Quick Question: What’s the Difference Between Salt Scrubs and Sugar Scrubs?
We’ve always pondered the differences between salt scrubs and sugar scrubs, 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 and founder of Kwan Dermatology Dr. William Kwan about why you might want to choose one over the other. Here’s what you need to know about physical exfoliation.
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 you are also making way for a brighter-looking, more even skin tone and 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 it is gentler on the skin and less likely to cause irritation.
Where to Use a Salt Scrub and Its Benefits
Salt scrubs have many benefits for rougher areas of the body. Ahead, Dr. Kwan recommends the places you might want to use a salt scrub for a smooth finish.
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, too.
Where to Use a Sugar Scrub and Its Benefits
Sugar scrubs, on the other hand, are gentler and can be used on more sensitive areas. Ahead, these are the best places to focus your sugar scrub to help remove dead skin cells in a less abrasive manner.
Décolletage: The skin on your décolletage is sensitive. Approach this area just like you would 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.
How Should You Exfoliate Your Skin?
Exfoliating regularly is key to sloughing off dead surface 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 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 sponge on deck in your shower, as it 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 than 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 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 and Salt ScrubsL’Oréal Paris Pure-Sugar Nourish & Soften Cocoa Face Scrub
Give your pores a sweet treat with this sugar scrub formulated with finely crushed cocoa, coconut oil and rich cocoa butter. The formula helps polish away dull skin to reveal skin that feels smooth and comforted.
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.
For a super silky finish, the Bum Bum Body Scrub is a must-try. This scrub is formulated with sugar crystals and crushed cupuaçu seeds to exfoliate and nourish the skin.
This deep-cleaning salt scrub is a must if your scalp is in need of a clarifying cleanse. It contains moringa and rose hip oil, plus actual Himalayan pink salt for an intense wash.
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.
For: Face or Body
For a salty scrub that will make you feel like you just came out of the ocean, give this formula by LUSH a try. It contains coarse sea salt for a rich exfoliation and coconut oil and avocado butter to soothe the skin.