how harsh the products are for your skin." He recommends in-office peel treatments to his patients instead. "After a peel, your skin would have some brightness to it, increased turgor or plumpness, and less congested pores.

If you want to start off with a gentler all-natural exfoliating mask, Dr. Buka says some of his patients make this one at home: Pop a whole avocado nut in your blender to grind it up, add soy milk, and blend the ingredients into a grainy liquid. Patients will put this on for 20 minutes before bed, and the anti-inflammatory properties of the soy milk may help with pimples.

We also like this Frozen Egg & Honey Facial Mask we found on SafeCosmetics.org, which is recommended for dry skin and may soothe sunburns.

Want more? Learn more about the Top 10 Natural Exfoliants.


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Saving Face 101: How to Customize Your Skin Care Routine with Your Skin Type. (July 1, 2013). http://www.aad.org/stories-and-news/news-releases/saving-face-101-how-to-customize-your-skin-care-routine-with-your-skin-type
  • Badreshia-Bansal Sonia, MD. Personal correspondence.
  • Buka, Bobby, MD. Personal correspondence.
  • Palamon, Jamie. Discovery Fit and Health. "How to Exfoliate Skin" (July 8, 2013)
  • https://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/cleansing/tips/how-to-exfoliate-skin.htm
  • Trimarchi, Maria. Discovery Fit and Health. "Top 10 Natural Exfoliants." (July 1, 2013). https://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/cleansing/tips/5-natural-exfoliants.htm