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Sugar Scrub for Face: Side Effects and Why You Should Avoid It

Exfoliation plays a key role in skincare. The procedure helps to remove dead skin cells and cleanse pores while reducing the appearance of acne, fine lines, and wrinkles.

Regular exfoliation also allows for better penetration of serums and moisturizers to make them more effective.

There are a right way and a wrong way to exfoliate your skin – especially sensitive areas like your face. A well-deserved sugar scrub can help reduce darkened skin on other parts of the body, but these types of scrubs are too harsh for facial skin.

Consider other exfoliation of your face to get rid of dead skin cells without causing irritation.

Possible side effects of using a sugar scrub on your face

The sugar scrub consists of large crystals of sugar. The idea is to massage these granules into your skin to remove debris and dead skin cells.

However, the harsh nature of sugar scrubs makes them too harsh for facial skin. They can create small tears on the skin and cause damage, especially if you use regular sugar.

Using sugar scrubs on your face can lead to:

  • irritation
  • redness
  • dryness
  • scratches and wounds

These side effects not only apply to sugar scrubs you can buy at the store or online, but also to homemade scrubs, even if you use finer white and brown sugar granules. As a rule, sugar crystals should be avoided entirely for the face.

Safer exfoliating facial scrubs
Milder scrubs may be suitable for weekly scrubs, but only if they have small, round-shaped particles. Always test a small amount of new scrub on your hand first – if it is too harsh for your body, it is too abrasive for your face.

Instead of focusing on exfoliants, consider ingredients that help exfoliate your skin without using harsh particles. Talk to a skincare professional about the following options.

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)
AHAs, including citric, lactic, and glycolic acid, remove the skin’s superficial cells to enhance the look and feel of your skin. Instead of abrasive particles, products with these acids dissolve dead skin cells.

Although commonly used to protect against aging, AHAs can also benefit against acne skin.

Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs)
Perhaps the most famous BHA is salicylic acid, which works by dissolving dead skin cells in your pores. Salicylic acid is widely available in toners, cleansers, and lotions. Use only one product containing salicylic acid at a time to prevent irritation and peeling.

Mechanical exfoliants
Mechanical exfoliants can be used to enhance your daily facial cleansing, and are especially useful if you have oily or combination skin.

Examples include the use of soft washcloths or cleaning brushes designed specifically for your face. The key is to massage these in small circles around your face, not exfoliation.

No matter which exfoliant you choose, it is important afterward to apply a moisturizer that suits your skin type to prevent your face from drying out. Avoid exfoliating more than once or twice a week, as this may damage the skin.

Where you can use a sugar scrub

Unless you have irritation already, sugar exfoliation is generally safe to use on the body. They are especially useful for extremely dry, rough spots on elbows, knees, and heels. You can even use a sugar scrub on your hands to prevent dryness.

Due to the rough texture of the sugar crystals, you should avoid sugar scrubs in any area of irritation, wounds, and rashes. Sugar scrubs could further aggravate these conditions.

Talk to a dermatologist if you experience any side effects after using a sugar scrub that fails to improve after a few days.

You should also avoid sugar scrubs if you have sensitive skin, eczema, or any inflammatory skin condition.

Sugar scrubs are touted as creating soft, smooth skin, but they are too harsh for facial skin. Keep scrubbing with sugar only on your body and think of alternatives that are safer for your face. The purpose of face exfoliation is to gently exfoliate the skin, not irritate it.

If you are still not comfortable with exfoliation at home, talk to a dermatologist about professional quality treatments like microdermabrasion.


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