Quick Question: What’s the Difference Between Salt Scrubs and Sugar Scrubs?
We’ve always pondered what the difference is between salt scrubs and sugar scrubs are, and where and when you should use these mechanical exfoliants — whether it be for exfoliation on the face or body. Ahead, we spoke with ethnic skin expert, founder of Kwan Dermatology Dr. William Kwan about why you might want to choose one over the other, and here’s everything you need to know.
The Benefits of Exfoliation
Before we get into the difference between salt and sugar scrubs, it’s important to understand the reason we use these products in the first place. The purpose of mechanical exfoliants (when used in skin care) is just that — to exfoliate the skin. This process involves sloughing away the built-up dead skin cells on the surface that can cause a rough texture and dulled complexion. By removing these surface cells through regular exfoliation, you are not only helping your skin absorb subsequent products better (think: serums, SPF and moisturizers), but are also making way for a brighter-looking complexion.
The Difference Between Exfoliating With Salt Scrubs vs. Sugar Scrubs
So, what exactly is the difference between salt and sugar scrubs? Turns out, there’s a big one: “Salt scrubs tend to boast larger particles that are grittier,” Dr. Kwan says. “Sugar scrubs have smaller particles and tend to be gentler on the skin. [They] are less drying and less abrasive than salt scrubs.” This is important to know, especially when taking your skin type into account. Both salt and sugar scrubs work effectively to remove dead skin cells, but your decision on which one to use should take into account your specific skin type and the part of the body you’re looking to exfoliate. For instance, Dr. Kwan suggests using a sugar scrub for both sensitive and dry skin types because they are gentler on the skin and less likely to cause irritation. Here’s which type of scrub you should use on different parts of your body.
Body: The skin on the body tends to be thicker —and often times drier — so Dr. Kwan suggests turning to a salt scrub.
Décolletage: The skin on your décolletage is sensitive. Approach this area just like you would with your face — with a gentle touch. The best option? Dr. Kwan suggests turning to sugar scrubs because the smaller particles are less abrasive on the skin.
Face: Similar to your décolletage, the skin on your face can be more sensitive to abrasive exfoliants, like salt. When it comes to the skin on your face, stick to a gentle sugar scrub that can slough off dead skin and provide the complexion with moisture.
Feet and elbows: Your skin is the thickest on your feet and elbows. As such, it can likely handle an exfoliator with a bit more grit. Dr. Kwan recommends a salt scrub for these areas.
How Often You Should Exfoliate Your Skin
Exfoliating regularly is key to sloughing off dead skin cells and achieving a smooth, glowing complexion. But just how often is considered “regular”? The answer is not so straightforward and will vary based on who you ask. Most experts would agree, however, that exfoliating daily is not necessary, and may even cause unwanted dryness. Dr. Kwan recommends exfoliating only one once per week.
How to Exfoliate Your Body
STEP 1: Use the Right Tools
Make the most of body exfoliation by incorporating tools that can help make the process more efficient. Keep a mildly abrasive loofah or sponge on deck in your shower, as they can help sweep away dead skin cells.
STEP 2: Be Gentle
The key to successful exfoliation is approaching it with a gentle touch. You never want to rub too harshly, as doing so can wreak havoc on the skin’s surface. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), suggests applying a scrub in small and circular motions and rinsing off with lukewarm water.
STEP 3: Be Diligent
Pay attention to where you’re exfoliating! Remember, your skin is thicker in some areas compared to others. Areas where the skin is thick — i.e. the knees and ankles — specifically could use a little extra attention.
STEP 4: Know When to Stop
If any irritation occurs while exfoliating, take that as your cue to stop what you’re doing. Give your skin a break, and talk to your dermatologist if symptoms persist.
STEP 5: Follow Up With Lotion
As mentioned above, one of the reasons we love exfoliating is that it creates a soft, smooth canvas upon which to apply the remainder of products in your skin-care routine. After sloughing away dead cells, follow up with a hydrating body cream or lotion. For best results, make sure to do so within 5 or 10 minutes of getting out of the shower.
How to Exfoliate Your Face
STEP 1: Cleanse the Skin
Exfoliating can help remove dirt and impurities from your skin’s surface, but it shouldn’t take the place of daily cleansing. Before reaching for your facial exfoliator of choice, take the time to properly cleanse your skin.
STEP 2: Apply Your Scrub
Now that your canvas is prepped, it’s time to get to sloughing. As mentioned above, be gentle and use light strokes in circular motions.
STEP 3: Rinse With Lukewarm Water
After massaging your skin with a face scrub, rinse with lukewarm water and pat dry.
STEP 4: Moisturize Your Skin
Moisturizing should always follow exfoliating. Reach for your favorite facial moisturizer and apply it onto your skin — ideally while your skin is slightly damp for better moisture absorption.
Our Favorite Sugar Scrubs for Facial Exfoliation
Give your pores a sweet treat with this sugar scrub formulated with finely-crushed cocoa, coconut oil and rich cocoa butter. The formula not only provides a gentle and effective exfoliating session, it also helps polish away dull skin to reveal skin that feels smooth and comforted.
If you’re looking for a fragrant, deep clean, try the Rose Sugar Scrub by Lancôme. This baby is formulated with rose water and glycerin, making it a perfect match for all skin types — whether you have normal, oily, combination or especially sensitive skin.
Powered by brown, blonde and white sugars, this rich facial scrub melts into your skin for a gentle and effective exfoliation session. The results? After one week, the skin feels smooth and comforted, in addition to revealing a smoother-looking complexion with a visible healthy glow.
This sugary scrub is chock full of papaya, pineapple and probiotics to help get your skin into shape when it’s in need of exfoliation. It also works to deep-clean and minimize the appearance of pores, making your skin look a whole lot brighter, plumper and glowier.
Formulated with three pure-sugars and paired with kiwi seeds, peppermint and lemongrass, you can expect this face scrub to purify and unclog the skin. Dull skin is gently polished away and pores are unclogged for baby-soft skin. Use after use, pores look tighter and less visible.